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SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
24 August 2004
COMMITTEE PROGRAMME: ADOPTION
Chairperson: Mr E Ngcobo (ANC)
Documents handed out:
Draft Programme as of 18 August 2004
The Chairperson tabled its draft programme. During discussion, questions about skills development and transfer and job creation came up frequently. The Chairperson put these questions on hold, saying that they would be addressed in the course of the briefings and workshops. The Committee unanimously adopted the programme.
The Committee discussed its draft programme, which listed briefings by the Department and other organisations such as the National Science and Technology Forum (NSTF). The Chairperson announced that the Committee would be briefed on budget analysis and reporting because it had its own budget, business plan, researcher and control secretaries. He had also invited the Department Director-General to brief the Committee on matters such as the Intellectual Property Act, THRIP SPII and how best to use innovation funds
Mr I Blanche remarked that the Committee needed to address not only high technology and scientific professions, but needed to also deal with the transfer and acquisition of skills on a day-to-day basis through local technology. For instance, South Africa did not seem to be gaining and transferring skills in the refrigeration industry. The country imported equipment like air-conditioners, refrigerators, and other home appliances. He asked about the possibility of investigating how to apply technology to create jobs.
The Chairperson replied that the Department would answer such questions during their intended briefing.
Mr R van Heerden suggested that the question be put to the National Research Foundation delegation that would be briefing the Committee on 14 September.
Mr R Ainslie questioned the practicability of the whole Committee attending the workshop on poverty alleviation, saying that the idea was too ambitious.
Mr A Mlangeni suggested that the group that attended the workshop should include the Chairperson.
Mr Blanche asked the Chairperson if he intended taking other parties with him. The Chairperson answered that the Committee had criteria in place for selecting Members.
The Programme required Members to visit poverty alleviation projects, incubator projects and centres of excellence. The Committee Secretary would circulate a list of the projects and Members would choose which ones to visit.
Mr Ainslie felt that Members should visit projects within their constituencies on their own. The Chairperson agreed that when Parliament adjourned, Members should visit projects in their constituencies to save the Committee money and would obviate problems that often arose when Members went as a group.
According to the Programme, DST would brief Members on budget analysis .Mr Ishmail said that some of the Members were briefed in Parliament on budget report analyses and other Members went through a workshop dealing with budget analyses.
The Chairperson said he would like the Committee to be well equipped to deal with budget reports. He had attended workshops dealing with budget reports but was still not adequately equipped to deal with analyses. The Committee needed to know the priorities of the Department because it had to oversee this. The Committee needed to have a systematic way of analysing budget reports because budgets were not about numbers, but delivery priorities.
National Science and Technology Forum briefing
Mr Ishmail Mohamed said the NSTF was set up to change the policies of DST. The problem previously was that the Department unilaterally made policies without consulting Parliament and the general public. Consequently, it had ignored poverty alleviation. A broad spectrum of stakeholders such as business, universities and government were now involved. One of the achievements of the NSTF was to investigate maths and science education and transform it to fit in with the present needs of the country.
The Chairperson said the Committee should interact and plan together with the NSTF because it constituted the "engine" of the Department. However, he was not impressed with the lack of transformation in the NSTF Board and requested that it brief the Committee on how many people from disadvantaged backgrounds sat on the board.
Mr Ainslie felt the Committee should wait until the Board appeared before it and then question them on transformation, representation and their programmes.
The Programme stated that the Committee would be receiving a presentation on cloning and genetically-modified organisms (GMOs)
The Chairperson said Parliament needed to allow debate on cloning and GMOs. The Committee should listen to arguments from scientists, legal experts and religious groups. The Committee should thereafter draft its own document on these issues.
Mr Blanche repeated that the Committee had to devise ways of transferring technical skills, such as developing refrigerator mechanics. The Committee had to get people interested in maths and science to stop the unnecessary importation of technologies.
The Committee would be briefed by the South African Science and Technology Association (SASTA) on Public Communication and Understanding of Science and Technology in October. SASTA had developed simple methods of dealing with maths and science problems. The Committee on Education should also be invited to the briefing.
Mr van Heerden suggested that the Committee treat the minutes of the last meeting as a report because they were based on a workshop attended by the Chairperson. The Chairperson agreed
The Chairperson announced that the report of the Parliamentary Research Unit on "Gender in the Science and Technology Workforce in SA: The Past 10 years" was ready for adoption. Mr Mlangeni suggested that Members should read the report before submission and Ms B Ngcobo agreed that it be circulated among Members for comment. The Chairperson agreed and declared Thursday 26 August as the last day for submission of comments. Thereafter the report would go through as if adopted.
The Chairperson also indicated that the Office of the Chairperson of Committees would be providing a Control Committee Secretary to assist them with drawing up the budget proposals and business plan.
The report on the recent Committee and Department workshop held in Stellenbosch was incomplete and, with corrections, would be moved for adoption at their next meeting.
The meeting was adjourned.
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