Afeefah Patel, 9, of Ormonde in Johannesburg, who was named Hero of the Month in a Lead SA project on the radio station 702, now wants to take President Jacob Zuma to the Kruger National Park. She wants him to see at first hand the seriousness of rhino poaching in South Africa. Patel became the youngest-ever recipient of the award for her efforts over the last two years in campaigning for rhino conservation. She was fired up to do so after receiving a response from Zuma to a letter she sent two years ago. It was the latest in a series of accolades that Patel has been garnering since she started her public activities.
In November last year, she became South Africa's youngest recipient of the prestige Inyathelo Philanthropy Award from the South African Institute for Advancement in Cape Town. Before that she sparked international interest in 2011 as the youngest winner ever of SANParks's Corporate Contribution to Conservation Award: Individual Category at the 8th annual Kudu Awards. It all began with a letter to a local newspaper in 2012 requesting assistance from President Zuma in saving the country's rhinos from poaching.
This interest was further boosted by the frequent trips into the bush that Patel and her elder sibling, Aaminah, 11, undertake regularly with their father, Shiraz, and mom, Saajida.
The letter drew the interest of the President's office and Patel got a reply from him: "I want you to know that our government is just as highly concerned at the staggering numbers of rhinos that have been killed just this year alone. Please continue playing a part in promoting the safety of our endangered species.
You are a very good South African!' Patel was also lauded by Inyathelo in its citations: "Afeefah's commitment to protecting our rhinos and her courage to speak out has helped raise awareness across South Africa and encouraged the broader public to get involved in the fight against poaching," Patel 's refrain has become "Enough is enough!" as she travels to schools and community events to give short messages on the importance of saving the rhino, targeted for its horn to meet demands in the East, where it is considered an aphrodisiac.
"I tell people that they have to look after our rhinos otherwise there won't be a Big Five any more. "I also want to take President Zuma to see what is happening to our rhinos and to tell him that enough is enough!" Patel said. At Robertsham Primary School, where Patel is in Grade 3, she and Ameenah were feted at an assembly as an example for all learners to follow. Older sister Aaminah congratulates Afeefah Patel on her awards.