MEC Nontobeko Vilakazi speech on International Social Workers Day in Douglas : 30 March 2023

Good evening esteemed guests

Thank you so much for inviting me to address you at this glamourous affair where we pay tribute to all those in the Social Work Sphere.
We are gathered here tonight to pay tribute and to acknowledge the social work professionals across the province and country, who are changing lives for the better every day.

This year, befittingly Human Rights Day coincided with The International Social Workers  Day, a day in which South Africans seek to highlight the achievements of social work, raise the visibility of social services, and defend social justice and human rights. This year’s theme is “Respecting diversity through joint social action.”
I want you to visualise what I am about to say. Please listen to this line very carefully. Close your eyes for just a brief moment and try and comprehend the following quote:
“Social Work is the Art of Listening and the Science of Hope”
How accurate is that?
Ladies and gentlemen, I am glad that we get to spend a few minutes with you and I am of the view that the Social Workers- and their invaluable support of Social Auxiliary Workers, Community Workers and volunteers-  are the heart and soul of the Department. I doubt that you yourself realise the very important role you play in the Department, and more importantly the role you play in society.
Quite often we lack the very basic attributes that make us human, just to say thank you when a person has done something for you. I am therefore exited that I get to spend time with you and to say thank you for the selfless service.
The Department has a heartbeat precisely because you gave everything, body and soul, and at times under difficult conditions, to make the Department a leading Department in terms of delivery and accountability.
More often than not, survivors of trauma lack the words to express their grief and fear. Social workers recognize the need and are the first to respond. They are the ones who can speak hope into the hearts of the hurting.
And this is the difficult part as people often forget that you are human as well. You have feelings and challenges of your own and yet you are expected to be the miracle workers- the way makers and the fixers of everything broken. And selfcare and support to one another is very important. We have as social workers taken an oath that we solemnly pledge to consecrate our lives to the service of humanity and to social justice.
At this point I want to remind you that part of the oath we undertook was to declare that we will practice our profession responsibly with conscience, integrity, and dignity which are consistent with its values, ethical principles, and ethical standards; The welfare of our clients will be our first consideration
It therefore requires of us to do introspection and ask how we as the individual and collective make a meaningful and lasting impact on the lives of those in need. We therefore cannot continue to do things as we have done them before. We will always have to come up with more practical ways of dispensing of our Constitutional mandate. We have to find innovative ways to do more with the little that we have. And a saying comes to mind that we constantly have to innovate or else we will evaporate.
Social workers have worked hard and studied for years to become competent professionals who work to empower individuals and communities. Collaborating with other social workers and being part of interdisciplinary units can help in many ways. Social workers value interpersonal relationships, teamwork, and trust. By sharing their experiences with one another, social workers can share in the celebrations and challenges of their work.
It is one of the most beautiful compensations of life, that you cannot sincerely try to help another person without actually helping yourself. At this very moment, there are individuals only you can reach, and differences only you can make in their lives. You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated.
Each and every one of you are important and a valuable gem.
We value you and we appreciate you.
Thank you for the dedication and commitment and for the often-personal and thankless sacrifices you have to make to ensure that we heal and mend the broken.
I want to leave you with this quote from Martin Luther King-
Never, never, be afraid to do what’s right, especially if the well-being of a person is at stake. Society’s punishments are small compared to the wounds we inflict on our soul when we look the other way.”
This evening is yours and I know declare it official that you thoroughly enjoy yourselves.
Thank you and God bless.


Mail Us

Department of Social Development
Latlhi Mabilo Complex
257 Barkley Rd

Contact Details

Contact telephone numbers
053 874 9100
Email address: