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ARTS, CULTURE, SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE Mr S L Dithebe (ANC)
12 March 2002
BRIEFING BY DEPARTMENT ON LEGISLATIVE PROGRAMME
Documents handed out:
ARTS, CULTURE, SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
Mr S L Dithebe (ANC)
PowerPoint Presentation on Department's Legislative Programme
The Director-General gave a presentation on the Acts that had gone through the committee that had been passed the previous year. He also discussed the Bills that would be coming before the Committee within the next few months. The Indigenous Knowledge Systems Bill, which would be available by mid-2002, would be the first comprehensive legislation on this topic. The Institute for the Promotion of Science Bill, also forthcoming, would seek to inspire students and teachers of science through the establishment of science centres.
Presentation by the Director-General
The Director General outlined the various Bills that were to come before the Committee and those that had been passed in the previous year. He said that the South African Languages Bill and the Language Professions Council Bill were awaiting the approval of Language Policy by Cabinet and would be brought to Parliament sometime around mid-2002.
The Indigenous Knowledge System Bill was another Bill carried over from the previous year. No other country has dealt with this issue in a comprehensive way. Those that had approached it took either one of two routes. India's legislation, for example, protects against exploitation of indigenous knowledge by foreigners. The other route was to claim the knowledge for the people themselves. This created a tension that has to be resolved.
The National Scientific Professions Bill would be available in May and had been amended to make it easier for the Minister to change the definitions of scientific professions. The Institute for the Promotion of Science Bill, also forthcoming, creates a framework for a national institutional network of science centres and is based on Foundation for Education, Science and Technology (FEST), an existing institution. The SA Museum Services Bill had been drafted but was awaiting finalisation of its "shape and size".
Bills that had been passed into law the previous year included the Academy of Science of South Africa Act and the Africa Institute of South Africa Act. These would be the first Bills to be published in English and Zulu. The object of the Acts was to create a closer relationship between these institutions and Parliament.
Mr M F Cassim (IFP) asked when it would be possible to have a look at the draft of the Indigenous Knowledge Bill and if it was possible for the Committee to be given a copy of international intellectual property norms.
Ms S D Motubatse (ANC) judging by the dates proposed by the presentation, was concerned that the Committee would be flooded with Bills around the middle of the year.
The Chair enquired if any correspondence had been entered into with the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) and NEPAD regarding the Indigenous Knowledge Systems (IKS) Bill.
The Director-General replied that he would convey the concern of the Committee regarding the stage at which the language legislation was at to the Cabinet via the Minister. He asked Mr Patterson, also a department advisor to answer the other questions.
Mr Patterson responded that the Committee had been active in the development of policy for the IKS legislation. WIPO had a established a working group on traditional knowledge, of which indigenous knowledge was a sub-category, and the department had been engaging with them for a long time. WIPO was very interested in work being undertaken in SA. Most recently, a department delegation had attended a conference in Oman. They were there able for the first time to raise issues around NEPAD and the continental view of traditional knowledge and to make strong links between it and NEPAD and the African Union. They had also received feedback from other countries, among them India, China and France. The engagement with WIPO countries continued to be productive. The next formal meeting of the Traditional Knowledge Committee would be in June and the department was hoping to present the SA Bill, which should be almost fully drafted by that time.
Ms Njobe (ANC) asked for clarification on the time frame for the National Scientific Professions Bill and enquired whether or not it had been tabled. She was answered that the Bill had not yet been tabled and the department was waiting on the state law advisors.
Ms A Van Wyk (UDM) asked to what extent the SA Council of Museums and the International Council of Museums had been consulted with regard to the legislation on museums. She also enquired if the performing arts community had been consulted in relation to the Innovation and Research Promotion Bill.
Mr Cassim (IFP) asked who had taken the decision to withdraw and replace the Innovation and Research Promotion Bill and was it possible to have a look at the thinking that went into the first draft.
An opposition Member asked what determining the "shape and size" of museums meant, would they be downgraded or upgraded. Concerning the National Scientific Professions Bill, he asked if people registered in terms of the Bill would be subjected to penalties and would mathematics be included within the scope of the Bill.
The Director-General responded the Research Promotion Bill had been withdrawn because it did not appear to add anything new to the legislation that was already in place. Regarding museums, the issue of vision was a key element. The term "shape and size" had merely been dreamt up for the presentation and was meant to refer the framework that the legislation would take, e.g. issues that needed to be decided on were the allocation of resources and the role that the state would assume.
Concerning the National Scientific Professions Bill, mathematics and its related fields would be included, however scientists would join on a purely voluntary basis. The Act also provided that new branches of science could be included in the Act via a regulation made by the Minister rather than an amendment to the Act. It had been decided not to force scientists to register because history had shown that a lot of development in science had come from people who were not regarded as "official" scientists.
Mr Patterson added that one class of scientists that would benefit from registration was geologists who were regarded as semi-professionals.
The Director-General said that the Performing Arts Council had been consulted and the Bill had been withdrawn after the consultations. There remained a need for legislation but this would not be accomplished within the next few months. The Minister's opinion was that he did not believe in that particular Bill.
Ms Van Wyk (UDM) emphasised that the performing arts were in dire straits and that the Committee should consider this issue seriously.
Mr Cassim (IFP) asked if the Promotion of Science Bill was merely a reworking of FEST. If so, was this not the perfect opportunity to improve the uptake of science in schools?
The Director-General replied that the Bill could not replace a comprehensive teacher programme. The intention of the Bill was to organise science centres to inspire children and teachers. The flow over onto the Department of Education's scope would not work and they would have their own plans. The only way in which the Bill could accommodate this need was in an inspirational way as was being planned.
Mr Patterson added that the challenges relating to science in schools lay very much with the Education Department, and the Department of Arts and Culture was working with the Education to help and support them. Science in schools was the core function of the Education Department. The Department of Arts and Culture could only facilitate education in the sciences through out of school activities by helping students to find out more about the sciences in order to make better decisions. The US has a strong programme where university teachers of science and engineering become involved in school activities. This was supported by the US government to the extent of $1.1 billion the previous year. The Department was trying to incorporate these sort of principles in its policy development.
Mr Cassim (IFP) suggested the possibility of FEST providing some sort of "saddle" function between the departments of education and arts and culture.
Ms N M Tsheole (ANC) suggested further that the clustering of ministries might make these overlaps possible and this could perhaps be negotiated at D-G level. She advised against a clear line of demarcation being drawn.
Ms Van Wyk (UDM) raised the possibility of museums being connected with science centres to form a sort of research an edutainment centre. She suggested that this was a way to penetrate communities, as there was a movement in communities at the moment towards setting up museums.
The Director-General said that there was a distinction between science-centres and museums. Museums did not do research. However, a coupling between science centres and museums might prove valuable and this did form part of the policy structure.
The meeting was adjourned.
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