The Department of Science and Technology briefed the Committee on the Southern African Development Community Protocol on Science, Technology and Innovation.
The Committee was provided with a brief history of the Protocol leading to its approval in 2008 by the SADC Heads of States during the Southern African Development Community Summit in Johannesburg. The Protocol’s objectives were indicated. This included providing a base for the development of institutional mechanisms for the regional cooperation and coordination of science, technology and innovation, maximising public and private investment in research and development in the region. The Department described regional science, technology and innovation interventions, such as the Southern African Development Community Women-in-Science intervention, which held its first workshop in Durban, April 2010. The outcome was the establishment of a working group composed of the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique. A Southern African Development Community Climate change workshop was to be hosted in Namibia, 10-11 August 2010. A working group to develop a Southern African Development Community Strategy on Science, Technology and Innovation was established comprising South Africa, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Namibia, Tanzania and Lesotho; working group meetings had been hosted by South Africa, Namibia and Tanzania. The first Southern African Development Community Intellectual Property Rights workshop was hosted in South Africa in August 2009. Following this workshop, Japan had shown interest to support Intellectual Property training in the region. There was much interest at a bilateral level for co-operation in Indigenous Knowledge Systems; meetings had been held in Zambia, 2007, Seychelles, 2009, and Namibia, 2010. The Concept of Blue Gene Initiative (supercomputing) was presented at the Southern African Development Community Senior Officials’ meeting in 2009. A supercomputer had been donated by IBM to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, South Africa, to host the supercomputer for Africa. A workshop was planned for October or November 2010. The Department felt that considerable progress was being made in developing regional interventions and that there was interest in key development partners to support regional initiatives. However, the Southern African Development Community Science, Technology and Innovation Desk was weak and under-resourced, and development partners were reluctant to support it. The Department considered ratification of the Protocol as a technical requirement and recommended that Parliament it.
Members however disagreed that the ratification of the Protocol was a technical requirement. Parliament would not simply endorse international instruments of this sort. Members had to consider the implications of ratification. The details of the Protocol should be interrogated by members. Members were not convinced that Section 231(3) of the Constitution applied to the present protocol as it referred to international instruments not requiring ratification. The Protocol required ratification. The Committee agreed that clarity on the issue should be obtained before taking the matter further. A Democratic Alliance Member asked why there appeared to be no funding from African countries themselves, other than South Africa, for the regional interventions.
The Committee elected Ms M Dunjwa as Acting Chairperson, since the Committee Chairperson, Mr N Ncgobo (ANC) was indisposed.
The Acting Chairperson welcomed from the Department of Science and Technology Dr Thomas Auf der Heyde, Deputy Director General/ Group Executive International Cooperation and Resources, Mr David Mmakola Chief Director, Dr Sagren Moodley Director: Social Development Analysis and Mr Luyanda Frans Parliamentary Liaison Officer.
Department of Science and Technology. Briefing
Dr Auf der Heyde commenced with the briefing on the SADC Protocol on Science, Technology and Innovation. The Department recommended that Parliament ratify the Protocol. The Department considered ratification of the Protocol to be a technical requirement.
The Committee was provided with a brief history of the Protocol. In 2006 the SADC Declaration on Science, Technology and Innovation had been drafted by SADC senior officials and adopted in Pretoria by ministers. In 2007 SADC senior officials met in Durban to draft the SADC Protocol on Science, Technology and Innovation. The Protocol was approved in Pretoria in 2007 by ministers. In 2008 the Protocol was approved by the SADC Heads of States and Government during the SADC Summit in Johannesburg.
The Protocol’s objectives were to provide for a base for development of institutional mechanisms for the regional cooperation and coordination of science, technology and innovation (STI); ensure proper coordination of resources for regional STI programmes; promote development and harmonisation of STI policies in the region; and maximise public and private investment in research and development (R&D) in the region.
The Department elaborated on regional STI interventions.
SADC policy training was taking place to build capacity on science and technology (S & T) for senior officials in SADC. There were ongoing discussions with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) for a possible training programme in September 2010
Manchester University Business School had been identified as a possible service provider. Australia had donated R1.5 million to the project; South Africa would provide a similar sum of additional seed funding.
SADC SET Week was launched in Mauritius in 2009. Mauritius and South Africa would develop a draft framework for future SADC SET Week programmes to be hosed annually. The aim of the programme was to popularise science and technology in the SADC Region.
The first SADC Women-in-Science (SADC WiS) workshop, Durban, April 2010, discussed establishment of a regional platform aligned to SADC Gender Protocol and Policy. A baseline report on SADC WiS in the region was developed prior to the workshop. The outcome of the workshop was the establishment of a working group composed of the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique to develop the WiS Plan of Action to implement the workshop’s recommendations.
A SADC Climate change workshop was scheduled to be hosted in Namibia from 10-11 August 2010. The expected outcome of the workshop would be a draft SADC Science, Technology and Innovation plan on climate change.
Ministers had mandated senior officials to develop a SADC Strategy on STI. A working group was established comprising South Africa, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Namibia, Tanzania and Lesotho.
Working Group meetings were hosted by South Africa, Namibia and Tanzania. A draft strategy would be presented at the next SADC Ministerial Meeting in the Democratic Republic of Congo in July 2010.
The first SADC Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) workshop was hosted in South Africa in August 2009. Following this workshop, Japan had shown interest to support Intellectual Property (IP) training in SADC.
There was much interest at a bilateral level for co-operation in Indigenous Knowledge Systems (IKS). Meetings on SADC (IKS) had been held in Zambia in 2007, Seychelles in 2009, and Namibia in 2010.
Projects included the degree of Bachelor of Science in IKS (BSc IKS), a databank, and IKS policy development.
The Concept of Blue Gene Initiative (supercomputing) was presented at the SADC Senior Officials’ meeting in 2009. A supercomputer had been donated by IBM to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), South Africa, to host the supercomputer for Africa. Member States agreed to host a workshop and share how SADC could benefit from this initiative. The workshop was planned for October or November 2010.
Considerable progress was being made in developing regional interventions. There was interest in key development partners to support regional initiatives.
On the downside, however, the SADC STI Desk was weak and under-resourced. Development partners were reluctant to support STI Desk.
Mr T Nxesi (ANC) stressed that, although ratification might be seen by the Department as merely a technical process, for parliamentarians this was so. Perhaps previous Parliaments might have regarded it as a technical process but not the present one. Parliament needed to know what it was ratifying and what the implications of ratification were. In 2008 the Protocol was approved by heads of state. Why was it only now in 2010 brought before Parliament? What was the cause of the delay? The delay by departments on international agreements and protocols was an issue on which Parliament was taking action. He said that for this very reason the Portfolio Committees on International Relations and Trade and Industry were hosting on the 20 August 2010 a workshop on protocols and international agreements. It was of concern that these instruments were being referred to Parliament so late. Regarding the present Protocol it would seem that the Department was already at the implementation stage. As such the ratification by Parliament would be a mere rubber stamp. He asked at what phase the Department was regarding the Protocol. Was it implementation?
Mr P Smith (IFP) shared concerns similar to those of Mr Nxesi. He disagreed that ratification was purely a technical exercise. Members had to be familiarised with the content of the Protocol. Was the aim of the briefing an information exercise or was it about adoption procedures? He assumed it to be the latter. He asked what the implications of the Protocol on South African law were and what the funding implications were. He also asked how many of the 14 states had ratified the Protocol.
Ms S Kalyan (DA) stated that there were many protocols that were entered into by Ministers. Was Parliament expected to merely rubber stamp them? She disagreed and said that the implications and benefits to SA should be weighed. What further developments had taken place regarding the Protocol since its inception?
She also asked what the needs of the Science, Technology and Innovation Desk were. Referring to the climate change workshop to be held in Namibia, she asked whether Africa would have a common stance on the issue. It was felt that as far as finances were concerned there should be equal contributions by countries that were parties to a protocol.
Ms M Schinn (DA) referred to Article 2 of the Protocol and asked what it meant. She referred also to Article 6 which contained financial provisions and agreed with Ms Kalyan that countries should contribute equally. She noted that there were a few countries that had not initially signed the Protocol. Had these countries subsequently signed? Who signed on behalf of SA? Countries like SA, Australia and Japan were making financial contributions to science, technology and innovation regional interventions. Why was there no funding from African countries themselves?
Ms Shanaaz Isaacs, Committee Secretary, shed some light on what the aim of the briefing was. She referred to Chapter 14 Section 231(3) of the Constitution and read out the provision. Accordingly the Protocol was being referred to the Committee for informational purposes.
Dr Auf der Heyde said that Members’ concern about delay was noted. The Protocol was approved in August 2008. Subsequent to the approval SA went through a political change. The change impacted upon the activities of the Department as well. There was consequently a delay in bringing the Protocol to Parliament.
He thanked the Committee Secretary for the clarification. The briefing on the Protocol was therefore more for information purposes. He noted that the Cabinet Memorandum had stated that there were no legislative or constitutional implications.
Mr Nxesi responded that the provision read out by Ms Isaacs referred to instruments not needing ratification. The Protocol before the Committee required ratification. He reiterated that ratification by Parliament did not mean rubber stamping.
Mr Smith asked who made the determination that the Protocol fell within the ambit of Section 231(3) of the Constitution. Was it Parliament, the Department or the Executive?
Dr Auf der Heyde stated that he did not know where the determination was made. The Department had received a Cabinet memorandum. The Department recommended Cabinet to ratify the Protocol and to refer it to Parliament. He said that perhaps the State Law Advisers made the determination.
Mr Smith asked what the correct path was.
Mr Nxesi said that if the Protocol was technical, as the Department said it was, then it did not require ratification. The question then was why it was before the Committee. He felt that the applicability of Section 231(3) of the Constitution should be clarified between the Committee Secretary and the Department. Perhaps the Protocol did not fall within the ambit of that particular section but another one.
The Acting Chairperson asked the Committee Secretary and the Department to sort the matter out.
The Committee agreed with the request.
Dr Auf der Heyde stated that members had raised many issues. It had been his understanding that the briefing would be a context matter and not a content matter. He asked if he could come back to the Committee at a later time with responses to those questions that had been asked.
The Committee agreed to the request.
Ms Schinn did request Dr Auf der Heyde to answer those questions that he felt he could answer at present.
Dr Auf der Heyde responded that he was unaware of any legislative implications to SA. He said that a more quantitative response would be provided when he returned to address the Committee on outstanding issues. As to financial implications the Department made provision in its budget for contributions. Sharing of costs depended on circumstances and the partner that was being dealt with. The fact was that SA contributed more than other countries. Contributions from the North from countries in Europe were always welcomed. In Africa, SA acted as a contributor of developmental assistance. SA did expect its African partners to contribute. He pointed out that over the last eight to 10 months African partners had put forward considerable budget amounts for bilaterals with SA.
Mr Nxesi suggested that perhaps in the future Members should be given a workshop on protocols before they were referred to Parliament for ratification.
Mr Smith was not too sure that there would be no legislative implications as a result of the Protocol.
The Acting Chairperson said that the briefing had been informative. The Committee would decide on how to take the process forward regarding the Protocol. Parliament would not merely rubber stamp protocols.
Department of Science and Technology. Replacement of two HSRC Board members
Mr Mmakola said that on 08 August 2009 the National Assembly approved a shortlist of 17 candidates eligible for appointment to the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) board, from which the Minister appointed 10 members. After the Minister had finalised the appointment of the Board, two Board members subsequently declined or resigned their positions on the Board. These were Prof S Zinn, who indicated that she was, for personal reasons, no longer in a position to serve on the board, and Prof P Naidoo, who resigned because she had accepted the position of Chief Research Specialist in the HSRC’s Social Aspects of HIV/AIDS and Health Research Programme and could not simultaneously be both a board member and an employee of the HSRC. Professors Zinn and Naidoo had to be replaced in terms of Section 5(9) of the HSRC Act 2008 (Act No.17 of 2008). In replacing them, Minister Pandor deliberated over the candidates from the original shortlist of 17 candidates. Minister Pandor recommended Dr B Tema and Prof T Pillay as replacements for the remaining period of the present board (1 November 2009 to 31 October 2013 and presented their names and curricula vitae (CVs) to the National Assembly for approval as required by Section 5(7) (a & b) of the HSRC Act 2008. As such, due procedure had been followed as prescribed in section 5(3) of the Human Sciences Research Council Act 2008. A summary of Dr Tema and Prof Pillay’s CVs was provided.
Mr Smith asked, if the National Assembly approved the shortlist in 2009, why the matter was coming before the Committee only now. He asked to whom Minister Pandor made recommendations.
Mr Mmakola responded that the process was long, hence the delay. He said that the Minister had made recommendations to the Speaker of the National Assembly. Legislation required the National Assembly to approve the shortlist of candidates. After the Minister’s letter forwarding her recommendations to the Speaker, the Chairperson of the present Committee also wrote a letter setting out the process to be followed in the matter.
Mr Smith asked if the appointments were still to be finalised.
The Acting Chairperson said that the shortlist of candidates had been approved already. The two candidates currently being considered had been on the original shortlist. Due to two resignations, two new candidates from the shortlist were now being considered.
Mr Smith said that it was the Minister who made the appointments. To whom was the Minister making recommendations?
The Acting Chairperson pointed out that the briefing was clearly for information purposes.
Mr Mmakole explained that once the Minister had put a panel together a shortlist was put together by the National Assembly. The Minister would then make a selection from the shortlist. The selection would be sent to Cabinet for approval. Once Cabinet approved the selection the Minister would make the appointments. When the vacancies arose the Minister wrote to the Speaker to recommend the appointment of the two replacements, Dr B Tema and Prof T Pillay. The Chairperson of the Committee, Mr Ncgobo, wrote a letter suggesting that the Minister follow the same procedure as was done with the short listing of candidates. After the Committee approved the two candidates, their names would go to Cabinet and thereafter the appointments would be made.
Mr Smith recommended that the two candidates be appointed.
The Committee agreed to the recommendation.
The Acting Chairperson, as a matter of interest, asked for how long the shortlist was valid. If vacancies came up, candidates could simply be taken from the shortlist.
Ms Isaacs stated that the appointments had already taken place. The Minister had made the appointments already. The briefing was merely to inform the Committee. The wording of the Department’s briefing document was confusing.
The Committee noted the two appointments made by the Minister.
The Acting Chairperson thanked the Department for the briefing and asked that the Department ensure in future that briefing documents not be worded misleadingly.
The meeting was adjourned.
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