Arts and Culture Activities: Council for Scientific and Industrial Research briefing

Arts and Culture

13 September 2005
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Meeting report

13 September 2005


Mr S Tsenoli (ANC)

Documents handed out:

Council for Scientific and Industrial Research PowerPoint Presentation
CSIR website

The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research briefed the Committee on its reconfiguration (the CSIR Beyond 60 Process) and its various public goods outcomes initiatives.

The Committee said it had hoped that the CSIR would discuss its arts and culture initiatives in greater detail, including the important issue of Intellectual Property Rights. It requested that the CSIR brief them on these issues in the future. The Committee was also concerned that the CSIR’s image had been ‘tainted’ in a number of provinces, especially Limpopo. It enquired how the CSIR planned to market craft products produced by the rural communities, and suggested that permanent displays be set up in shopping malls and airports across the country. The inclusion of previously disadvantaged groups in science and technology was also questioned. Lastly, the Committee enquired about the CSIR’s relationship with the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), as well its relationships with a number of other institutions.


Council for Scientific and Industrial Research briefing
Mr Phil Hendricks (CSIR Executive Director of Strategic Management) briefed the Committee on their reconfiguration process. Ms Sibongile Phefile (Group Manager for Research and Development Outcomes and Organisation) presented the various public goods outcomes initiatives.

The CSIR reconfiguration process began eighteen months ago and was called the CSIR Beyond 60 Process. The commencement of the new operations in the reconfigured CSIR would begin in October 2005. This reconfiguration process aimed to achieve three goals. The first goal was to establish the best route for the reconfiguration of CSIR’s science and technology base. The second goal was to realign with the organisation’s core purpose and lastly, it aimed to shape the premier scientific research organisation for African Renaissance.

The CSIR Beyond 60 Process had three focuses namely human capital development, regaining scientific excellence and performing relevant knowledge generating research and scientific transfer. The CSIR had also created a number of operating units and national research centres. A number of research and development highlights existed namely in the spheres of bioscience, environmental science, information, communication and space technology, infrastructure technology and mining technology.

A number of challenges faced public goods outcome initiatives. These included a lack of skills in CSIR to deal with communities, a lack of uniform strategies and the identification of areas to concentrate on. The CSIR had also learnt a number of important lessons when conducting public good outcomes initiatives. These lessons surrounded the areas of CSIR trainers, involving local communities, leadership and government from the beginning and encouraging interdependent relationships.

The CSIR had also begun focusing its activities on the successful transfer of appropriate technologies in terms of affordability and absorbability and on sustainability. The CSIR had also adopted a number of new approaches and actions. It had also adopted new methods when selecting projects it would become involved in.

The Chairperson commented that the Committee was extremely keen on learning about entities doing work in the arts and culture sphere of the country. This eagerness was due to the Committee’s responsibility of providing an oversight function over the Department and generally arts and culture in South Africa. It was important that the Committee ensured that all resources were used and co-ordinated so that the maximum impact could be made in the delivery of arts and culture services in the country.

The Committee had recently split from the Portfolio Committee on Science and Technology, and it was therefore important that new Members gain an understanding of the work done by the CSIR. The Committee had also through its oversight visits to the provinces come across issues regarding work the CSIR was supposed to have completed in these areas. This briefing was an opportunity to discuss these issues that had arisen.

The Chairperson raised three issues. The CSIR had existed for almost sixty years and during its existence it would obviously have registered a number of patents. He asked who benefited from these patents. Had the CSIR been the only party to benefit, or had the money from patenting gone to communities who owned the knowledge? It was important that if Intellectual Property Rights were publicly owned, they stayed so, and that the public then benefited financially.

The second issue was regarding the language used by the CSIR during its briefing. A number of debates had arisen in the past regarding the term poverty alleviation. President Mbeki had entered this debate and it was important to note that South Africa did not just want to alleviate poverty, it wanted to eradicate it. The CSIR should not merely speak about the magnitude of poverty and how it wanted to deal with it but rather how to get rid of it completely. Therefore he suggested that the CSIR speak of poverty eradication in the future; not just alleviation.

Lastly, the Chairperson said that the briefing had only referred to arts and culture initiatives and indigenous knowledge systems in passing. He wanted to hear about these issues in much greater detail and hoped that the CSIR presenters would include them in their answers.

Mr Hendricks responded that the CSIR had not met with the Committee for some time so it wanted to brief the Committee on the changes that had occurred in the organisation. However it would be happy to address the Committee on its involvement in arts and culture initiatives in the future. He also suggested that the Committee visit CSIR projects in the future in order to gain a better understanding of the work done by the organisation. He acknowledged the suggestion to use the terminology of poverty eradication rather than alleviation in the future. He commented that poverty eradication was terminology that was used by the CSIR.

Ms Phefile responded that a great deal of developments and an increase in understanding had occurred regarding the registering of patents within the CSIR. One of the main developments was that products that were patented were not only for commercial gain. Some of the products patented were done so purely for the good of the public especially the rural communities. CSIR also concentrated on patenting in order to protect the Intellectual Property Rights of communities in the arts and craft sector. The CSIR had also been working on an Intellectual Property Policy. Within this policy there were clear guidelines on how publicly funded initiatives would be dealt with. This policy was still in the process of development and it would provide the kind of guidelines needed to deal with the income generated from Intellectual Property Rights.

The CSIR was also involved in a number of Intellectual Property Rights initiatives. An example was the planned CSIR Iyindiza Food Display in the North West Province on World Heritage Day. This initiative collected recipes of indigenous foods that would improve national nutrition. A recipe book had been created as part of this initiative and it had been sold widely in South Africa. CSIR had also gathered considerable knowledge on the issue of bio-prospecting. The organisation had worked with a number of traditional healers in order to investigate traditional medicinal plants so as to determine those that had medicinal value. Another successful initiative was agro-processing. The CSIR had created around ten agro-processing entities that were producing essential oils such as oils from the hoodia plant. These entities were situated in the rural areas and provided jobs for these rural communities. Some of the oils produced were sold overseas and used in CSIR research. Another new area of development in the CSIR was that indigenous people had started to approach the organisation to request that it help them tweak their own technologies so that it could be of better use or be sold overseas.

Mr K Moonsamy (ANC) highlighted the fact that without advancements in science and technology there could be no development. He asked to what extent South Africa was moving towards its goal of having large numbers of qualified scientists in the country. For example, in 1978, India had one million scientists living in the country. He also enquired to what extent South Africa had attracted previously disadvantaged populations to science and technology. What were the demographics of the students studying science and technology in the country? He also asked where the CSIR science exhibitions took place, and requested that more detail be given on the CSIR’s television science documentaries.

Lastly, the private sector had benefited greatly from the past. What role was the private sector playing in the country’s transformation especially in the science and technology sector? He felt that the private sector had a responsibility to help ensure the speedy transformation of the country and science and technology would play a pivotal role in this regard.

Mr Hendricks acknowledged that it was a concern to get the previously disadvantaged communities involved in the science systems. However, this challenge did not only exist in South Africa but could be seen in other countries, such as America, that were looking to Asia for science and technology professionals. The CSIR could see a general improvement regarding this issue especially in the field of engineering when communicating with universities. The CSIR also had a number of internship programmes and mentorship programmes for students that had just graduated.

It was worrying that private sector funding of science and technology had decreased. However, the National Department of Science and Technology had a strategy that concentrated on getting incentives from the private sector. The CSIR hoped that this strategy would be successful.

Mr Hendricks said that the CSIR had run science exhibitions in most of the provinces; for example a huge International Transport Conference had been held in the Limpopo province. The CSIR hoped to link exhibitions with provinces and the Department of Science and Technology.

Mr M Sonto (ANC) remarked that one of the core principles of the CSIR was to find new ways of serving its clientele and stakeholders. What was the CSIR doing differently to what it had been doing in the past? Secondly, he enquired about the terminology used by the CSIR when it mentioned that it aimed to achieve scientific excellence. What did this mean as far as the history of the CSIR was concerned? He also enquired about the mind walk programme launched by the CSIR that involved 250 schools. What was the status of this programme and what were its successes or failures?

Ms Aziza Federicks (CSIR Parliamentary Officer) answered that the ‘mind-walking programme’ had been initiated in five provinces where schools were given particular challenges within different science and technology spheres. Groups of learners had been given the task of using science and technology to come up with solutions that had then been presented to a panel of judges. The learners had come up with a number of innovative ideas and some of them had even been patented.

However the mind-walking programme had been closed down by the CSIR as its outcomes had not really justified the R5 million invested by the CSIR in the programme. However, the CSIR was investigating new ways of interacting with schools but hoped to take on partners in these future initiatives such as the Department of Education.

Mr Hendricks responded that the CSIR had made a great deal of changes through the implementation of advisory research panels that worked in the institution’s different science and technology spheres. These panels consisted of persons from all the different sectors of the country, including the public sector, and helped to inform what the needs were in science and technology. These panels had been instituted in the last three years. Secondly, the CSIR had also successfully interacted with the science and technology policy and strategy at a national level in terms of the focus areas for science and technology. For example, the President spoke of the African Institute for Information and Communication Technology (ICT) a few years ago. The CSIR had launched this Institute in conjunction with the Departments of Communications and Science and Technology.

Ms S Motubatse-Hounkpatin (ANC) remarked that it was fortunate that the CSIR had briefed the Committee after Committee visits to the provinces had taken place. These visits showed that the CSIR had done a great deal of positive work in the provinces especially in the mining sector. However, a number of challenges were also highlighted by these Committee visits. Firstly, the Committee sought clarity regarding CSIR’s relations with the nine provinces. CSIR was a national institution but it was still important that the institution interacted with the provinces so that these provinces could tap into the resources of the CSIR. Was this interaction taking place?

Her second enquiry was regarding the skills of the CSIR in dealing with the various communities living in South Africa. During the provincial visits Committee Members saw that the reputation of CSIR had been dented on a number of issues due to some occurrences in the provinces. One of these issues regarded the marketing of products and assisting the provinces and communities regarding the marketing of these products. This needed a great deal of attention. Thirdly, there were a number of provinces, most importantly the Northern Cape that could produce a number of important products but needed support in doing so. Would the CSIR budget allow the CSIR staff to support these provinces especially the Northern Cape in producing these products?

Mr Hendricks responded that the CSIR dealt with a number of provinces. However, its core focus was at a national level. In a number of the sectors a large amount of research at national level included the provinces as well. However, a challenge posed by the provinces was that some of them presented no research-oriented issues. Generally, many of the issues raised by provinces were part of the national strategy and policy. It was important that especially in the arts and culture sphere, such as the creation of crafts, interaction occurred between the CSIR and the provinces.

Ms Motubatse-Hounkpatin responded that she specifically wanted to know about the CSIR’s initiatives in the Northern Cape. However, she would speak to Mr Hendricks about this issue after the meeting had ended.

Ms Phefile answered that the Beyond 60 process had highlighted that CSIR enjoyed expertise in certain areas, while having none in others. The organisation’s areas of expertise were mainly science and technology so it was hoping to create partnerships with organisations whose areas of expertise was promotion and marketing of products. These partnerships would hopefully lead to the successful transfer of technology in the country.

Mr H Maluleka commented on the Decorex Exhibition held at Gallagher Estate. This exhibition had invited crafters to display and sell their crafts. Was this the only opportunity given to crafters to do so? If this were the case, would it not be advisable to have permanent displays in public areas throughout South Africa? For example, the displays could be set up at shopping malls and airports around the country.

He agreed with Ms Motubatse-Hounkpatin that the image of the CSIR had been tainted in the provinces. The CSIR had mentioned in its briefing the task of training trainers. Was the CSIR ensuring that these trainers came from the communities that were being trained? This did not seem to have happened in the Limpopo Province. The trainer had not come from the community and in one of the projects he had taken about R120 000 worth of products from the rural women promising to assist in marketing these products. He had then returned without the products and had paid each of the women only R100. He had then asked for more products and disappeared. He had done the same to a school for the blind in Limpopo.

He was aware that the Provincial Portfolio Committee in Limpopo had been in touch with the CSIR in the hope of addressing this issue. However, the Committee was not sure what had arisen from this meeting. He also requested that the CSIR look into the possibility of permanent stalls.

Mr Hendricks responded that the CSIR had initiated and managed millions of Rands worth of projects in the past. When conducting an audit of these projects the organisation found that a number of queries had been raised. Some of these queries were extremely valid such as instances where goods were taken by trainers and where goods had been sold by the CSIR shop, which had paid communities yet invoices had not recorded this. Ms Phefile’s office was currently following this paper trail and was trying to deal with the Limpopo problem.

The CSIR had also met with the National Department to discuss these problems. However the National Department had not issued the CSIR with a formal communication of the problems. However, the organisation had been made aware of these problems and was trying to solve them. The CSIR was concerned about the impact some of these problems would have on its mandate to remain faithful to the public. He could have presented some of the issues raised by the Committee after their recent provincial visits but had rather decided to first brief the Committee on the actual structure of CSIR. However, it was important to note that the CSIR was actively dealing with these issues raised and was dealing with the situation where goods had been stolen from communities. He was happy to brief the Committee in the future on the work done by the CSIR regarding these problems.

Mr Hendricks highlighted that a great deal of craftwork was displayed at the CSIR convention centre and its craft shop. However, Mr Malukela’s suggestion that crafts be displayed at shopping malls and airports was a good idea and could be explored for the future.

Ms Phefile agreed that exhibitions at the airports and malls were a good idea. She highlighted the fact that the Decorex exhibition fell under the umbrella of one of a kind exhibitions initiated by the Department of Trade and Industry. The CSIR hoped to broaden this umbrella so that more exhibitions occurred in the future and hoped to include the Department of Arts and Culture in these activities.

Mr B Zulu (ANC) noted that one of the CSIR’s goals was to remain faithful to the public mandate. It was important that the CSIR go back to the Limpopo province to try to clear its name. The briefing also mentioned the CSIR’s support of the small-scale mining sector. His constituency area was a large rural coal mining area. However, people from the outside were flowing into the area and benefiting from this mining while the local people had no idea at all of the area’s mining potential. Could the CSIR assist these local people and make them aware of the mining potential in their area so that they could become involved?

He highlighted the importance of beadwork products from the local communities in South Africa. However, South Africa imported all of its beads from China and Japan that negatively impacted on the local communities. Would it not be possible for South Africa to acquire the machinery needed to make its own beads? This would greatly assist the local community as some of them could not afford the imported beads needed for their beadwork.

Mr Hendricks responded that the CSIR had investigated the possibility of South Africa obtaining these machines so that it could produce its own beads. The CSIR would report back to the Committee on the findings of this investigation.

Mr C Gololo (ANC) asked the CSIR to inform the Committee on its commitment to the national imperatives of human resource development and job creation. He also enquired about the CSIR’s involvement in arts and culture in general for example, in the promotion of artefacts and the marketing of products abroad and at home. What role did the CSIR play in the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) initiatives such as capacity building to ensure Africa’s role in the knowledge economy and the utilisation of indigenous knowledge systems? What was the CSIR’s relationship with the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS)?

Mr Hendricks answered that the Department of Science and Technology had the responsibility for the NEPAD Science and Technology programme. This responsibility would be handed over to Senegal at the end of the year. The NEPAD programme had twelve science and technology focus areas of which South Africa was closely involved in three of these areas. One of these three focuses was biosciences and the establishment of four bioscience hubs in the four regions of the continent. The CSIR had launched the Southern African biosciences hub a month ago and a number of Ministers in South Africa and champions in NEPAD played a role. The CSIR had also established the African Laser Centre which was a NEPAD initiative.

The CSIR also looked at some of the other sector activities of NEPAD such as the Information and Communication Technology sector. It supported NEPAD’s e-school programme that involved two hundred schools from four countries. These schools were linked by satellite technology so that they had access to learning material via this source. This initiative would hopefully spread to the rest of the continent in the future. The CSIR had also worked in NEPAD’s infrastructure sector and with SADC on a number of important issues.

In terms of capacity building, the CSIR had launched a regional research alliance between itself, the Botswana Technology Centre (BOTEC) and the Scientific and Industrial Research and Development Centre (SIRDC) in Zimbabwe. The alliance hoped to attract other research organisations in the future. The alliance focused on researchers from these countries working together and was a form of capacity building as researchers in other countries now had access to research facilities.

The CSIR had little interaction with the SABS. However from time to time, when the updating of certain standards needed to occur, the CSIR interacted with the SABS. The CSIR also hosted Agrimor South Africa for the Department of Public Works. This was created for the specification of standards and was actually the process before some of these issues were transferred to the SABS.

Ms N Mbombo (ANC) commented that the CSIR had mentioned that it had a number of products that could sell. What were these products? Many of the products that had been sold had not benefited the local people. Secondly, how many jobs had the CSIR created and where had these jobs been created? She also remarked that when doing research on the CSIR, the Meraka Institute was always mentioned. What was CSIR’s relationship with the Meraka Insititute?

Mr Hendricks answered that he had already mentioned that the President had investigated the creation of an African Institute for ICT a few years ago. The CSIR had established this institute in conjunction with the Departments of Communications and Science and Technology. This Institute was often referred to as the Meraka Institute within the CSIR.

Mr C Gololo (ANC) enquired about the three-year research programme created by the CSIR aimed at developing guidelines of best practice for improving access for disabled people. Was this research programme actually occurring? If it was, when would these guidelines be implemented, as the disabled encountered many problems; for example in public transport?

Mr Hendricks responded that the CSIR had worked closely with one of the development agencies regarding accessibility and disability. This initiative was funded by the development agency and it studied developing countries and their measures around accessibility of the disabled. This research programme included the creation of infrastructure measures for public transport. These measures could be found on the CSIR website. The CSIR had completed a number of reports on accessibility of the disabled for this research agency and for the public sector. The Departments concerned were now responsible for implementing the recommendations of these reports.

The Chairperson highlighted that in future briefings the Committee hoped that the CSIR would inform it on how it brought science and technology into the areas of innovation, design and quality. The Chairperson also requested that the CSIR continuously inform the Committee on its initiatives and projects and its interaction with other parties including those involved in arts and culture. The Committee could then discuss these initiatives in greater detail with the CSIR in future briefings.

The meeting was adjourned.



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