CSIR on Transformation:briefing

Arts and Culture

22 August 2001
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Meeting Summary

A summary of this committee meeting is not yet available.

Meeting report

22 August 2001

Chairperson: Dr M Serote

Documents handed out
Transformation, the National System of Innovation and Learning Networks
CSIR Transformation Progress Report

[email protected] for documents)

One of the key areas of transformation at the CSIR is through knowledge management system, which would see the country transforming its black scientific community from two percent currently to about 20-40 percent in two-to-three years time.

The major challenge facing South Africa and the African continent as a whole is the fusion of science and technology in addressing human development. The other challenge is good governance in knowledge creation and learning and in linking science and technological education with skills development strategies.

Out of the eight divisions at CSIR, two made submissions were made at the meeting. One of them was the Manufacturing and Materials Technology (M & Mtek), and the other was the Roads and Transport Technology division. Both divisions said they were tackling the issue of transformation head on, although one division said after its staff were trained, they were head hunted by other organisations and ironically, most of these organisations are from the public sector.

Representing the CSIR were Dr N Magau, Executive Vice President: Human Resources, Dr H Maree, Director: Manufacturing and Materials Technology (M & Mtek), Mr P Hendricks, Director: Roads and Transport Technology, Mr V Matooane, Chairperson of CSIR Black Forum.

CSIR Transformation
Dr Magau informed the Committee that by transformation the CSIR understands that it stands for greater representivity and that the organisation was driven by knowledge management, which if kept within it would not benefit the broader community.

There was a lot of diversified knowledge in the country that was untapped including the African continent and that if it was harnessed as was the case in Europe and the United States, South Africa and the continent could become globally competitive.

Dr Magau said the knowledge management system encompasses strategic environment, which involves answering questions like, "What are the existing strengths of the country and the continent scientifically and technologically? What should children be learning?"

She informed the Committee that black scientists were a mere two percent out of the total scientists in the country. The aim of her organisation was to increase that figure to about 20-40 percent in two to three years time.

She also informed the Committee that strategic environment takes into account also the Millennium African Plan (MAP), which envisages seeing the African continent increasing its capacity in the scientific and technological field.

As such the emerging challenges facing Africa are the fusion of science and technology in addressing human development, innovation which implies "trusting your thinking and experience" and the only way that can be done would be to develop a National System of Innovation across institutions.

Other challenges facing Africa are good governance in knowledge creation and learning and in linking education with skills development strategies.

In conclusion, Dr Magau said the CSIR has several divisions working with key government departments and that it was already working with other organisations such as COHORT (Committee of heads of organisations of research and Technology), the President's Office on poverty alleviation, Council for Higher Education and various industries.


Manufacturing & Material Technology

Dr Maree said the mission of the CSIR was to "improve the quality of life" in the country and that the organisation was working with the Department of Trade and Industry on policy which involves issues like "how science and technology would unfold in the country twenty years from now."

Some of the industrial sectors which his division was engaged with were automotive, textile/fibre, cultural industries, health care, defence/navy, clean production (which he said was new), generic SMMEs, food processing, and so on.

He said for his division, knowledge is delivered through contracts, licences and patents, joint ventures and alliances and industrial support centres (which includes the automotive industry). About 30-40 percent of the division's income is through parliamentary grant and the rest coming from the market through companies they have set up.

On transformation Dr Maree said his division was creating opportunities for the staff to be well versed in science and technology. As such, a number of people have been sent overseas for further studies.

Other ways are through mentoring, training and career development, purchasing from BEE companies resulting in job creation, looking at demographic and gender issues, induction, retention, and planning.

Currently, the management team in his division was composed of five black male, five white male, one black female, and two white female. He told the committee that a couple of years ago, management was made up of white males only.

Through the National Production Development Centre (NPDC) his division has incorporated cultural designs, mask reproductions and craft projects. The latter includes indigenous jewellery, beading, leatherwork and craft projects.

He also informed the Committee that his division has opened up incubation business centres around the country to encourage indigenous science and technology. Some of these centres are found in places like George, Cape Town, Pretoria, Port Elizabeth and SADC.

As the result of these centres being opened, major breakthroughs in indigenous technology are being realised such as the making of the mopane silk worms in the North West into silk and textile which is then sold to boutiques in Europe.

The other project he mentioned that uses indigenous technology is the Daimler-Chrysler Automotive Industry Development Centre (AIDC). That project is involved with the people of Northern Province in producing sisal for the C-Class Mercedes Benz.

In conclusion Dr Maree told the Committee that his division has promoted indigenous science and technology and transformation within his division and was proud of the achievements but also conceded that there was a long way to go to achieve the targets they have set themselves.

Roads & Transport Technology
Meanwhile Mr P Hendricks, Director - Roads and Transport Technology, informed the Committee that his division had a total staff of 163 of which 81 were professionals. Out of that staff, he continued, 65 or 40 percent were blacks and out of that 22 or 27 percent were professionals.

Again, he told the Committee that there were 51 female in his division out of which 19 were professionals. He said the aim of his division was to make it more representative and highly skilled.

However, he lamented the fact that they were losing a lot of skilled personnel, which they had trained at high cost. This was the only setback its division was faced with but thanks to the fact that others who had left are now coming back after realizing that money is not everything.

Seven of their black staff were sent to California to go and teach and maintain a Heavy Vehicle Simulator (HVS) they had designed for maintaining roads. He indicated that those were highly skilled jobs which made a huge contribution to the success of the project and brought in R100 million to the country.

The measure of success is how we contribute to job creation and career development in the country. Within this context, the division is looking at the taxi recapitalisation and the taxi management system that involves the maintenance and rehabilitation of the taxi ranks. Other projects include designing facilities for the disabled in public transport and the reduction of congestion in that area.

On the education front they are trying to introduce pedestrian safety in schools and are together with the Ministry of Education developing a curriculum in traffic safety education which would also include drug and alcohol abuse.

The division has developed a CD-ROM entitled "VEZA" which shows tourists how to explore South Africa.

In conclusion, Mr Hendricks pointed out that apartheid had poorly distributed skills in the country leading to adversary relationships in the work place and that there was a need to transform that. There was still a shortage of skilled tranportation researcher in the country but that they were forging ahead to address that.

Mr S Dithebe (ANC) said to the presenters from the CSIR that they had been informed that COHORT was not functioning effectively and asked the presenters for their views on COHORT. He also asked Mr Hendricks whether it was possible for the CSIR to supply the MPs with the VEZA CD-ROM.

Dr Magau stated that COHORT was a new structure and that there was no need to criticize them. Instead it would be better if the Portfolio Committee invited them and helped them to focus. Mr Hendricks said that they would send copies of the CD to members.

Ms A van Wyk (NNP) observed that indigenous building styles like the Ndebele houses were not given priority in housing especially low cost houses and wondered how the CSIR can encourage such architecture in the building of low cost houses. Art as a subject in government schools was virtually wiped out. How could that process be reversed?

Mr Hendricks replied that the Department of Public Works has been mandated to look at some of these issues. He noted that Boutek is looking at low-cost housing in context of indigenous techology building styles.

Ms S Baloyi (ANC) queried the presenters on what their organisation was doing to protect intellectual property rights in the country from being usurped by foreign predators.

Dr Maree replied that as soon as any innovation became public knowledge it was no longer protected. However, his organisation together with the Department of Trade and Industry has started a process on intellectual property rights to come up with new policies. This would include promoting indigenous colours, designs, textures, and so on.

The meeting was adjourned.


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