President's address at the 1st Annual Jacob Zuma Matsushima Karate Cup

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Address by His Excellency, President Jacob Zuma, The President of the Republic of South Africa, at the 1st Annual Jacob Zuma Matsushima Karate Cup, Durban International Convention Centre
Programme Director;
KwaZulu-Natal Premier,
Dr. Zweli Mkhize;
International Kyokushinkai President,
Mr Kancho Yoshukazi Matsushima;
MEC for Sports, Recreation and Tourism, Ms Weziwe Thusi;
Mayor of eThekwini Municipality, Mr Obed Mlaba;
Sport professionals;
Distinguished guests;
Ladies and gentlemen;
I feel humbled to be among the first speakers to address this occasion of the inaugural Jacob Zuma Matsushima Karate Cup championships.
This gala dinner and awards evening takes place after a successful tournament that has recognized the talents of our youth.
For the first time in the history of South Africa, the national karate Championship tournament had eight countries competing. This is a great achievement for the province and the country.
We have done exceptionally well in sports, be it soccer, rugby or cricket. We must now show our expertise internationally in other sports such as karate.
We view sport as a powerful instrument of nation building and social cohesion as government.
It brings our people together, it makes South Africans feel good about themselves. It gives them something common to share, enjoy and discuss.
This government will therefore always throw its weight behind sports. We want to invest in sports development throughout our country, both rural and urban areas in order to create a nation that works hard, but also plays hard.
That is why I felt it important to be part of this occasion this evening.
This tournament in particular presents a challenge to us to heighten awareness about Karate and its contribution towards nation building and social cohesion in society.
While we know that this sport is predominantly perceived as a mechanism to boost stamina and self-defence, it is our view that its influence stretches beyond physical strength.
It has the potential to enhance the mental and physical abilities of participants and to improve their ability to focus on a task at hand.
This is the spirit that we want to implant in the minds of many South Africans, especially the youth.
It is heartening that Kyokushin Kai Africa has decided to use sport as an instrument of nation building.
We therefore welcome the initiative of running a prisoner re-orientation programme which covers a spectrum of multi-faceted training and counseling at all major prison centres in Kwa-Zulu Natal.
Prisoners in Westville, Kokstad, Pietermaritzburg and Empangeni undergo weekly sessions which assist them gradually realize their abilities through specialized skills training.
The rehabilitation of prisoners stands out as a clear example that sport can play a role in the reintegration of offenders in our communities.
In particular, this initiative also highlights that karate can be used as a proactive measure. It can redirect the energies of our people into this beautiful game rather than crime.
Government has clear plans in the rehabilitation and reintegration of offenders.
However, there will be greater impact if business, non-governmental organisations, the sporting community and all our people, come together to help rehabilitate and
reintegrate these members of our communities back into our society.
Working together we can do more.
After learning from their mistakes, the prisoners must be assisted and given an opportunity to live productive and fulfilling lives like all of us.
They must be direct examples in their communities and spread the message that crime does not pay.
After all this is how our noble document the Freedom Charter saw the role of prisons in a free and democratic South Africa, as rehabilitative centres.
They should not be places where those who have committed offences against society should be turned into hardened criminals without a chance of being rehabilitated.
It is our responsibility to embark on initiatives of this nature to avoid recurrence of criminal offences by former inmates. We need them to study, get meaningful jobs or even start their own businesses.
Ladies and gentlemen, we encourage the organizers of this tournament not to forget rural communities.
It is important that we use this sport to unearth many hidden talents across the country.
The sense of discipline embodied in the art of Karate must be inculcated in the lifestyle of our people regardless of their geographic location.
It is important that we emphasise the significance of healthy living through frequent exercise and maintaining a balanced lifestyle.
While we seek to take this sport to the local communities, we also need to ensure that the quality of training is at the same level with international standards.
I have no doubt in South Africa's ability to compete internationally in different sporting codes.
For this reason, South Africa also needs to occupy its space in the field of Kyokushin Kai Karate internationally.
Our country must not only feature in international tournaments, but also win awards to assert our standing and capability as South Africans.
Indeed, it is clear to everybody that South Africa will host a successful 2010 FIFA World Cup. Nothing stops us from bidding to host the 2014 World Cup Tournaments in Karate because we are a country of many talents and capabilities.
This will once again prove to the world that Africa has awakened and that South Africa is truly alive with possibility.
Ladies and gentlemen, let me state that it is an honour for me that the organisers co-named this Cup after me and the International Kyokushin Kai President, Mr Yoshukazi Matsushima.
Let us work together as the sporting community, business, private sector and government to ensure that we host the 2014 tournament.
Onegai shimasu (meaning... I''m hoping that our relationship holds good things in the future).
Domo arigato gozaimasu (meaning...I thank you).