Back to top

Address by Deputy President David Mabuza at the official hand over of community support essential materials towards curbing the spread of COVID-19 in schools, Ngodwana Mill, Mpumalanga

Printer-friendly versionSend by email
Programme Director,
Chief Executive Officer of Sappi Southern Africa, Mr Alex Thiel,
Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga
Deputy Minister of Health, Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo,
Speaker of Ehlanzeni District Municipality, Cllr Renias Khumalo,
Members of the Mpumalanga Provincial Legislature present,
Principals of Schools represented here today,
School Governing Body and parents representatives,
Learners representatives present here today,
Distinguished Guests:

We are pleased to be part of this important initiative by SAPPI Southern Africa to collaborate with the Department of Basic Education to curb the spread of Covid-19 in schools.

The Covid-19 environment calls for our collective responsibility across society to implement extraordinary intervention measures to stop the tide of infections and rebuild our lives.

This is indeed an act of generosity in support of government in its efforts to defeat the coronavirus as led by the Department of Health.

Over the last two years, our response to the negative impacts of Covid-19 has been grounded on resilient and sustainable partnerships and collaboration with the private sector and non-governmental social formations.

Both public and private sector components of our health system have collaborated seamlessly to improve citizen convenience and access to our vaccination programme.

Through the Solidarity Fund, private sector resources have been mobilized to complement government’s overall response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

More importantly, access to private sector facilities has been made possible to expand the foot-print of our vaccination sites, to ensure that we reach many people who are eligible for vaccination.

We are grateful that Sappi is one of the corporate citizens that have made significant contributions to the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.

We thank you for opening up your clinics throughout the country as vaccination sites to ensure that rural communities have access to our vaccination programme.

We appreciate your collaboration with the provincial government to support health facilities with personal protective equipment and materials such as hand sanitizers and masks to curb the spread of Covid-19. Your own contributions to the vaccination programme have not gone unnoticed, especially as it impacted your employees, and those of your supplier companies.

This amplifies how business can add value through corporate social responsibility in order to build sustainable partnerships that contribute to local development, better livelihoods and a socially cohesive society.

While significant progress has been made in the fight against Covid-19, the aftermath of the devastation and negative impacts have been felt across various sectors of society. Global trade and supply chains were disrupted by lockdowns, which were implemented to contain the spread of infections.

Here at home, our prospects for economic growth and employment creation, were thwarted by recurring waves of Covid-19 and its variants. Livelihoods were decimated across various economic sectors. Therefore, one of the seminal tasks in our Covid-19 response is economic reconstruction and recovery.

We have to re-build the economy, create employment opportunities and ensure that livelihoods are improved and sustained.

We have to ensure that corporate players like Sappi continue to expand local investments, access to skills development opportunities, and support to small businesses through deliberate participation in local and global supply value chains.

As a global player, we are confident that your investments in the country will increase gross fixed capital formation, and unlock enterprise development opportunities across key value chains in your business.

Your contributions to skills development present opportunities for effective partnerships with government as we address critical skills shortages.

More importantly, we are also encouraged by your plans to beneficiate biomass to contribute electricity to the national grid as we continue to tackle energy security challenges of the country. In the process, we need to enhance opportunities for the development of small and medium enterprises as well as local communities.

Reversing the negative impact of Covid-19 on the economy will require significant contributions by the private sector.

In the process of responding to the Covid-19 pandemic, there is no doubt that the education sector has been negatively affected, resulting in the loss of teaching and learning time.

The implementation of adaptation strategies such as rotational and online learning arrangements, have assisted us in navigating the troubled waters of the pandemic. We must congratulate teachers, learners and parents for staying this difficult course.

The Department of Education leadership, led by Minister Motshekga, tried everything possible to sail through this difficult pandemic situation to keep learning programmes on track and deliver excellent matric results.

We also cannot begin to imagine how the rotational schooling arrangement posed disruptions in the lives of learners and inconsistency in the teaching and learning process brought about by the breaks in school attendance.

This arrangement also caused anxiety for learners who depend on the school feeding system for a meal that they may not have while at home. The social benefits of the schooling environment for social interaction and holistic learner development were also lost.

Despite these setbacks, we are still standing.

Even though online learning has been good for learners and teachers, inequities and uneven access to technology platforms for rural poor learners have been foregrounded.

Government will continue to intervene and invest in schools so that schools and poor households are connected in order to have access to latest learning platforms and technologies.

Evidence is there for all us to see that the present world of technology, artificial intelligence and robotics, requires of us to match its dictates through education.

Therefore, investment in information technologies and connectivity infrastructure in schools and rural communities will ensure that our learners are prepared for the ‘new world of work’.

While these innovations will continue to be embedded in our teaching and learning methodologies and school environments, we are happy that we have reached the stage of the Covid-19 pandemic when a decision could be taken for all learners to return to school.

Equally, we need to acknowledge that Covid-19 will continue to be with us for the foreseeable future. The fight against Covid-19 is not over. The threats for the resurgence of infections always loom large, as has been seen across the world.

This is not the time to be triumphalist, complacent and drop our guard. We need to find ways to adapt and live along this virus in our communities, workplaces, health facilities and schools.

With all learners having returned to school, we need to continue with the implementation of Covid-19 health protocols in schools to stave off possible spikes in infections. The Department of Health will continue to provide leadership and support schools in partnership with the Department of Basic Education.

In this context, we are happy that government’s collaboration and partnership with Sappi has come at an opportune moment to provide targeted support to schools to deal with Covid-19 challenges. We are appreciative that 300 schools will be supported with masks and sanitizers as well as printing materials.

We have no doubt that any form of support to the education enterprise, is a long-term investment to transform our society for the better. Education is a vehicle for social change and development in any society.

Through this collaboration and partnership, 300 schools and multiple hundreds more households in this province will benefit. This is testament that if we work together for the greater good of humanity, we will achieve long-lasting positive impact on individuals and communities.

We are happy to hand over this package of support to representatives of beneficiary schools and members of community. We want to have a long-lasting partnership with Sappi as a responsible corporate citizen that is committed to the development and empowerment of communities where it operates.

We salute SAPPI for what it has done in stepping forward to respond to this partnership call. We hope that other corporates will emulate what Sappi has done.

Only in the near future will we be able to quantify the value of SAPPI’s contribution to the lives of the beneficiary learners, the betterment of beneficiary schools, and the impact of this contribution on our learners and society as a whole.

Distinguished Guests,

We need to continue to support schools in adhering to Covid-19 protocols as guided by the Department of Health. While addressing over-crowding challenges in some schools, we have a responsibility to ensure infrastructure readiness for compliance with minimum Covid-19 prevention protocols. It will be difficult, but let us support schools to do their best.

Alongside these support interventions, our loudest message must mobilise learners who are eligible to vaccinate. Vaccines are our protective tool to contain the spread of Covid-19 in schools and communities in which schools are located.

Ultimately, in order to beat this pandemic, we need to vaccinate.

Our country has approved for vaccination of citizens between the ages of 12 to 17. This means that many in the learner population of the 300 beneficiary schools are eligible for Covid-19 vaccination.

We therefore encourage those who have not yet vaccinated to do so, not only for their personal health, but for the greater good of the community. Equally, parents have a responsibility to speak to their children about vaccinations and take them to the health facilities where they can get vaccinated.

As more of us take up vaccination, the sooner we can enjoy healthier lives without stringent Covid-19 restrictions. We will have the opportunity open up the economy and engage in sport and socio-cultural activities without restrictions.

Through vaccinations, we can protect ourselves and family members against the coronavirus.

We are also aware of the fake news and falsehoods that continue to spread about Covid-19 vaccinations. Let us not be diverted by the fake news

Today we are here to assure you that these vaccines have gone through the necessary research and testing to ensure their safety and efficacy.

Much investment continues to be made in order to ensure that the Covid-19 vaccines offer protection even against the variants as the virus continues to mutate.

With more vaccinations administered, it means that operations at companies like SAPPI, can increase, upskill and employ more people from surrounding communities of its operation.

We would also like to congratulate SAPPI on their strong quarterly results. These results and the work you are doing in communities around the country speak to the calibre of your leadership.

The calibre of leadership manifests itself when tested during difficult times in domestic and global markets. Covid-19 has provided a difficult trading environment for many companies. You seem to have managed it well to ensure that your operations are not disrupted.

May you grow from strength to strength!

We thank you for your unrelenting efforts and sacrifice to improve the lives of our citizens and the community around you. We acknowledge your dedication and selfless service to the economy of this province and the betterment of our country.

Your actions have been counted.

Thank you.