Department Budget, SMME Development, Indigenous Knowledge Systems: briefing

Science and Technology

02 November 2004
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Meeting Summary

A summary of this committee meeting is not yet available.

Meeting report


2 November 2004

Mr E Ngcobo (ANC)

Documents handed out:
Budget Analysis (document awaited)
Technology and Business development
Indigenous Knowledge Systems Policy

The Department related to the Committee that the Indigenous Knowledge Policy sought to creatively advance the course of Indigenous Knowledge Systems (IKS) within the context of complex economic, social and cultural rights. There was a need to recognise and protect indigenous knowledge and IKS for cultural reasons. IKS had the potential to make significant contribution to the economy. In South Africa, IKS were owned by and provided services to disadvantaged people who were prone to unemployment. Consideration was given to the role IKS could play in the employment creation, poverty alleviation and technology transfer. It was important to integrate IKS policy with other national policies. IKS needed to be protected in terms of intellectual property rights.

There was a concern that the Department was not reaching as much small, medium and micro enterprises as possible. The participation of people in IKS should be encouraged especially in areas where there was a potential for job creation. It was important that people benefit from products based in indigenous knowledge systems.


Department briefing on Indigenous Knowledge Systems
The Department was represented by Mr T Motloung (Manager: Technology Diffusion), Ms M Malapane (CFO) and Dr M Mosimege (Manager: Indigenous Knowledge Systems).

Dr Mosimege presented on indigenous knowledge systems (IKS). The IKS policy had four drivers. These were: (a) the affirmation of the African cultural values in the face of globalisation, (b) the development of the services provided by the indigenous knowledge holders and practitioners, (c) the contribution of indigenous knowledge to the economy and (d) the interface with other knowledge systems.

The Policy sought to creatively advance the course of IKS within the context of complex economic, social and cultural rights. There was a need to recognise and protect indigenous knowledge and IKS for cultural reasons. The re-entry of South Africa into the global arena presented both opportunities and challenges for the prudent management of IKS. An indicator of the serious effect of globalisation was the rapid attrition of language diversity across the world.

IKS had the potential to make significant contribution to the economy. In South Africa, IKS provided services to disadvantaged people prone to unemployment. Consideration was given to the role IKS could play in the employment creation, poverty alleviation and technology transfer. International trade in genetic resources involved high economic stakes. The sale of drugs based on traditional medicines amounted to over US$32 billion a year. Such systems of knowledge offered potential international competitive advantage.

It was important to integrate IKS policy with other national policies. IKS needed to be protected in terms of intellectual property rights. South Africa had already made progress in developing IKS related legislation, and would also guide international collaborations and initiatives

Mr A Ainslie (ANC) asked Mr Motloung to elaborate on what the Department was doing to expand knowledge systems and to ensure that people participated in the process. He also asked how people could access IKS, specifically those components that could give access to employment.

Mr Mosimege said that ensuring that IKS was taken seriously was a challenge to the country as a whole. He hoped that the Committee would help the Department wherever it fell short. There was a temptation to speak on behalf of the communities instead of letting the communities speak for themselves. The Univen Declaration recognised the need to involve the communities and ensure that they benefited from the system. Learners had always had problems with geometry. The Mpumalanga province was well known for its mural decorations. There was a lady who offered lessons on how to paint these geometric shapes. Cultural villages should not only serve as tourist centres, but also as education centres. Researchers should also acknowledge the source of their knowledge so that any benefits accrued could be shared with the source of information.

Mr B Mnyandu (DA) asked if spiritual healers would be classified as traditional healers. Mr Mosimege replied that the question could be best answered by the Department of Health.

Professor I Mohamed (ANC) asked for a comment on how far the Department had gone in the development of intellectual property legislation relating to IKS. There were indigenous knowledge accounting systems in many cultures. He asked if there was also 'IKS mathematics'. There had been a media announcement a long time ago that indigenous knowledge holders were close to announcing a cure for cancer.

Mr Mosimege replied that the Department had initially dealt with the policy and legislation concurrently. Dr Serote, former Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee, had wanted to introduce a Private Member's Bill. However, the process did not take off and was instead handed over to the Department. Debates on the policy and legislation were so intense that the Department realised that it was not advisable to work on the two at the same time. A decision was taken to move slower on the Bill and faster on the policy. Now that the policy had been developed, there would be more effort on the Bill. The Department of Trade and Industry had been looking at reviewing the patent and copyright laws and including aspects of IKS. It was important to build some protection into existing legislation in the absence of IKS-specific legislation. One of the challenges was that almost 'everybody was an expert' on IKS and this delayed the process.

With regard to IKS mathematics, Dr Mosimege said that one of the extensive works that had been done was on how the theorem of Pythagorus could be deducted out of making a basket. Indigenous games were very helpful with regard to mathematics. The importation of such games had had a huge impact in countries like the United States of America. It was important that the correct information was recorded and that the Eurocentric understanding of most indigenous concepts was changed.

On cancer medicines, Dr Mosimege said that at times people were carried away by emotions and said things that were not supported by evidence. He could not say how the study had progressed.

Mr P Nefolovhodwe (AZAPO) asked what kind of redress the Department would offer in respect of products that were already on the market. Mageu and sorghum beer were based on indigenous knowledge. The validation of indigenous knowledge should be viewed as a two-way process. Indigenous knowledge could validate other knowledge systems, as much as it could be validated by such other systems. He was worried about only validating one system in schools.

Dr Mosimege said one problem was the difficulty in defining 'indigenous'. The Bill had a cut-off date of 1652 at the arrival of Jan van Riebeeck. This created a huge debate and consequently the matter had been transferred to the Department of Foreign Affairs that remitted the matter back to the Department of Science and Technology. Mr Credo Mutwa was one expert could show how he and other people were exploited, especially in respect of their medical uses of the Sutherlandia microphylla plant. The Department was trying to work closely with the Department of Trade and Industry of the issues of redress. This was a difficult task. Questions would always be asked as to who should be penalised, and how far back one should go. However, the status quo could not be allowed to remain. He added that IKS could not be validated the way other systems were validated. The system should be allowed to stand on its own, but look at how other systems could support it.

The Chairperson said that the Medical Research Council had said that it was collaborating with indigenous knowledge holders on treatments for AIDS-related diseases. He asked how far the process had gone. He felt that IKS was the foundation of all other systems. Education and other things were products of IKS.

Mr Mosimege replied that tests had been conducted and capsules made. The earlier tests showed much of promise. He hoped that the results of further tests would be released soon.

Department briefing on budget analysis
Ms Malapane reported that the Department aimed to create an effective science and technology system and to provide science and technology human resources capacity and transformation. The new framework to mainstream scientific activities had been approved by Cabinet, and the Department was in the process of implementing it. The CSIR would become one of the Department's public entities.

The Department had spent 99.8% of their budget for the last financial year. The Department had spent 5% of its budget on personnel. Transfer payments accounted for 91% of the expenditure. The Department's public institutions had received increases to their budgets, except the National Advisory Council on Innovation (NACI) which saw its budget reduced by 20%.

Mr A Mlangeni (ANC) was pleased to see that the Department had a female Chief Financial Officer. This indicated that there was some transformation. He asked if there was a way of monitoring how monies transferred to other institutions were used. He also asked how the institutions under the Department contributed to the improvement in ordinary people's lives.

Ms Malapane replied that the Department had to ensure that there was compliance with the Public Finance Management Act before it transferred funds. Some of the Department's public entities had received monies from the National Treasury through the Department. There were also ad hoc transfers by the Department to institutions. Before such transfers were effected, the Department made sure that there was a business plan and a contract in place. The Department would normally set conditions as required by the PFMA. The entities were also required to report on their activities. The Department had recently also ensured that its internal auditor conducted a performance audit.

On the improvement of the lives of South Africans, she said that some entities were involved in research and development. It was difficult to see their contributions within a short period. However, they played very important roles and as time went on, their contribution would be seen.

Mrs Mohamed asked if the 5% expenditure on personnel was due to vacancies in the Department. She also asked why the budget of NACI showed a 20% decrease.

Ms Malapane replied that the Department served as a financial conduit. The NACI budget had been reduced because the Department felt that the institution was fully capacitated.

Mr Ainslie asked how much of the Department's budget had been devoted to the Tshumisano, Godisa and other programmes. In terms of Treasury regulations, public entities were required to submit their reports to the Department 30 days after the end of each quarter. According to the Auditor-General's report, this had not been done by 31 March. He asked for the reason for this, whether the entities had submitted the reports, and what the Department intended to do to ensure that it did not happen again.

Ms Malapane could not remember the actual amounts allocated for the programmes. With regard to the Auditor-General's report, she confessed that she had not ensured that the reports were submitted on time. She was still new in the Department had not time to familiarise herself with her responsibilities. Some measures had been put in place to ensure that the problem did not recur. The institutions had since submitted their first and second quarter reports. Professor Mohamed added that the same problem was experienced last year.

The Chairperson said that the budget of 2003/04 still catered for the Departments of Arts and Culture and Science and Technology. He asked how the Department determined its own budget. He also asked if the National Science and Technology Forum was an independent entity.

Ms Malapane replied that the Forum did not fall under the Department. The Department only had the NACI that was an advisory body on the science budget. The Departments had different budgets for the year 2003/04. However, when the departments were split, the Department of Science and Technology had carried the budgets for the Minister and the Deputy Minister.

The Chairperson asked if the Department ran any income-generating public entities, and how that income fitted into the total budget. Ms Malapane replied that the Department did not have any income-generating entities.

Department briefing on technology and business Development
Mr Motloung reported that the Department aimed to strengthen the economy by increasing the number of strong, export-oriented small- and medium-sized enterprises. Opportunities existed for new businesses for products and services that were not yet locally produced, or where there were still untapped markets. The Godisa programme had supported more than 900 small-scale miners on more than 70 projects.

Mr Mnyandu asked why Tshumisano and Godisa were located in urban areas only. He also asked what would happen if an enterprise was not able to stand on their own after the three-year 'incubation'.

Mr Motloung replied that the programmes existed in almost all provinces to address technological problems. The Department was also extending its focus to cover areas outside the cities. With regard to the incubation programme, he said that the period differed according to the nature of the sectors. In some sectors, one would spend more than three years incubating an enterprise.

Mrs Mohamed asked for statistics on the involvement of women in Godisa. She also asked if the project was sustainable, where it got funding, and how it contributed towards job creation. Mr Motloung replied that he would furnish the statistics to Members.

Mr Ainslie felt that the Department was not reaching enough small-, medium- and micro-enterprises. Consequently there was little impact on employment creation and economic growth. He asked if there was any intention to extend the programmes to as many enterprises as possible.

Mr Motloung agreed that the Department was not reaching enough enterprises. One of the objectives this year was to increase these figures.

The meeting was adjourned.


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