Norwegians making a difference in South Africa: Mari Maurstad
This article by the Oslo Mission is the first in a series of Norwegians who are making a difference in South Africa. Famous Norwegian actress and author Mari Maurstad is one of them.
A South African safari in 2004 marked the beginning of the organisation Zulufadder, which Ms Maurstad set up together with Norwegian consul for KwaZulu Natal and tour operator Ragnhild Button soon after her visit: During a holiday to South Africa, Ms Maurstad was introduced to children who had lost their parents through HIV and AIDS. Her meeting with the children left such a big impression that she immediately began setting up the organisation Zulufadder when she came back to Norway. On Zulufadder’s website, Ms Maurstad explains how this visit changed her: “Every day the TV and newspapers bombard us with pictures of suffering. And like me, I’m sure you think: “I am so fortunate and so blessed not to live like those poor people”. But when you meet those children who you previously only had seen pictures of, then I can promise you that another room in your heart will open. You will then realize that all the energy you use to satisfy the unnecessary entertainment- and pleasure-hunger at home, that same power can be used for something so much more rewarding!”
The word “Zulufadder” is Norwegian and means “Zulu godparent” and the organisation’s aim is to help as many children as possible in Eshowe in Zululand. Most of the children Zulufadder helps are orphans where HIV and AIDS have claimed the lives of their parents. “These children often live together in huts with their grandmother or aunt and there is no money for food or school fees,” explains Ms Maurstad. Zulufadder enables sponsors in Norway to help one specific child. Each sponsor pays approximately $40 per month, which covers a child’s school fees, a food parcel each month, as well as other needs such as blankets, clothes and medicines if they are ill. Each year, the sponsor receives a profile of the child they support with a photo, brief history and information about the child’s hopes and dreams for the future. Ms Maurstad stresses that the project is very “hands-on” and that the organization does not have a large bureaucratic structure – all the money goes straight to the children and improvements for the village.
Zulufadder has Norwegian volunteer workers who are based in Eshowe, who assist with practical tasks and liaise between the local committee and the sponsors abroad. Ms Maurstad also stresses the importance of Ms Aurelia Mhlongo, who she refers to as “a female Nelson Mandela”: “If I hadn’t met Aurelia, the small town of Eshowe in South Africa would not have several hundred sponsors from all over Norway. The Norwegian help means that the children get food, school-fees paid and other necessities taken care of. I was lucky! I found Aurelia. Through her, I experienced the truth, which says ”it is by giving that you receive”. That is why I stopped everything I was so very busy with back at home, and went to Africa to live there,” Ms Maurstad says. Ms Mhlongo is a “granny”, a retired nurse and a pillar of strength for the local community. She was the one who told Ms Maurstad about the children in need in Eshowe and today she visits the Zulufadder children on a regular basis, interviews them and make recommendations on which children to include in the project.
Today, Zulufadder has approximately 800 sponsors in Norway. Ms Maurstad also recently launched a South African wine in the Norwegian Wine Monopoly called Zulufadder, where approximately 12 rand per bottle is donated to the Zulufadder project. For more information, visit the website www.zulufadder.no
Ambassador Sisulu and the rest of the team from the South African Embassy visited Ekeberg several times to cheer on the South African teams. One of the highlights during the Norway Cup was the friendly match between Girls United and Norway, a match that had been arranged to put more focus on women’s football around the world. The two girls’ teams consisted of Norway Cup’s best international players (Girls United), including Ntomboxolo and Felicia Nontlantla from SKY (see top picture to the left), and Norway’s top young female players. Despite a fantastic effort from Girls United, Norway ended up winning the match 6-3.
During SKY’s stay in Norway, the teams were invited to the South African Embassy to enjoy some home-cooked South African food, followed by music and dancing. The Soweto Kliptown Youth are also artists – they sang and did the gumboot dance for the Embassy staff and guests.
The streets of Oslo were adorned with beautiful flowers and South African and Norwegian flags when President Jacob Zuma and his wife Mrs Tobeka Zuma embarked on a State Visit to Norway from 31 August to 1 September, hosted by Their Majesties King Harald V and Queen Sonja. The purpose of President Zuma’s reciprocal visit following King Harald and Queen Sonja’s official visit to South Africa in 2009, was to further diplomatic ties between Norway and South Africa.
President Zuma and his wife were welcomed in style by the King, Queen, Crown Prince and Crown Princess in front of the Royal Palace while canons at Akershus Fortress fired a welcome 21-gun salute. This was followed by an inspection of the Royal Guards and national anthems being played.
The President had a busy schedule during his two-day visit; following the ceremony, he visited the Parliament to meet the President of the Storting, Mr Dag Terje Andersen. Subsequently, President Zuma attended a luncheon at the Royal Palace hosted by Their Majesties The King and the Queen. The President and his wife also visited Akershus Fortress for a wreath-laying ceremony, followed by a visit to Oslo Cathedral where they laid down flowers in honour of the people killed during the terror attacks on 22 July. The King and Queen showed the President and his wife the Nobel Peace Center, which honors Nobel Peace Prize winners like African National Congress (ANC) leader Albert Lutuli in 1960, Bishop Desmond Tutu in 1984 and Nelson Mandela and Fredrik de Klerk in 1993. Here they met representatives of the Norwegian anti-apartheid organization. The first day of the visit was rounded off with a Gala Dinner in honour of President Zuma at the Royal Palace. During the dinner, King Harald said: “This visit is taking place against the backdrop of the horrendous acts of violence that struck Norway on 22 July”. “The shock and grief we felt when we began to realize the scale of the terror was devastating. Yet we are not frightened. We will fight this message of hate, and we will come out even stronger than before.” The King then thanked the President and all South Africans for the solidarity and sympathy extended towards Norwegians during this time of grief. He also spoke of the “firm platform for our relations,” built on the anti-apartheid movement, and noted that “South Africa has come a long way” since apartheid ended. While challenges remain to “equalize living conditions between the affluent minority and the under-privileged majority,” King Harald congratulated Zuma on the hosting of the Soccer World Cup last year, and said an upcoming UN climate conference in December “will be crucial in the efforts to ascertain international measures to fight climate change.”.
Political engagements were the main focus during the second day of the State Visit. The President was accompanied by the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane; Ambassador Beryl Rose Sisulu; Minister of Higher Education and Training, Minister Blade Nzimande; Minister of Trade, Minister Rob Davies; Minister of Energy, Minister Dipuo Peters; and the Minister of Tourism, Minister Martinus van Schalkwyk, who all attended bilateral meetings with their Norwegian counterparts during their visit.
President Zuma met with Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, where bilateral questions and energy and environment were discussed ahead of the 17th Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Durban. After that, President Zuma opened a business seminar at Gamle Logen. Here, the President said he was happy that since 1994, trade between the two countries has “grown exponentially”, as aptly demonstrated by the increase from “R746 million in 2005 to R3 180 billion in 2010”.
The President impressed on those in attendance that South Africa was now “exporting to Norway goods worth R2 327 billion in 2010 while importing goods worth R853 million”. The event at Gamle Logen gave the President’s business delegation, which comprised of South African business people the opportunity to encourage bilateral trade and economic cooperation with their Norwegian counterparts. The key areas of focus were in the fields of oil, renewable energy, information and communication technologies, tourism, agro-processing and aquaculture.
One of the President’s final engagements during the State Visit was a visit to the Nobel Institute, where he gave an insightful lecture entitled “Peace and Reconciliation – a South African Perspective”.
South Africa’s Ambassador to Norway, Ms Beryl Rose Sisulu, accompanied the President and his wife throughout the visit. “I have been privileged as Ambassador because I have experienced both visits; first in 2009 with the King and Queen in South Africa and now the visit of President Zuma to Norway. The visit was a great success. A lot of preparation went into it, but it was all worthwhile,” says Ambassador Sisulu.
During the visit, Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane took a few minutes from her busy schedule during the presidential visit to visit the staff and the Embassy. The Minister complemented the staff for the good work they were doing under the leadership of Ambassador Sisulu.