Your Majesty King Zwelithini;
Ministers of Public Works, Comrade Jeff Radebe;
Members of the Provincial Parliament;
Distinguished Guests;
Ladies and Gentlemen.

It is always refreshing for me to be in this town. During the early days of our underground struggle, Groutville became our Mecca because we had to come here time and again to consult with that noble son of this town, Chief Albert Luthuli. Even when I was arrested I was from one of those consultations.

The importance of this Siyakha Development Project we are launching today cannot be overemphasised. The presence in our midst of His Majesty King Zwelithini demonstrates how significant this occasion is for the people and the economy of the Province of KwaZulu-Natal.

With the Siyakha initiative we aim to develop infrastructure in rural areas which are home to 45 000 small-scale farmers in the sugar belt that stretches across the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Transvaal. The initiative will benefit over 187 000 people. It has moved a long way from the relief assistance scheme it was five years ago into a potential regional public works programme.

The participation of the South African Sugar Association in this scheme deserves special attention. From the beginning the Government of National Unity has repeatedly stressed the importance of collaboration between the private and public sectors in community development programmes. Neither of us can succeed single-handedly. The role of the South African Sugar Association in the Siyakha initiative is a challenge to other private sector organisations to join hands with the government in fighting poverty.

The fact that this initiative is labour intensive and will create jobs is important in this province. Poverty and joblessness are amongst the causes of violence and crime. Despite the economic potential of this province, the extent of unemployment and poverty is disturbing. This will continue to be a breeding ground for crime and violence. That is why the Government of National Unity is paying particular attention to ways and means of alleviating poverty in this province.

The sugar industry is an important component in the economy of this province. It employees some 150 000 people on whom more than a million others depend.

The people of this area will remember the unending battles waged by Groutville sugar-care growers under the leadership of Chief Abert Luthuli. During those days the apartheid regime was bent on frustrating African farmers and blocking their attempts to develop. With a democratic government, that potential can be revived and developed. This industry must be developed further and exploited to its full potential for the benefit of the province and the country. In line with this objective the Department of Public Works is contributing R12 million to Siyakha. The South African Sugar Association has offered financial and material contribution to the programme.

In order to address the legacy of apartheid agricultural policies, the Government of National Unity is embarking on plans to transform the agricultural industry. The Department of Agriculture has established the Broadening Access to Agriculture Thrust. It calls for rethinking of existing strategies and government support programmes and actions which can effectively support economic growth and ensure the delivery of food for all.

We need new mechanisms to broaden access to agriculture for previously excluded farmers. Wee are looking at ways to meet their needs for financial services, human resource development, technology development, delivery systems, and marketing and agribusiness opportunities. The government regard small farmers as deserving beneficiaries for government market development programmes.

Small farmers, like small enterprises in the broader economy, are vital for the creation of jobs and releasing the nation`s farming potential.

In this regard, plans recently announced by major sugar milling companies to sell off certain of their cane lands to medium scale developing farmers, will also help achieve these objectives.

The Siyakha initiative we are launching today depends on the involvement of communities. How it unfolds over time will be decided by the communities involved. Local development is primarily the responsibility of the local community. Projects like the Siyakha initiative are aimed at kick-starting the local development efforts.

We therefore expect the people of Groutville and all the communities in the sugar belt area to make full use of this scheme. You cannot be confined to care growing forever. Down the line you must develop industries in you locality to process your sugar cane. Furthermore, you must use your success in cane growing as a base to diversify your local economy. With the unending drought menace you cannot rely entirely on agriculture. Gone are the days when non-urban areas were regarded simply as source of raw materials for the urban industries.

The Siyakha project is the beginning of a long march towards making South Africa one of the leading sugar producing countries of the world. We have that potential and we have full confidence in the people of the sugar belt areas that they will achieve that objective. That is the challenge that the Siyakha Project imposes on you and I am certain that you are ready to tackle it head on.