OPENING REMARKS BY DEPUTY PRESIDENT DAVID MABUZA AT THE HUMAN RESOURCE DEVELOPMENT COUNCIL MEETING, UNISA FLORIDA CAMPUS, JOHANNESBURG – 22 JUNE 2018
Minister of Higher Education and Training, Ms Naledi Pandor,
Secretariat Head of the HRDC, Ms Brenda Ntombela,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is an honour to welcome you all to this meeting of the Human Resource Development Council taking place at this old gold mining town of Rooderpoort.
The people of Roodepoort and many similar mining towns refuse to be proscribed in a past defined by empty, dangerous, and lifeless mining dumps.
At this Florida Campus of Unisa, we find a community of scholars and students working together to find solutions to renew the hope that South Africa represents in the building of a better Africa and a better world.
In the streets of this suburb of Florida and backyards of homes in Roodepoort you will meet the indestructible and enterprising spirit of our land.
It must surely be in the interest of the HRDC to pay close attention to Roodepoort’s informal economy because here we will find South Africa’s story of innovation and endless possibility in the face of socio-economic hardships.
And we hope that institutions like Unisa will continue to encourage its students to collaborate with our communities to work together to find answers that will address the developmental needs of our people.
I am reminded that on Monday, our country will commemorate 63 years of the adoption of the Freedom Charter, South Africa’s blueprint to constitutional democracy.
It was the freedom delegates who on the 25th to the 26th of June 1955 declared that South Africa belongs to all those who live in it, black and white.
They also said, “The Doors of Learning and Culture Shall be Opened.”
Today, as the HRDC, we must pause and answer how far we have lived to the dream that was captured in the famous “Call to the Congress of the People” that was drafted by the Congress Alliance after Professor ZK Matthews proposed the idea of the Freedom Charter in August 1953.
In part, the Call said,
Let us speak of the light that comes with learning, and the ways we are kept in darkness.
Let us speak of great services we can render, and of the narrow ways that are open to us.
Let us speak of the fine children that we bear, and of their stunted lives.
LET US SPEAK OF FREEDOM.
To speak of Freedom, it means the HRDC must be equal to the task of producing the appropriate skills revolution that our country require to give meaning to the experience of freedom.
To speak of freedom also means the HRDC must be seized with innovative solutions of creating employment for the millions of our young people who carry the biggest burden of unemployment.
We are a Council tasked to mobilise the whole of society behind the dream of developing the capabilities of all our people so that those who were historically marginalised can also say that today is indeed better than the horror of yesterday.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The commitment and hard work of this Council is something that we must all be proud of.
We must take a moment to applaud all Council members and the various constituencies that they represent of the sterling work that they do to address the skills deficits of our land.
And thank you for hosting the successful 3rd HRDC summit in May where we launched the revised strategy towards 2030.
Our country look forward to have your voice adequately represented at both the Job and Investment Summits that President Ramaphosa announced during the State of the Nation address.
As custodians of the strategy for skills development, you already have a wealth of knowledge of what is working and what is not working to deliver the economic miracle that our people are yearning for.
I have no doubt that you will be able to explain why with all the goodwill and investments in education and job creation, we have not yet seen good returns on our investments.
As the HRDC, we should be able to contribute meaningfully in answering why our official unemployment rate remains stubbornly at 27.7%.
As you would recall, last month Stats SA also painted a bleak picture about the status of young South Africans, showing that one in three young people were not in employment, education, or training (NEETs).
In May, Stats SA reported that in the first quarter of 2018, South Africa’s NEETs were approximately 3.3 million of the young people aged 15-24 years old.
And so, our meeting today and plans for the future, must urgently address the plight of these young people. Behind these figures and statistics, are dreams of young people that are sadly going to waste.
In a month where we commemorate the selfless sacrifices of the youth of 1976 who paid with their lives for us to call ourselves truly free, we dare not fail our youth as government, business, academia, labour, and civil society.
In all that we do, we must again be inspired by the eternal promise and energy of our youth.
And we must never stop reminding our private sector that it makes good business sense for it to selflessly invest in nurturing the talents and skills of our young people.
As government and as the HRDC, we are unequivocal in our commitment to create the conditions and environment that will make business invest in the skilling of our people and to make us a truly winning nation.
Evidence throughout the world shows that it is through SMME development that we will win the war against poverty and unemployment.
We are also fully committed to sharpen our policy instruments to address the critical and scarce skills that our nation faces.
To succeed, it means that the Department of labour, Stats SA, academia, and industry should work even closer to identify critical skills shortages and the misalignments in the country’s demand and supply of these critical skills.
It means all teachers in our schools should know the top ten skills that are in demand for our economy so that they can properly advise learners on career choices.
We require more in depth and evidence-based research on the number of artisans in the various fields that we need for our economy.
But it is also important that we understand fully well the demands and dictates of the modern global economy. It is increasingly a knowledge –based economy shaped around the big data of things, and technological disruptions.
And most importantly, it is a modern global economy where traditional boundaries and disciplines are increasingly dissolving, overlapping, and redefining specialisations.
This means that we must be able to teach and assess in a manner that is interdisciplinary, in a manner that encourages collaboration, and embraces and innovation.
In doing all of this, we must never lose sight of our own history and developmental agenda.
In imagining our place and carving our future, no one must be left behind.
Even as we embrace the 4th Industrial Revolution and plan to succeed in it, we must be mindful that many of our people remain poor and under-skilled.
Our Industrial Policy Action Plan (IPAP) enjoins us to incentivise investments in labour absorbing industries. As we master these new robots and thrive in technological disruptions, we must simultaneously resist the uncritical displacement of vulnerable and under-skilled workers.
This means that our education system must be reoriented to produce the future engineers, programmers and software developers that will compete with the best in the world.
And as we do all of this, we will realise again that the choice was never between the simplistic distinctions of “science” and “arts” or between indigenous knowledge systems and modern technology.
To be competitive and to succeed in the 21st century is about harnessing technology to improve the human condition. It is about infusing science with our indigenous arts, languages, histories, and aspirations to address our developmental needs.
The global village, with all its attractions, remains ultimately a system of unequal power relations. And for South Africa and Africa to compete successfully, we must again force the technology and the digital world of the internet to embrace Africa, its myths, and its truths.
Only then, will we as a country and a continent say we have something humane and unique to contribute to human civilisation.
And I know, that this HRDC is attentive to the dreams of our country and continent.
I thank you.
ISSUED BY THE PRESIDENCY OF THE REPUBLIC OF SOUTH AFRICA