TIA, SANSA, ASSAf & SACNASP 2023/24 Annual Performance Plans

Higher Education, Science and Innovation

21 April 2023
Chairperson: Ms N Mkhatshwa (ANC)
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Meeting Summary


Academy of Science SA (ASSAf)

SA Council for Natural Scientific Professions

SA National Space Agency                                                                                    

Technology Innovation Agency

The Committee met with the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA), the South African National Space Agency (SANSA), the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf), and the South African Council for Natural Scientific Professions (SACNASP) to receive briefings on their annual performance plans and budget for 2023/24. Members were generally pleased with the performance of the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) and its entities regarding financial management and planning, as this spoke to the impact on the ground.

There were a number of concerns raised with TIA, such as its inability to finalise the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) position, the regression in performance from 2018 until the present time, and challenges faced by SANSA in meeting the vacancy rate targets and its limited visibility to the public.

SACNASP also faced inquiries from the Committee on its progress around inclusivity, specifically looking at the coloured community which is underrepresented within the organisation.

The ASSAf highlighted concerns about membership by institutions as the number of PhD graduates in the higher education sector, when looking at academic staff, stood at 49%. This could further be differentiated when considering big institutions which stood at 60% and 30% in merging universities. There were also concerns with the revenue collection from publications which was not projected to change much.

A concern was raised that no real synergy exists among the various entities.

Meeting report

The Chairperson welcomed everyone present and stated that the meeting was the first to deal with annual performance plans. She said that a great sentiment of the Committee, having engaged the Auditor-General of South Africa (AGSA), was that the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) and its entities, in terms of financial management and planning, are doing a decent job.

Technology Innovation Agency (TIA) 2023/24 Annual Performance Plan

Mr Thabo Ramasike, Chief Executive Officer, TIA, presented the entity's Annual Performance Plan, which covered the following;

  • Agency's Strategic Context
  • Institutional Review
  • Organisational Performance
  • Maturing Technologies under the Agency’s portfolio
  • Market-ready technologies
  • Decadal Plan alignment and financial information.

[See the presentation for details]

South African National Space Agency 2023/24 Annual Performance Plan

Mr Humbulani Mudau, Chief Executive Officer, SANSA, presented the Annual Performance Plan, which covered the following;

  • Strategic priorities
  • Organisational performance
  • Human capital
  • Employment and vacancies
  • Sources of funding and budget information
  • Key achievements
  • Space Infrastructure Hub
  • SANSA’s institutional review and organisation focus

[See the presentation for further details]


The Chairperson mentioned that Members were pleased that the Department was well-operational and governed regarding its financial management. She said that governance spoke to the impact on the ground and achieved clean audits.

She sought clarity from the Department about TIA’s inability to finalise the CEO position as the review process had not yet been concluded. She said that other entities had concluded such matters during the review process. The Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) or any other entity should help solve the challenge of not meeting targets, particularly those for people with disabilities. She stated that the Committee encouraged entities to create awareness and plan to meet this target better.

She highlighted that TIA manages 500 projects but only 80 were good prospects for commercialisation and further inquired on the state of the other projects.

In supporting innovation for commercialisation, she appreciated that TIA would prioritise the importance of grassroots innovations as there was a need for an innovation-driven society. She stated that there were innovations that spoke to the daily needs of communities and inquired whether it was possible to have TIA operate like the V-Centres for Indigenous Knowledge Systems (IKS). She asked what the variations were regarding the support provided and added that innovation could help feed families and resolve basic issues people experience in their societies.

She asked whether there were synergies in the work done by the entities of the DSI. She highlighted that it was important to track launched products, assess the sustainability of innovation, and make necessary changes where needed.

The Chairperson inquired with the Department whether industry invested in innovation and mentioned that there was a need for investment towards research as well as capital for innovation. She asked whether there was more funding coming in for innovation projects.

She asked the entities to share the timeframes for various strategic initiatives in writing.

She stated that it was important for the TIA to have a strong relationship with TVET colleges, as some have incubation hubs such as the Vhembe TVET College.

Referring to SANSA, she was pleased that there was stability within the entity, however, pointed out that there was an issue with the former CEO that she had inquired the board to account for.

She was also pleased to hear about the transformation happening within the organisation, as it was known for not being inclusive and added that Members appreciated the plans and set targets to transform the sector. She mentioned that these transformation plans needed to be in black and white.

Regarding the mentioned investigations being conducted by the board, she asked that a written report be shared on the matter.

She said that the entity should be intentional about the skills development programmes for its sector.

She asked what SANSA planned to do to increase its product usage by the government from 58% to 80% by 2024/25 and added that the Decadal Plan could assist in achieving this as it helps contribute towards integration.

She acknowledged the increased budget for Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMMEs) and encouraged SANSA to take the initiative and engage with other departments and agencies to assist them.

Ms C King (DA) asked TIA if it had strengthened its relationship with National Intellectual Property Management Office (NIPMO) regarding intellectual property, as there was a partnership disjuncture that existed in the past. She stated that both organisations had indicated that they were looking at approximately 45 000 young engagements in related fields of science and that the figure was 37 250 in the prior year. She said that this was a huge amount and that it was concerning. She mentioned that, apart from undergraduate, the real problem was basic education and that the gap would be filled if the entities started at the basic education level from the Grade 9 level.

She was concerned about SANSA’s 60% vacancy rate and indicated that the numbers were high, and also highlighted that the entity might have challenges with staff retention.

She mentioned that the national infrastructure assets’ rand value was said to be at risk. She inquired about the means this was to be mitigated to prevent the risk and whether SANSA had any ageing infrastructure.

She asked how loadshedding affected operational work, as the National Research Foundation (NRF) had indicated that about R500 000 is spent at stage six loadshedding. She added that such entities were vital for the economy and its improvement and that the DSI should have taken over Eskom.

Referring to the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS), she suggested that there should be a single platform to ensure multiple funding avenues for students. She said many eligible students qualify for funding but cannot be funded due to funding constraints. She asked whether the DSI would consider having one application platform for funding across all its entities that provide student funding. She added that no real synergy exists among the various entities.

Ms K Khakhau (DA) submitted to TIA on increasing digitisation in the economy but did not see an appetite to digitise education, especially in the tertiary sector. She said that the aim was to broaden access to the Post School Education and Training (PSET), and this could be done through digitisation.

Regarding performance, she mentioned that TIA regressed in its performance from 2018 until the present time, and asked for the reasons behind such regression.

She requested the list of industry collaborations with TIA be submitted in writing.

Referring to SANSA, she wanted to know about the demographics of its human capital, the age spread, and the succession plan for retirees. Also, she added that people did not know much about space participation in South Africa and highlighted that the communication on this to the country was quite poor. She encouraged the entity to intensify its public awareness.

Dr W Boshoff (FF Plus) asked TIA about the sale of the Cape Bio Product company which was sold for a huge amount but the funds did not go to the entity itself. He said there was also an investigation around this particular sale and asked about the current state of affairs.

He asked about the innovativeness of the country and how it could be changed or enhanced, as it had been mentioned that extra investment was necessary which would not come from the state. He said that the country had an expensive safety net which becomes more expensive yearly and this was a trade-off between short- and long-term interest. He wanted to know what policy changes could be suggested.

He indicated that the work done by SANSA became more prevalent to him during an oversight visit to the University of KwaZulu-Natal, where they saw things such as rockets. He asked how this linked to the availability and retention of staff and also asked about the policy changes that could be proposed by the organisation which it would like to see being implemented in space.

Ms J Mananiso (ANC) commented on inclusion for the marginalised and vulnerable. She said that the issue of using developmental policies as guides for specific quotas on issues of youth, women, and people living with disabilities would assist the entities in meeting targets.

She requested that both entities submit a template containing the internal national departments they worked with. She added that receiving specific information on localisation and supporting innovation for commercialisation would be important.

She asked TIA to provide a plan of action for its challenges and issues and encouraged the entity to continue enhancing its partnerships and collaborations. She added that TIA needed to submit its programme of action in terms of interventions up to the district model interventions based on its strategy for 2024/25.

Referring to SANSA, she mentioned that during oversight and interactions, Members learn much about what the organisation does. She asked for reviewed organisational values to be provided, as per the presentation.

Regarding issues of upgrading facilities, she requested the entity to submit a project plan with specific timeframes and also specify the timeframe for concluding the new strategy.

The Chairperson appealed to the officials to provide high-level responses and submit details in writing within the next seven working days. She highlighted that there was a tendency for colleagues to not respond. She added that Parliament serves as a mouthpiece of the work that entities within the government do, and both Members and Parliament require these responses.



Mr Patrick Ndlovu, Chairperson of the Board, TIA, emphasised the importance of entities stretching themselves and ensuring that targets were met and added that the board needed to reassess how it can mainstream the involvement of people with disabilities.

Out of the 500 activities and relationships with different entities, he mentioned that TIA prioritised 80 in the current year, but the remaining 420 were also crucial and would be pushed in the next financial year.

He said that TIA had a solid relationship with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), especially with key investment initiatives, and that the entity would revert back to the Committee terms of timeframes.

He mentioned that there has been an over-emphasis on the importance of historically disadvantaged institutions, but the pending question was how it can be ensured that TVET colleges receive as much attention as possible.

On the relationship with NIPMO, he said that TIA had a solid relationship with the entity.

He said that the biggest investment TIA focused on is technology, which does not come cheap.

He highlighted that the impact of loadshedding has already caused the country R50 billion of its GDP, and the entity continues to develop plans for business continuity but the biggest concern was the companies and partners they work with.

Regarding the Cape Bio Systems Company, he said that the entity was taking steps to recover and a detailed report would be provided. The organisation sold a stake to a private entity but was only paid 10% of the expected $40 million. TIA was currently suing for the difference, and with solid advice received, all legal steps to recoup the money were being taken. He added that the entity believes it has a strong case to regain the funds.

He stated that the shareholder would respond to the matter relating to the CEO, but the board will provide a follow-up response.


Mr Mudau explained that the difference between the CSIR and TIA was that the CSIR is a Research and Development performing organisation which produces technologies. On the contrary, TIA acts as a founder. For example, the entity founded the establishment called the Bio-Catalysis Hub at the CSIR.

He indicated that the reason why the TIA was not so popular was that it is mainly responsible for lifting entities that lift the trophy, plays a critical funding role, and its successes can be attributed to the technologies that are produced.

For expansion to other provinces, he stated that the organisation was working on the matter and already there are 18 technology stations – technology transfer centres – at various universities of technologies across the country. He added that the Minister encouraged TIA to expand the model that provides services and support to SMMEs and entrepreneurs through TVET Colleges. Currently, TIA has relationships and partnerships with 13 TVET Colleges.

Mr Ndlovu indicated that the protection of the space launch range was used by the military, however, the space sector has shown interest and SANSA had engagements with Denel SOC Ltd to ensure that the facility remains. He indicated that the challenge faced was the lack of operational funding to maintain the facility. There were also plans in place to upgrade the facilities to be capable of executing orbital space launches.

Mr Mudau said that SANSA was in the process of finalising the space infrastructure plan which would be shared once the DSI had approved the plan.

On staff retention, he mentioned that people and engineers were willing to join SANSA and that the programme at UKZN was a classic example of the interest of personnel. Graduates were transferred to the Institute to do the real work, which was one of the mitigating measures for losing critical staff.

He said that the high vacancy rate issue was noted and stemmed mainly from the special observation directorate. There have been challenges with the leadership over the years, but SANSA was working hard to stabilise the directorate.

He indicated that loadshedding seriously threatens the Hermanus Space Weather Centre and Hartbeespoort Space Operations, which are 24/7 sites, and that SANSA currently spends R1.2 million monthly on diesel. He highlighted that the biggest risk was the failure rate of sensitive equipment which is a huge threat to operations.

Mr Ndlovu replied to the former CEO matter. He said that when it came to the realisation that the implemented organisational structure was done illegally, all the approvals were not obtained in terms of the SANSA Act. The position was part of that structure, and the board was instructed to maintain the currently approved structure and the position became redundant.

Regarding the board investigation, he stated that SANSA would make the report available to the Committee at the end of the month.


Ms Gugulethu Zwane, Deputy Director-General: Institutional Planning and Support, DSI, stated that reviews are part of the governance process and depend on where they are commissioned. She further clarified that reviews were done per entity, every five-year period, and did not affect the organisations’ operations. She added that the Minister commissioned the TIA review because of certain observations around performance regression. The report had been handed over to the board and a response from TIA had been received. What was left was for the TIA team and the Minister to meet and finalise the recommendations.

She explained that the delay in appointing a CEO was that the review would indicate the kind of leadership required.

The Chairperson thanked the delegations and indicated that Members with follow-up questions should submit them in writing to the entities.

Academy of Science of South Africa Annual Performance Plan 2023/24

Prof Sabiha Essack, Secretary of the Board, ASSAf, presented the Annual Performance Plan which covered the following;

  • Updates on institutional policies and strategies
  • Performance environment
  • Demographics of memberships over the past ten years
  • Publication output
  • Operational plans and financial information

[See the presentation for details]

South African Council for Natural Scientific Professions Annual Performance Plan 2023/24

Dr Nompumelelo Obokoh, Chief Executive Officer, SACNASP, presented the entity’s annual performance plan which highlighted the following;

  • Five-year strategic objectives
  • 2023/24 annual performance plan
  • DSI funded projects
  • Finance
  • Progress on Minister’s Directives and key highlights and challenges

She also stated that the DSI has continued to support SACNASP and has committed to a further R30 000 000 as project funding for the period 2022 to 2025. In the past, the DSI made allocations for special projects, such as the R14 million allocated in 2021, and the R5 million allocated due to COVID-19 challenges and lockdown. For SACNASP to achieve its objectives in addition to registration and application fees, the entity would require additional funding to overcome the financial challenges resulting from the poor economic situation and increased bad debts. She stated that negotiations with the DSI were underway and it was intended that SACNASP would ultimately move from project-based funding to a baseline allocation in the future to enable a fit-for-purpose organisation that can effectively deliver on its mandates fully.

[See the presentation for details]


The Chairperson stated that she was concerned about the inclusivity of the coloured community on some of the opportunities by SACNASP and that there was a need to stabilise teaching and learning in these communities. She said that the success of the coloured child needed to be measured from the basic education system up to tertiary education.

She highlighted that coloured people were not common in the organisation as professional scientists because their succession from Early Childhood Development (ECD) was not ensured. She said that recently, there had been a report of a child that was shot dead outside their home and added that this was something that needed to be reviewed from the grassroots of the education system.

She highlighted that on gender, particularly with women, SACNASP seemed to be doing well and acknowledged the growth of inclusivity. Under other disciplines, she inquired whether there were certain fields where inclusivity was low, whether this was a concern, and whether more scientists were required in such spaces.

Regarding registered scientists, she asked how the entity ensured that such individuals came from the TVET sector as it is important for young people in these institutions to know how to farm and open businesses.

She asked about the process involving students from TVET college programme and how they become registered at SACNASP considering that they may not possess an honours degree, a master’s, or a PhD qualification.

She asked about the 1 820 applications and if SACNASP plans to target higher numbers.

On behalf of Ms Mananiso, the Chairperson reiterated the importance of inclusion and representation and the need for partnerships. She said that there were a lot of programmes that government departments had, and that it is important for entities to be found in such spaces. She added that board members should be proactive in participating in various engagement platforms of government where young people are also present to voice their perspectives on various work that entities do.

Ms Khakhau also stressed the importance of gender representation at ASSAf and added that this also spoke to the importance of public awareness.

Regarding membership by institutions, she stated that it was alarming how institutions in provinces like Limpopo were not taken seriously. She highlighted that most academics came from the big five institutions, and for obvious reasons, perhaps ASSAf could consider redeploying. She added that the gap needed to be closed and rural provinces such as Limpopo needed to receive attention.

Referring to the revenue collections from publications, she said there was a projected regression in the amount of money ASSAf would generate from publications. She also inquired whether there were any other reasons why the entity does not imagine that it would get more money from publications.

Addressing SACNASP, she asked about the progress relating to conducting an institutional review, preliminary findings that could be reported on and shared with the Committee, the amended bill to repeal and replace the current Natural Scientific Professions (NSP) Act, the key changes proposed and why, the status on the process of the Bill, the motivation around the timeframes of the process and the registration of the natural scientists’ challenges. She asked whether any scientists had been excluded from membership because of registration costs.

Dr Boshoff highlighted that there was a budget of R35 million of which R660 000 came from membership fees. He stated that this was negligible and made him wonder what the difference between a statutory organisation like ASSAf and an Afrikaans academy would be, as such an academy seems to be doing the same work or similar.

The Chairperson asked about the 2% target set by ASSAf to increase the proportion of women and black individuals within its membership, what could be done to increase the number, reasons behind the lower targets set for the 2023/24 annual performance plan, plans to recruit new staff for the 2023/24 financial year, improving the uptake of the work done for or in collaboration with government departments and other research centres, how Parliament could assist and the difference between a consensus study and a policymaker booklet.

She highlighted that in the 2020/25 strategic plan presented in 2020, ASSAf identified as a threat, the lack of mechanisms to prevent an overlap of activities with those of other entities within the national system of innovation. This was due to the fact that a clear role differentiation within the national system of innovation was not present and the issue of doubling efforts and duplications had been a concern.



Prof Thomas Eugene Cloete, Treasurer, ASSAf, replied that membership by institutions had been a great concern for the entity. When looking at academic staff, the number of PhD graduates in the higher education sector stood at 49%. However, this could be differentiated when considering big institutions which stood at 60% and 30% in merging universities. He added that the entity needed to recruit the 30% of PhDs to be nominated and that there was a strategy around it.

He mentioned that representations of various disciplines would be provided in writing.

He stated that revenue collection from publications was lower in terms of membership as a percentage of the total turnover and this was not going to change much. He further explained that the Afrikaans Academy publications were limited and published in Afrikaans, and were fully funded by its members without any subsidy funding or contribution from DSI.

He explained that consensus reports were independent because scientists are utilised to do them and they do not get compensated for it. The difference between a consensus report and a policymaker was that the former needs to be taken into consideration when the policy is being made, but the advocacy of it is not as good as it should be. In order to improve this, academic reports need to be improved into one or two pages, rather than the usual long documents, to make them accessible and influence policy. He said that there could be more synergy in the sector and the ASSAf already works well with the CSIR. He added that the Department also has an organisation called Entrepreneurship Development, in higher education, which he chairs. This is targeted at students in universities and TVET colleges as well as staff.

The Board Secretary of ASSAf said that the Quest Magazines were distributed to Grade 10 and 12 learners, mostly in rural community schools, and the entity wanted to offer them at no cost. The member added that the entity distributed the magazine to science centres because schools visited them to cut costs and all publications were open, accessible, and free. The member highlighted no article processing charges for stakeholders and end users for publication in the journals.

Prof Himla Soodyall, Chief Executive Officer, ASSAf, said that the organisation has MoUs with other entities and it also chairs cohorts which gives it an opportunity to engage with various other organisations. These engagements are strategic to ensure that ASSAf collaborates and competes with other entities where possible.

On gender representation and black academics, she mentioned that for a five-year statistic, the numbers for females and males per year were very close and, in some instances, females outnumbered males. Even with the race, there has been massive progress. She said that expertise was used in modelling to project when ASSAf would see parity in closing the gaps between the statistics on race and gender. Given the historical nature of filling the gaps between the past and prospective growth for the future, this will take another two decades to accomplish this. The transformation strategy has also placed a huge emphasis on this and the entity appreciates that academics outside of the big five institutions must be engaged. This is why resources are being directed toward former HDIs to establish better engagements. Even though it is not included in the membership, ASSAf has inclusivity of colleagues that were not yet members in committees and panels of discussions. These are used as instruments to build the network and the infrastructure to achieve representativity.

She added that ASSAf would elaborate on other questions in writing.


Dr Obokoh said that its statistics on coloured community inclusivity were projected, and the matter is being taken seriously hence SACNASP is considering ways on how it can work closely with institutions like the University of Western Cape, Cape Peninsula University of Technology, and Sol Plaatje University as well as through science engagements. She mentioned that working closely with the Department of Basic Education (DBE) is important, particularly with social studies and humanities at that level.

She stated that the entity wants to engage with the private sector, and it has started with Tiger Brands and Sasol and thus was intentional in its engagements with various industries. A huge number of applications from various students who have enrolled in or graduated from TVET colleges were also being received, however, the only issue is that some of the content of the modules do not speak to science thus it becomes difficult for these students to meet the registration criteria. She added that SACNASP has embarked on a process of aligning its modules to meet the criteria.

Regarding the registration numbers, she said it was key to revisit the turnaround times, which are three to six months. The process is currently too long for applicants to get the certificate, hence there are considerations of using AI-based systems that can assist in fast-tracking the registration process. Of the applications that SACNASP receives, on average, about 93% meet the criteria for registration. The only challenge is the time that it takes. Scientists also found the amount of paperwork that needs to be submitted to SACNASP cumbersome. As such, this will also be streamlined, and NRF-rated scientists have been reviewed as they have undergone a rigorous assessment process by peers.

She stated that nine substantive areas must be amended in the Bill and added that the entity did have a council in place, however, there is a need to have a board. She explained that the areas that need to be amended would be packaged, including mandatory versus voluntary registrations. She indicated that the organisation could not be a regulator that does the work halfway but must be empowered to enforce the Act.

Prof Khathutshelo A. Nephawe, Chairperson of the Board, SACNASP, concluded that written responses would be provided on the institutional review which is at 80% completion, and that the DSI would assist with the responses regarding the Act. He stated that the peak seen in the presentation was due to the demand from the Department of Agriculture, which was a once-off registration, and that the biggest milestone over the past year was an enhanced relationship with institutions.

He said the entity had completed 500 programmes which meant greater visibility for SACNASP. There was also a student enrolment programme for final year students from various institutions, which came at no cost to the students so they could already be registered when looking for jobs.  


Dr Phil Mjwara, Director-General, DSI, said that out of the conversations and engagements with Members, the DSI picked up five themes from the line of questioning and that the entity would ensure these are covered.

He stated that DSI planned to host a session with the entities starting at the end of May, which would mark the start of the planning process for the upcoming year and the start of the process for the five-year plan.

He mentioned that the entity would appear before and brief the Committee on the legislative programme, which refers to the pieces of legislation currently being considered.

The Chairperson echoed the DG’s comments and asked the Department to provide an overall synopsis of the engagements that take place with various entities.

The meeting was adjourned.


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