Parliamentary Question: Dpe: National Youth Day


Address by Minister of Department of Public Enterprises M Gigaba commemorating the 35th Anniversary of National Youth Day at the Denel Dynamics Breakfast in Tshwane

Thirty five years have passed on since National Aeronautical Space Agency (NASA) launched the Viking 1, an ambitious mission to Mars which whetted the scientific world and public’s enthusiasm for future space exploration.

Thirty five years ago, Motorola technology enabled millions of people around the globe to hear astronaut Neil Armstrong speak as he made “one giant leap for mankind.”

Thirty five  years ago, The world’s first commercial supersonic airliner, Concorde took its first flight…

Thirty five  years, and 317 billion dollars later, Apple Computers needs no introduction!

Here at Denel Dynamics 35 years ago, rocket science research and development was a start-up initiative in South Africa.

In extreme contrast, amidst the world’s progress, the exhilaration of the science and technology exploration of 1976, when human potential was stretched beyond imagination, South Africa was embarking on a revolution of its own, an upsurge for change as the youth of Soweto stood up in protest for a better education.

We know this that many times, during the course of our struggle that spanned over three centuries, history was to call on the youth to carry on their young shoulders the hopes and dreams of the nation, indeed, to propel the struggle forward, and on each occasion the youth proved themselves equal to the task, and never once did they fail the nation or dishonour the heroic legacy of their predecessor freedom warriors.

When I received the invitation to speak here this morning, my mind raced back in time to think about all the generations of youth in our country’s history that have played a decisive role to bring our country to where it is today.

We owe it to these many successive generations of young South African patriots to carry forward the cudgels of their struggles and accomplish their mission.

There are some in our nation who have become impatient with our history, urging us always to stop remembering our past of iniquity, trying to persuade us today to believe that the past is dead and buried, that to remember is hold on to grudges about the past and that today we must wage a relentless struggle against remembering.

Yet we know that the most serious struggle we ought to wage today is that against forgetting; for, to forget our past will amount to exposing ourselves to the risk of repeating its errors, foibles as well as its folly.

It would serve the interests, neither of the historically privileged nor those of the historically underprivileged, to forget the past and thus expose ourselves collectively to such risks as we have described above.

The challenge of a nation such as ours, a nation striving for unity, reconciliation and common prosperity, is to ensure that whilst those who were victims of injustice forgive, but are encouraged not to forget so that they never reach a moment when they, out of ignorance or utter foolishness, find themselves donning the garb of the hitherto oppressors whom they condemn.

To commemorate such occasions as the 35th Anniversary of  the 16 June 1976 Uprising is to allow the martyrs of the past to open our eyes as we closed theirs when they died.

Whilst these occasions allow us to heal together as a nation, so do they also focus our eyes on the challenges facing the youth of our nation, to summon yet again the spirit of no-surrender, of resilience and commitment to serve the nation of the youth so that they, once more, provide leadership to the nation out of the morass of today.

To the youth of South Africa this we must say that it is an honour to serve your people and to sacrifice in their name.

Whereas in the past the youth often had to die for the nation, today they must live for the nation.

As the constructors, inheritors and, indeed, the inhabitants of the future, the youth must be prepared today for their future historic responsibilities at the head of our struggles for fundamental social transformation.

For that to happen, collectively we must develop capacities of the youth, and their competencies, in all fields in which they are involved, and raise their calibre of leadership.

It is when the youth are given responsibilities today and made to be part of constructing a vision of the future and of pursuing that vision that they will become even better leaders tomorrow.

The youth of today are both the inheritors of yesterday as well as the builders, the midwives of tomorrow. They constitute a critical bridge between the past, present and future.

Time and again, young people become the catalysts of the progressive change we seek, and through their daring acts, they help to make history, shaking off their complacency to provide the most requisite leadership to their societies, today!

We are correct today to regard the contribution of the youth of 1976 to our struggle as having been extraordinary.

Yet, the challenges facing young people in present-day South Africa have changed; they are of a different king and require a different kind of experience and wherewithal.

Denel Dynamics is of strategic importance to South Africa – it houses the technology, the knowledge and the expertise required to protect the security of this country.

There are only a few places in the world that manufacture the types of high technology products developed by Denel Dynamics with its innovative missiles and unmanned aerial vehicle solutions.

You carry weight and responsibility working here and I am pleased to learn that the Denel Dynamics Youth Forum (DDYF) is exploring future technology and leadership.

Your focus on becoming an energetic value contributor to the company by going beyond your important social and cultural role; to also engaging with the challenges facing this company are forward thinking.

I have also learned of the commitment of many of you to Denel Dynamics’ voluntary tutor programme.

Giving up your Saturday mornings to teach maths to high school pupils throughout the year extends beyond the bounds of duty; it shows the passion to make a difference, and results have already begun to speak for themselves.

I have learned of the great strides that this company’s Engineering Academy of Learning is doing to fast-track the roles, responsibilities and experience of the young engineers who work here. 

Every 12-month project embarked upon by your Academy propels young engineers through a concentrated funnel of learning and experience that they simply would not find anywhere else. 

With Denel Dynamics’ unique position of having an entire community of world class experts in-house, it is crucial to tap into the knowledge and mentorship that is housed here to develop the next generation of engineers.

I believe the Academy teams have handled extremely challenging projects from exploring sense and avoid capabilities for UAVs, to building a low-cost servo, and this year, a team is developing a guided mortar using Rapid Prototype technology.

The most valuable aspect of this is each team member’s introduction to areas of engineering and project management that would have traditionally taken years for them to work toward on the usual career ladder. 

Denel Dynamics has demonstrated keen insight into youth, by giving those on the academy a taste of the fullness of engineering in all its aspects. It is this taste of what can be that will drive aspirations into the future.

Against the backdrop of national growth and development, every one job in Denel Dynamics creates an additional four more jobs outside in the South African economy. We need more of the same as we need to keep our engineers in this country.

This level of job creation makes a healthy contribution to providing a high-tech work pool where there is a skills shortage.

Military investment in any country’s industry has a high upliftment value on the competitive edge of new technology, either in engineering capability or manufacturing and commercial competence.

Denel Dynamics enables suppliers to be competitive in the commercial environment and not to be reliant on military business alone. The bottom line is that you are in a position to be natural influencers in our economy.  Use this!

And so, here we stand in 2011. We can now gather together on a day like today, commemorating National Youth Day.

Youth no matter where you are in the world – are always forward looking, exploring, stretching the boundaries, changing the world around them.

If any section of the society in any country is most important for change, it is the young people. The youth of 1976 played critical role in shaping the political landscape of this country as we know it today.

They understood the challenges of their time and were ready to confront them systematically in a way which influenced the fortunes of future generations.

The hopes of the youth, here and everywhere, are:

A world free of poverty, unemployment, inequality and exploitation of one by the other

A world free of discrimination on the grounds of race, colour, language and gender

A world full of creative challenges and opportunities to conquer them.

The future prosperity and well-being of country and its citizens depends on how well we educate our children, particularly in the fields of science, mathematics, technology and engineering.

This country’s broad based prosperity and pre-eminence will depend on the next generation of innovation in areas such as clean energy, health care, education, sustainable food production and human settlement.

Our national security is heavily depended on how we fare in science, mathematics and technology. I therefore wish to urge Denel to escalate these initiatives and to encourage others to do the same wherever they are.

Improving science, mathematics and technology is the country’s top educational priority. Government has committed itself to ensuring that children in urban and rural high-poverty schools should have the same access to higher-level mathematics and science as students in wealthy suburban schools.

However, this challenge is compounded by the fact that such schools do not have adequate teachers, a supportive and encouraging environment, enriching opportunities or adequate financial resources.

As long as such gaps exist, students from those schools will struggle when and if they enter college. It will take enormous resources and time to achieve the required parity.

We live in an era in which knowledge is decisive in separating winners from losers. Knowledge expands the achievement possibilities of those who have it. Lack of it leaves them vulnerable.

Harnessing science, mathematics and technology for human development is critical to building both a competitive and people centric economy and society. Denel, like all the other SOEs, is a critical partner to realising this government vision. In that way their relevance as government agencies becomes palpable.

Youth unemployment remains a serious challenge facing this country. Too few jobs are being created to absorb the large numbers of new entrants to the labour market. For example, in the first quarter of 2010, the unemployment rate for young people aged 16 to 30 was 40%, compared to 16% for those aged 30 to 65.

Government’s New Growth Path (“the NGP”) sets itself ambitious targets, particularly in terms of job creation, five million jobs in ten years. The NGP recognises that better education and skill levels are a fundamental prerequisite for achieving this. Amongst others, the NGP requires a radical review of the training system to address shortfalls in artisanal and technical skills.

This paradigm shift requires the collective will of everyone. I am indeed delighted to see Denel Dynamics taking up this challenge. I therefore wish to assure you that I will be an ambassador of your programme wherever I go.

We need to send the message about how to harness science and technology over time as a key factor behind progress in human development.

The skills and know?how generated in this advanced technology sector find their way in other critical areas of human development.

I don’t think we can ever beat that drum enough. This is a message we want to spread and to see gain momentum.

This positive and passionate atmosphere must be maintained and transformed into profound positive outcomes.

So I applaud you for reaching out to our youth and focusing your energies on our next generation. You are not concerning yourself only with the design and development of precision guided weapons but also the development and nurturing of minds and brain?power that are necessary to drive our country forward.

Sometimes we might ask ourselves if our youth understands that they have been entrusted with the important responsibility of putting this country on a newer, higher and sustainable development path.

Ultimately such a question will not answered by words but the deeds and conduct of our youth.

I wish all of you success and your effort to have a lasting impact in shaping the future of our country.

A lot can happen in 35 years!  Here’s to 2046.

I thank you very much.

Source: Department of Public Enterprises

Issued by: Department of Public Enterprises
14 Jun 2011