Deputy President David Mabuza appeared in public on Wednesday after mounting speculation over his whereabouts and state of his health.

Towards the end of June, the Presidency said Mabuza would be visiting Russia for a scheduled medical consultation.

Mabuza’s opening address at the 4th Human Resource Development Council Summit in Midrand ended speculation that he had become incapacitated.

Addressing the summit, Mabuza reminded participants that, “we commemorated Women’s Day” two days ago.

He said the commemoration was a reminder of what still needs to be done towards the full emancipation of women and fulfilment of the aspirations of those who marched to the Union Buildings in 1956.

“In pursuance of their aspirations, we should consider how this summit advances the struggle against poverty, inequality, patriarchy, prejudice, and exclusion of women, people with disabilities and key populations from accessing skills and broader development opportunities across all facets of life,” said Mabuza.

The summit ws taking place under unprecedented conditions presented by the devastating effects of the Covid-19 pandemic that has disrupted many aspects of life including health, economy and livelihoods.

At an economic level, recent results from the Quarterly Labour Force Survey reveal that, in the first quarter of 2021, structural unemployment stood at 32.6 percent.

The joblessness figure was worse among young people – at 46.3 percent and among university graduates at 9.3 percent.

“These statistics are real and reflect faces of stifled and deferred dreams, hopes, opportunities and capacities,” said Mabuza.

“They are also an outcry of our country’s human wealth that is not fully explored.

“Notably, Statistics South Africa further tells us that from these statistics, young people and African black women in particular are the most vulnerable.”

While education remains a fundamental part of the solution to this problem, Mabuza said there are other contributory issues like access to healthcare, basic services and public transport that are equally important in improving these statistics for the better.

“However, for this summit, we are limiting ourselves to ensuring that we agree on policies and systems that will improve educational outcomes, and also ensure that young people stay in school until they attain a qualification,” said the deputy president.

He said getting a qualification will put all children on equal footing in the labour market,

“Equally, we must address the issue of young people that drop out at various points of their schooling, prior to attaining their matric qualification,” said Mabuza.

“Failure to address these shortcomings, adds more numbers to the cohort of young people that are not in employment, education, or training.”

He said the implications of delaying this response are obvious.

“It means this is a cohort of young people robbed of practicing their natural talents,” said the deputy president.

“It means families are robbed of agents of change who could be contributing positively to uplift their families, their communities, our country and the world.

“Our role as government, as civil society, organised labour and the private sector is to reverse and transcend these inequalities which threaten South Africa’s social cohesion and nation-building project.

“Without urgently and tangibly addressing inequalities in society, nation-formation becomes a statement of intention rather than a statement of fact.”

He said the theme of the summit – “Skills Required For The 21st Century” – was relevant in the South African context in “ensuring that no one is left behind as we implement measures to rebuild and grow the economy”.

Mabuza said the summit should deliberate on how the human resource development strategy is recalibrated to be skills-based, innovation-led and entrepreneurial-focused, serving as an anchor for the economic reconstruction and recovery plan.

For now, the detractors of the cat can rest assured he is back and well enough to carry out his duties.