SA: Blade Nzimande: Address by Minister of Higher Education, Science And Innovation, on the occasion of CHIETA and African Alabaster Square Cooperative Certification Ceremony, Ulundi, Kwazulu-Natal (12/10/2021)

12th October 2021

SA: Blade Nzimande: Address by Minister of Higher Education, Science And Innovation, on the occasion of CHIETA and African Alabaster Square Cooperative Certification Ceremony, Ulundi, Kwazulu-Natal (12/10/2021)

Minister of Higher Education, Science And Innovation Blade Nzimande

Programme Director;
Mayor of uPhongolo, Councilor S R Mhlongo;
District Mayor Ulundi, Councilor Mzamo Buthelezi;
CHIETA Accounting Authority (AA) Chairperson, Ms Wezi Khoza and other AA Members present;
Chief Executive Officer of CHIETA, Mr Yershen Pillay;
Representatives from Mthashana TVET College;
Local Municipality representatives;
Construction SETA and other SETA representatives;
Our VIPs, 24 Cooperatives graduating today;
Members of the Community;
SEDA representative;
Representative from the departments of Tourism, Agriculture and Economic Development;
Potential buyers of products that will be manufactured by these Cooperatives;
CHIETA Management;
Officials from my Office and the both my Department of Higher Education and Science and Innovation; Provincial Officials and Municipal Officials; 
Distinguished Guests;
Members of the media;
Ladies and gentlemen

Good Morning 


It is my greatest honour to be with you today on this important occasion of  marking the Chemical Industries Sector Education and Training Authority (CHIETA) Certification Ceremony and the launch of the second phase of the Cooperatives Development Project involving 20 Cooperatives in aloe plant processing.

This project involves 20 Cooperatives from here at Ulundi. 

We meet in this certification ceremony to highlight and underline the importance of partnerships in skills development as recognised and envisaged in the White Paper for Post School Education and Training, especially between educational institutions and the private sector, mainly those who are employers as well.


Many of you will recall that on the 17 September 2020, I visited the Zululand District Municipality, as a National District Development Model Champion for the Zululand District.  

The purpose of my visit was to discuss, among other, interventions to support district economic development, to intensify the campaign against gender-based violence, and to fight COVID-19 global health pandemic. All this is to be done through a cooperative governance delivery model involving all spheres of government and various key community structures and the private sector.

It was from that meeting of 20th September, having received presentations from various key stakeholders from this District, that I directed both my Departments of Higher Education and Training and Science and Innovation, all my SETAs and the National Skills Fund to consider all presentations made and come up with interventions aligned with the DDM that will be undertaken to support the Zululand District. 

Amongst the projects we identified include:

Tourism and heritage (Battlefields, eco-tourism, game reserves etc);

Infrastructure projects (electricity, water reticulation & sanitation);

Telecommunications (ICT Infrastructure, digital and fibre optic);

Transportation (Freight and logistics);

SMME and Cooperatives support;

Early Childhood Development;

Agriculture and Farming; and 

Mining (beneficiation).

Here we are today, having kickstarted one of the many projects that we committed to the people of the Zululand District and Ulundi in particular. 
The purpose of our meeting today is two-fold, first, to honour the first group or cohort of learners who completed their skills training, and secondly, to launch the training programme for the second group which will commence training from 8 November 2021. 

A cherry on top is that, those of us in attendance have first-hand opportunity to test and use the aloe products produced by these learners following their training.

CHIETA -African Alabaster Square Collaboration (partnership)

The CHIETA partnership with African Alabaster Square (a soap and beauty manufacturing company) is meant to train cooperatives within the district to process aloe plant to make various products for household use. 

This training would equip learners with the necessary knowledge and skills necessary for aloe processing and enable candidates to form cooperatives and start their own businesses.

The CHIETA has provided funding for this cooperatives training comprising of 40 candidates from 20 cooperatives in the Zululand District at a value of approximately R1 million. 

The training programme was organised in two cohorts, with the first group which started on 27 September 2021 and has just completed training, and the second group is envisaged to start training on 8 November 2021.

I therefore take this opportunity to warmly congratulate all the learners  who completed their training and those whose training will be commencing next month.

Exit Strategy for trained learners

I am proud to indicate that built into this programme is the  exit strategy from the programme that will see all the learners participating in the following initiatives:

African Continental Free Trade Agreement – in which CHIETA has identified export opportunities within the African continent.

E-commerce channel platform – the African Alabaster committed to assist learners after completion to interact with clientele and market the products using the e-commerce platform.

Supplies to local hotels and lodges – I am pleased to note that the representatives of local hotels and lodges within the Zululand District have been invited to be part of this event. 

Supplies to Retail Stores and Pharmacies. The African Alabaster signed the contract to assist learners to further explore supplying their products to retail stores and pharmacies.
Proudly so, I take this opportunity to commend African Alabaster, which has been committed to empower disadvantaged communities in South Africa since the company was established in 2017. 

African Alabaster has shared skills and knowledge in soap-making with unemployed people in rural areas, enabling them to become more self-sufficient. 

This training of members of co-operatives, who are primarily women and youth, in collaboration with CHIETA, takes this skills development initiative to higher levels.

I am told that the wide-ranging training curriculum in the project provided business skills, practical experience, and mentorship. Once the graduates are ready, their co-operatives will be off-takers of aloe raw material from the African Alabaster processing facility.  

Noting that the aloe plant has been used throughout the country for generations in its raw form as a home remedy for various skin ailments, this initiative and training adds tremendous value to this indigenous knowledge. It will enable the wider availability and use of aloe products, as well as significant opportunities for economic sustainability for the co-operatives.

Having said that, as government we cannot do everything on our own, without forging close partnerships with our communities and the private sector, such as African Alabaster and other partners. 

We really need the private sector to come on board for us to build strong local capabilities and grow our SMMEs. Skills training will also remain incomplete without learners accessing workplace experience in companies and other workplaces. This also calls upon our municipalities themselves to act as training spaces for our youth and trainees where appropriate.

This training and skills development initiative also becomes an important part of promoting local production and local economic development.

In this regard, it remains my wish that the state, including state-owned enterprises, should take the lead in buying products that are locally made, particularly by SMMEs and co-operatives.

There is really no excuse for not buying locally. 

As this administration, we have also specifically set aside targets for designated groups to access economic opportunities. We do this unashamedly to help those who in the past were locked out of playing a role in our economy and to contribute to growth. 

District Development Model (DDM) and the role of cooperatives

The South Africa government is committed to promoting the role of cooperatives and small businesses in reviving the South African economy.

I am also happy that in KwaZulu-Natal all spheres of government seem to be committed to not only supporting the district development model (DDM), but are actively working to ensure that it is a successful model, as we can see today. 

The District Development Model is one of our own initiatives and innovations brought about under the leadership of President Ramaphosa that will go a long way in our fight against unemployment, poverty and inequality.    

The district development model brings us together, in fact it unites us and compels all of us, to align our projects and programmes by all the  three spheres of government to maximise impact on development in a co-ordinated fashion. 

Unemployment is at its peak, especially for young people between the ages of 15 to 24 years old, standing at 64.4%, whilst for the same cohort, those not in employment, education and training (NEETs) is estimated at about 3 million.

I have noted the presentation by the Department of Social Development to the Standing Committee on Appropriations on 14 September 2021, indicating to us that by 1 September 2021 about 12 261 895 applications for COVID-19 Social Relief of Distress Grant were received.

The KwaZulu Natal province is leading at 2 751 031 (equal to 22%) followed by Gauteng.

concerning Indeed the rolling out and extension of this grant is to be welcomed. But this must not discourage us from rolling out training and skills development opportunities, especially for our youth. For instance, it must be of concern that of all the applicants for the R350 relief grant about 7 516 708 (or 61%) are young people below the ages of 35 years old and 4 103 023 (or 54.5%) are young women.

This is amongst the reasons I am happy with this project that 70% of those graduating are young people and 54% are women.  

We therefore need to redouble our efforts on skills development going forward, especially where we see the high positive impact of such interventions.    


In October last year  (2020), President  Cyril Ramaphosa presented the Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan to the nation, which outlines the actions we must collectively now take to rebuild our economy in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

This Plan aims to build an inclusive economy that benefits all our people.

The plans also notes that to achieve an inclusive economy, we need to more effectively support the growth of vibrant and sustainable small, medium and micro enterprises and cooperatives.

It is public knowledge now that in many developed and developing economies, SMMEs generally account for up to 90 per cent of all formal business entities.

They contribute significantly to GDP and create and sustain lots of jobs in those countries.

Whilst in South Africa 98% of formal businesses are SMMEs, they make a far smaller contribution to employment and GDP.

If South Africa is to achieve the goal of the National Development Plan for SMMEs to create at least 90% of the targeted 11 million new jobs by 2030, we need to pay much closer attention to developing small businesses and cooperatives.

In conclusion, as government we remain committed to ensure continuous training and development initiatives and programmes,  including in our rural communities by supporting the growth of small enterprises  and cooperative. 

In our own Skills Strategy of the Department of Higher Education and Training to support the Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan (ERRP) we have identified key interventions, which include, amongst others, expanding the provisioning of short skills programmes and  strengthening entrepreneurship development  programmes. 

This is the reason why I take this opportunity to wish all the graduates a prosperous future as our skills development ambassadors and successful entrepreneurs.

I thank you