ULUNDI: NOVEMBER 23, 2001
It gives me great pleasure to meet with Dr Credo Mutwa and DR Nigel Gericke, to discuss the potentials of a new and yet ancient indigenous South African herbal medicine which holds the promise of improving the quality of life of many people especially those affected by HIV/AIDS. I am very pleased by your courage and persistence in developing this new herbal medicine, or rather in rediscovering it. You must really be commended for having had the courage to fly where angels fear to tread and to challenge all conventional wisdom.
Conventional wisdom will have it that nothing extremely valuable can come out of African traditions an that little can be done to help those suffering from HIV/AIDS unless one resorts to expensive, complex chemical treatment. However, you have pointed out a new way which proves the value of our traditions and that indeed not all that is old needs to be discarded.
I am a descendent of Nqengelele Buthelezi, who was my great-great-grandfather. He was not only the closet confidante and adviser to King Shaka, but also his military strategist. One of the things which are recorded about him is that he wiped off a tape-worm epidemic, which was soured of great embarrassment in the Zulu Royal Court. He did this through the use of umkhomakhoma (or inkomankoma) from which even western medicine today uses extracts from this plant for the treatment of tapeworm So I have for this reason always had the highest respect for our indigenous herbal medicines. To go back to the Sutherlandia known amongst the Zulu people as unwele, I wish to the following.
By strengthening the immune system, the Sutherlandia seeds promise to make a unique contribution towards easing the pain of those affected by AIDS. As such, you have proven the viability of herbal treatment. It is indeed most remarkable that a large number of drugs come directly from plants, such as aspirin which is a direct product of the willow tree's leaves, or digitalis which is used to treat heart conditions. Nonetheless, in spite of the proven potential of herbal treatments, very little research has been done world-wide on the direct contribution that the plant based interest in this type of research which the present economic set-up of our society unfortunately discourages, because one cannot patent the specific use of an existing plant. Therefore, those who make the effort to discover how a plant can be beneficial and pay for the often enormous cost of having its medical use approved by the relevant regulatory agency, will not be a position to recover their costs when faced with the competition of someone who comes later, and can sell the same plant at the same prices.
Because of these economic realities it has recently been realised how important it is for government to intervene and correct that which free market enterprise in this specific instance cannot make available. I believe it is greatly important for government to support research in this type of field and to encourage and assist companies.
To me it is particularly important that the value be given to products such as the Sutherlandia, not only for the hope and relief it provides, but also for the contribution that the marketing of this product makes towards broadening the appreciation of our own African traditions as well as our African ingenuity. I am particularly appreciative that companies are pursuing a marketing strategy which targets the poorest of the poor by making this product available to them at very low cost and in a bulk format which makes it financially accessible.
I am convinced that all companies which make investments into our communities and promote goodwill by assisting them in respect of such precious things as the quality of life of suffering people, will be greatly rewarded in many ways. I am convinced that above and beyond the spiritual satisfaction of having acted in the only morally acceptable way by making needed treatment financially accessible, companies such as yours will also receive great financial gains through the goodwill that they build for themselves within communities.
I could not think of a more suitable occasion than today as the day on which you present me with the seed of this herbal plant.
I encourage you to continue with your research and with your assistance to the suffering people of our country, and wish you every success in your efforts.