President Jacob Zuma: Launch of Warriors Walk for Cancer Initiative

Address by President Jacob G Zuma at the launch of the 1st annual Warriors Walk for Cancer Initiative by the Tobeka Madiba Zuma Foundation, Union Buildings, Tshwane


Deputy Ministers,

TMZ Foundation Board,

Distinguished guests.

I greet you warmly.

I am pleased to join you on this important occasion. You have all gathered here because you regard the good health and well-being of women in our country as being of great importance.

Cancer is emerging as one of the major public health problems not only in our country but in Africa a whole. Breast cancer in particular, affects scores of women in our country, and requires our utmost attention.

We have to mobilize much of our resources as a collective to ensure that we eradicate breast and cervical cancer. Government, through the Department of Health, is already doing this.

One of the important interventions is ensuring that our women have equitable access to quality healthcare. Crucial is ensuring that women are diagnosed early enough to save their lives. Beyond government, civil society initiatives are also helpful in raising awareness and providing support to women.

The TMZ Foundation’s Annual Warriors Walk for Cancer contributes to this important programme of raising awareness about cancer. For most families, the walk is about more than just raising money for raising awareness.

The walk is to honour a loved one lost to the disease, to celebrate another who survived and to support those who continue to fight against it. The significance of this gesture is that this Walk will provide a platform to talk to women and disseminate information but also inform them about the right lifestyle choices.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The rates of breast and cervical cancer in the developing countries are rapidly increasing due to the impact of risk factors associated with changing lifestyles. And most cancers, including breast and cervical cancer are attributable to lifestyle: obesity, smoking, alcohol.

Whilst Government is the custodian of its own people and has a responsibility to provide services, our people must also take responsibility for their health too.

In other words, we cannot act irresponsibly and smoke, drink alcohol, not exercise and put on excess weight. If we do so, we place our lives at risk for the early onset of these non- communicable diseases so largely preventable.

The citizens need to meet government half way in its attempt to strengthen preventive measures. As the old saying goes “Prevention is better than cure”.

Since 2009, we worked tirelessly to ensure that among non-communicable diseases, cancer and other non-communicable diseases featured prominently on the agenda of the UN General Assembly Development Summit on MDGs in September 2010 as well as the UN High Level Summit on NCDs held September 2011.

I have no doubt in my mind that after attending the UN High Level Summit in 2011, not a single Head of State from Member States left New York not clear about the importance of prioritising the fight against non-communicable diseases.

After that meeting, as Heads of State, we still had a major task of ensuring that those undertakings made during the Summit are implemented in our respective countries. Let us remember that cancer is not about statistics, it is about people, families, and communities. It is about our loved ones.

The women in Africa suffer in many cases from non-responsive health services but perhaps what is more disturbing is the fear and stigma associated with cancer. Women suffer from being discriminated against by their communities, ostracized by their partners or husbands and painful deaths from cancer. Cultural barriers and taboo about surgery especially of the breast.

Our Government seeks to continue forming strategic alliances with the relevant stakeholders so as to move through the breadth and width of South Africa.

Also of great significance is ensuring that women’s cancers are not seen in isolation but dovetailed with other existing services such child care, HIV and the prevention of mother to child transmission of HIV. We therefore need a close working relationship with civil society, business, government, traditional healers and faith based organisations.

We support this integrated approach as government because we want to go beyond just the health care aspect, but to include the social aspects because social determinants play a significant role in health outcomes.

My wish is to see us all come together to support and empower each other. South Africans – and South African women in particular – have a generosity of spirit that I am yet to feel anywhere else in the world.

If we all extend our hands to help one another we can overcome all the challenges that face us. We are a nation that thrives when we come together and support the same goal.

I know that the fight against cancer will succeed if we work together and make it everybody’s business in our communities. I wish the TMZ foundation and all organisations involved in the fight against cancer well as they take this important fight forward.

I thank you!