Deputy President David Mabuza. Picture: GCIS
Deputy President David Mabuza. Picture: GCIS

Opposition MPs on Tuesday chastised deputy president David Mabuza for showing breathtaking ignorance on the fourth industrial revolution and its implications for the country.

Several studies have shown that the fourth industrial revolution — which involves a fusion of artificial intelligence and automated machines — has the potential to disrupt every industry.

The underlying technologies of the fourth industrial revolution include artificial intelligence, blockchain, nanotechnology (the use of science and engineering to create and support applications in all areas of human activity) and the internet of things.

Earlier in 2019, President Cyril Ramaphosa appointed members of a presidential commission on the fourth industrial revolution to recommend policies, strategies and plans to position SA as a competitive player in the digital space.

During a question-and-answer session in parliament on Tuesday, EFF MP Mbuyiseni Ndlozi highlighted that the country’s leaders do not understand what the fourth industrial revolution entails and how it will affect society.

“There is very little understanding in the country and I think across the world about what we mean by the industrial revolutions. For clarity, so that we are all on the same page, can you say what the first three revolutions are, and secondly, how will nanotechnology affect medical diagnosis,” Ndlozi asked in a supplementary question to Mabuza.

Deputy President DD Mabuza answered questions in parliament on October 23 2019. Honourable Mbuyiseni Ndlozi of the EFF asked the deputy president about the first, second and third industrial revolutions as well as nano technology in the medical field. Mabuza said this was a new question that would take some time to answer but said he would happily do so if he had time. Some MPs were not impressed while others laughed. Ndlozi urged the deputy president to read and do research before addressing people in parliament.

Mabuza dodged the question on what the first three industrial revolutions entailed, and also the one on the implications of nanotechnology.

“Well, in terms of the first, the second and the third industrial revolution, probably that is a new question because [your] question is looking at the fourth industrial revolution. Now you are taking me back to the feudal way of doing things; I must start from the first industrial revolution to the third industrial revolution … that will take a lot of time. But I am not very sure as a country whether we are in the third industrial revolution or second industrial revolution,” said Mabuza.

He continued and stated that the fourth industrial revolution “in the main is characterised by the introduction of information technology, easier way of doing business, the introduction of robotics in our industrialisation process to enhance our competitiveness”.

DA chief whip John Steenhuisen said it was evident the deputy president has a limited understanding of the previous revolutions and the fourth industrial revolution.

“I think the deputy president needs to phone a friend,” said Steenhuisen.

Ndlozi said SA faces an uncertain future with leaders such as Mabuza.

“I really want to impress upon you, deputy president, do not come to parliament to speak about things that you do not understand. It’s wrong. Please go take time to understand [the fourth industrial] revolution, because it is upon us as a country, and if we are not prepared, particularly the leadership, then you cannot lead us.”

Responding to another question, Mabuza said expropriation of land without compensation remains a commitment and priority for the government, and the amendment of section 25 of the constitution, or the property clause, would be finalised by March 2020.