LeadSA honours rhino heroine

THE LeadSA Youth Hero of the Month (February) certificate was awarded to Robertsham Primary School grade 3 learner, Afeefah Patel.

This nine-year-old together with her sister, Aaminah (11), who is also at the school, have taken the fight against rhino poaching to another level. Two years ago Afeefah wrote a letter to President Zuma, pleading with him to do something about saving the rhinos. The letter was published by The Times and reads: “Please tell President Zuma to please look after our rhinos.”

Her father, Shiraaz, said besides recei-ving these accolades; Afeefah has addressed officials including the USA and British High Commissioners in Pretoria. “With her sister Afeefah organised marches in Soshanguve, advocating to stop the slaughter of rhinos and to report poaching. In these marches she delivered speeches in English and Sesotho, calling on the President to meet with them and honour his promise, Tshepiso ke tshepiso (A promise is a promise). She is very happy to receive the award and is the youngest recipient. On Thursday February 27 she spoke on 702 Radio with Xolani Gwala, urging South Africans to save rhinos. “The bleeding must stop,” explained Mr Patel.

Afeefah and Aaminah are now SanPark Junior Rangers, a part of the Eastrand Junior Ranger Programme. “Besides helping the rhinos, I want to be a doctor and help people,” Afeefah said.

Their parents, Shiraaz and Saajida, indicated that their children’s next step is to visit Asia, particularly China and Vietnam, to raise awareness on the misunderstood medicinal value of rhino horns. They want to tell the world that rhino horn is not a medicine. Robertsham Primary School principal Mrs Lynch said they were proud of Afeefaha and Aaminah about the awareness they were creating about rhino poaching. They encourage other learners.

“It started with the letter to the President. I think their statements will have great impact as they come from young voices. The world needs to notice them and stop rhino poaching,” she noted.

Afeefah’s initiative has made her popular, and includes:

  • At the South African National Parks (Sanparks) eighth annual Kudu Awards, held at Gallagher Estates on November 30, 2012, her letter won the Corporate Contribution to Conservation Award. This earned her R20 000 and a trophy, becoming the youngest recipient of this prestigious award.
  • On January 18 last year Afeefah donated R5 000 of her reward money to the Unite Against Poaching Trust at the Glen Volkswagen. The Glen Volkswagen has donated over R5,7-million to Unite Against Poaching (Save The Rhino).

This year alone 148 rhinos have been killed and dehorned.

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Skhumbuzo Dlamini is the lead dancer for the local Emdeni Ingoma