Keynote Address by Mr Godfrey Oliphant, Deputy Minister, Department of Mineral Resources Annual Consultative Conference at Premier Hotel, Kempton Park
28 Oct 2011
Director General of Department of Higher Education and Training, Mr Gwebinkundla Qonde
All Protocols observed
I have just returned, this morning to be precise, from a successful trip to the People’s Republic of China. As someone who has always espoused the same political ideology as that of China I always emerge from these visits even more committed to the achievement of an egalitarian society.
The fundamental reason for the success of the Chinese experiment is the fact that they got one thing right from the very outset: the provision of good quality education to their citizens which they did using the indomitable power of mother tongue education.
If you want to see the success of education, you do not need to go to China or even Cuba; just take even a simple walk across the Limpopo river, and reach Zimbabwe where you will see probably the most sophisticated and successful education system in Sub-Saharan Africa - the current challenges of that beautiful country of Hebert Chitepo and Josiah Tongogara notwithstanding.
I want to begin by thanking the Mining Qualifications Authority (MQA) and its partners for inviting me to address this critically important Annual Consultative Conference.
We all wax lyrical about what the mining industry means for this country. We are doing so because the industrialisation and modernisation of our country is rightly attributed to the development of this industry since the latter part of the previous century.
There is an acknowledgement that skills development is the next major project which must necessarily propel our economy beyond the production of base metals and heavy chemicals which contribute about 10% of employment and the gross domestic product.
It is therefore not a surprise that Business Day, one of our country’s major business dailies, dedicating more than 5 000 words to mining, pointed out that it contributes more than 19% to our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) which amounts to approximately R300 billion for our country.
The National Planning Commission (NPC) has recently released the results of a study which shows many young people struggle to find jobs in the formal sector of the economy. It is estimated that at least 8 million individuals are unemployed, with almost 3 million being those younger than 35 years.
The Broad Based Socio Economic Empowerment Charter for the Mining Industry represented the first real attempt to reverse the wrongs of the past that were so prevalent in the mining industry.
We are greatly concerned, despite immense progress, with the slow pace of progress since the landmark Mbulwa meeting of the period preceding the adoption of the Mining Charter.
I want to urge the MQA and this sector to continue to have a special focus on the targets and objectives of the revised Mining Charter, including adhering to the employment equity principles when selecting learners and individuals for employment.
The paucity of skills is one of the binding constraints that we have identified in our mining sector strategy that we have agreed to as the mining industry. Accordingly the MQA has to work with its stakeholders to put together comprehensive skills programmes to benefit this sector.
In this regard I want to applaud the MQA for focusing on grassroots activities like ABET, the maths and science project, the career development initiatives, learnerships, artisans, bursaries, internships, work experience, and other development programmes such as the workplace coaching programme and the development of black managers in the mining sector.
We are giving concrete expression to the dictum of Jack Dixon that "If you focus on results, you will never change. If you focus on change, you will get results. ”For the success of the mining and minerals sector we need to adopt an approach which emphasises success and nothing more.
Many a time we concentrate on what is impossible rather than what is possible. I am encouraged with the research that is currently being done focusing on workplace skills plans and annual training reports. I encourage employers in the sector to work with labour actively to undertake and build on this crucial area of skills development.
Health and safety:
Even though there has been a steady decline in the actual fatalities in our mines, we remain concerned about the continued loss of life there and the slow progress we are making in dealing with cases of Tuberculosis (TB), silicosis as well as noise induced hearing problems.
You will recall that the President has instructed all departments to fill all the vacancies in a bid to deliver on the commitments he made in his State of the Nation address this year. However, we have to ensure that young people choose careers in this important sector of mine health and safety as inspectors and legal practitioners who will help the government in prosecutions and investigations.
So MQA has a major role to play in reversing the trend where we struggle to recruit let alone to retain our skills base in the inspectorate of health and safety. It seems to me that the MQA cannot be content with business as usual, run-of-mill recruitment.
We expect you to think outside the box and ensure that we use the allocation to implement the targets that are contained in your strategic plans.
We all need to continue with effective programmes and other efforts to enhance health and safety at our mines.
I applaud the MQA for their role in implementing Occupational Health and Safety training for the sector. I also commend you on the partnerships that you have also established with organisations such as the Mine Health and Safety Council (MHSC), as well as partnerships that you have embarked upon, for the next five years, with OHS representatives and shop stewards to improve health and safety.
Women in mining:
White women have been one of the major beneficiaries of the new mining dispensation. The MQA needs to improve the participation of black women in this sector. We must turn Paulo Friere’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed around by using skills development initiatives driven by the MQA as the proverbial tools of the liberation of black women for they have nothing but their chains to lose, as Karl Marx said more than a century ago.
We can no longer hide behind the fact that there are neither black managers nor female personnel for all level positions. We need to find the skills,
Resources and Black Economic Empowerment (BEE)
We can use the MQA as a training ground, just like China, India and Cuba, to contribute to the realisation of the goals of the African agenda which is a cornerstone of our foreign policy. In this regard we can build a prosperous continent on the back of our position as the leading producer of various key minerals.
We can do the same by changing our training programme, amongst others, to encourage “value add” projects such as beneficiation initiatives, which are pivotal for the growth of the sector.
In conclusion, I wish you success in your deliberations during your conference. Your vital role at this time of our history cannot be over-emphasised; indeed, your centrality in our training sector. We have the possibility to emulate India, China, Cuba and Zimbabwe, and use our training to produce skills so that we can achieve all our goals.
I thank you!
Issued by: Department of Mineral Resources
28 Oct 2011
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