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Site Last Update: 11 Dec, 2019
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African Proverb of the Month
May 2008

Isihlahla saziwa ngezithelo zaso. (Zulu).
A tree is known by its fruit. (English)

Zulu (South Africa, Swaziland) Proverb


Background, Explanation, Meaning and Everyday Use

The meaning is that a person's success is shown by his or her deeds. A person can talk, and talk convincingly. He or she may be an orator, or a bragger, and those listening to the person may believe him or her for a while. But, if there are no deeds to go with that talking, he or she may as well have kept quiet. One's story will be validated only by one's deeds. Some people are good at talking, but what they have done or are doing is the real proof. This Zulu proverb emphasizes that a person is successful because of actions, not words.

Biblical Parallels

Jesus says in Matthew 7:15 and following, "Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly they are ravening wolves. You shall know them by their fruit. Even so every good tree brings forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree brings forth evil fruit...Wherefore by their fruits you shall know them."

Jesus demonstrated what He was saying by actions. "Jesus said unto her, 'I am the resurrection and the life. He that believes in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.'" (John 11:25). Jesus said: "I am the bread of life...."(John 6:35) and he fed the five thousand. It was natural, it was easy to believe Him because He did not just talk the talk. He walked the walk. He illustrated his words by actions.

Contemporary Use and Religious Application

People can tell that this is a banana tree, or a peach tree, or an orange tree, by the fruit the tree produces. You can try to tell people that this banana tree is an orange tree all you want, but the fruit will tell the truth. So it is with us. You can claim you love the people all day long, but if you do not show it by being there for them, physically, emotionally, monetarily, or otherwise, then guess what? You do not. Your words mean nothing. Your deeds make the difference!

This Zulu Proverb can be applied to leadership in Africa today. We need leaders who walk the walk, and not just talk the talk. In many countries of Africa where reconciliation, peace and justice are so badly needed, we will know the best leaders by their fruits.

NOTE: This is part of a collection of 540 Zulu Proverbs.

Mrs. Jani Carter (uMaMhlongo)
828 Mechanic Street
Emporia, KS 66801 USA
Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


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