Human Sciences Research Council Bill [B16B-2007], clause 5(3) reconsideration; South African National Space Agency Bill [B20B-2008]: Adoption, & Greville Wood Developments presentation

Science and Technology

24 June 2008
Chairperson: Mr G Oliphant (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee noted that it had wished to have a clause in the Human Sciences Research Council Amendment Bill that would give the NA input into the process of appointment of the Members of the HSRC Board. However, the President had referred the Bill back to the Committee for re-consideration, considering that the requirement that the Minister appoint “in consultation” with Parliament was contrary to the separation of powers doctrine. It was noted that conflicting legal opinions had been expressed over the meanings of “in” and “after” consultation. The Committee stressed that it was for good reason and to prevent the problems that had arisen in the past that it required the input. A clause was finally crafted, and approved, that created a four-stage process of publication of a notice calling for nominations, appointment of a panel of experts to compile a shortlist of twenty persons, which would then be submitted, together with their CVs, to the National Assembly for approval, and the National Assembly would submit back to the Minister an approved shortlist.

The Committee considered the South African National Space Agency Bill, noting the amendments that had been effected by the removal of clause 14 and its replacement with clause 15, and a new clause 8. Issues around funding had not been finalised. Clause 7 was discussed, and it was decided that similar wording as that used for the HSRC Bill would be used in relation to the appointment of the Board, save that the short list should be thirty members. It was noted that the reference to section 8 in clause 13(2) was a misprint, and should refer to section 10, but it was decided that this reference be removed. The Committee adopted the Bill, as amended.

The Committee received a briefing from Greville Wood Developments, who had a team with combined experience in developing and manufacturing, and who had devised a concept that would manufacture prefabricated houses, thus meeting the need for housing, but with the primary aim of manufacturing, increasing production and skills transfer. They quoted the experiences of Argentina, China, India and Malaysia, all of which had grown their national manufacturing industry and skills training.

The proposal took the form of a feasibility study for factory-manufactured low cost houses, of timber overlaid with cement insulation. The project aimed to deliver 1 670 houses per annum per factory. The houses would be transported in sections and assembled on serviced sites. They complied with SABS 0400 standards.. It was claimed that semi-literate and low skilled workers could be employed and trained, and the factory concept could thereafter be replicated, with employment benefit structures contributing to factory ownership. It was claimed that this would develop more skills than traditional construction training, and would not be affected by climate. The cost of the house was R39 500. Although the concept had been promoted previously and a project was started, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research had not proceeded with the project, there was no funding made available, and the Department of Trade and Industry had preferred to use other methods and advice.  Members asked about the history of the project and suggested that the Department of Housing should receive the proposal. Examples from other countries were cited. Members noted that this Committee did not have the mandate to approve the plans or the funding, but was rather to guide the proposers. It was suggested that the Innovation Fund could be considered. Members asked if the concept was similar to the houses in Acacia Park, which had been found not to be durable. They commented that the costs were higher than the present building costs, called for clarity on the skills conversion, and commented that they had no doubt that the project would enhance black economic empowerment.

Meeting report

Human Sciences Research Council Bill (the Bill): Reconsideration of Clause 5(3): Appointment of Board
The Chairperson reported that this Bill had been referred back to the Committee by the President, who had requested that Clause 5, relating to the appointment of the Members of the Board, be reconsidered.

Mr Oliphant said that the Committee had asked the legal advisers dealing with the Bill to take account of the concerns raised in the Committee about the process of the appointment of Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) board members. In the past various members of the Board were constantly being recycled, even when their performance had left much to be desired. Parliament had therefore wished to be consulted, as it had to exercise oversight over the performance. The proposed clause 5(3) related to the issue of consultation by the Minister with the National Assembly before appointment of Board members. Two differing legal opinions had offered the term “in consultation” or “after consultation”, which did not resolve the issue. A definite separation of powers was required. The Committee wanted the amendment to read as proposed. He suggested that if Parliament was unable to come to a decision then the Constitutional Court should perhaps be approached.

The Members of the Committee then proceeded to discuss some of the clauses of the South African National Space Agency Bill, during which certain suggestions were made. A Member proposed that the appointment processes in both Bills should be similar. He proposed a new sub-clause (d), stating that the Minister should submit the short list of candidates suggested by the panel to the National Assembly.  Members decided that this requirement should be incorporated also into Clause 5 of this Bill.

The proposed clause 5 would then provide for the following process:
The Minister appoints members of the Board after:
(a) publishing a notice in the Gazette and two national newspapers circulating in the Republic, calling upon members of the public to nominate persons contemplated in subsection 2(a) and (b);  
(b) appointing a panel of experts to compile a shortlist of not more than twenty persons from the nominees referred to in paragraph (a);
(c) the Chairperson of the panel had submitted a short list of the candidates, together with their curriculum vitae, to the Minister, who must then submit it to the National Assembly for approval; and
(d) the National Assembly had submits to the Minister an approved short-list from which the Minister must finally make the appointments.

A Member suggested that it be specified in which languages these notices should be published.

The Chairperson said there had been similar provisions in other legislation, and this matter had never caused a problem before, although the point was taken. He asked whether the State Law Advisors were satisfied with the proposed insertion of the word “after: “ before the sub-clauses.

The State Law Advisor said that sub clause (d) was not clear as it did not include a reference either to the NCOP, or the generic “Parliament” but made reference only to the National Assembly.

Mr Oliphant said that this was correct; the matter had nothing to do with the provinces.

A Member said she was satisfied with the proposed sub-clause (d) as it gave the National Assembly a more effective function of consultation. Whilst the Minister finally appointed the Board, the National Assembly would have looked at the candidates, their CVs of the candidates and participated in drawing the short-list.

Mr Ainslie agreed that this level of consultation was necessary and suggested uniformity across the Bills in this respect

Ms Marjorie Pyoos,
Group Executive of the Department of Science and Technology, agreed with the elaboration of Section 5(3)(d).

A Member of the Department picked up a grammatical error which was discussed and corrected.

Ms Pyoos suggested the insertion of the words “for his/her consideration” at the end of Clause 5(3)(d).

The State Law Advisor suggested that members of the panel include members of the National Assembly.

A Member of the Department mentioned that after the Minister had looked at the possible short-list of twenty people he or she could choose up to nine candidates.

Ms Pyoos said the short-list had to consist of more than nine candidates.

Ms Mehlamakulu suggested a short-list of at least fifteen persons.

Ms Pyoos asked what would happen if some of the twenty were rejected.

Mr Oliphant proposed that the sub-clause 5(3) (d) should then read “(d) the National Assembly has submitted an approved short-list from which to select candidates.

Mr Oliphant called for the approval of the amendment to clause 5(3), as proposed by the various Members.

The Committee approved this amendment.

South African National Space Agency Bill (SANSA Bill): Deliberations
The Chairperson summarised that, in relation to the South African National Space Agency Bill, clause 14 had removed entirely and had been replaced by Clause 15. Clause 8 had been replaced by a completely new clause on the Disqualification and Removal of Board members. Issues around funding had not quite been resolved, due to the sensitive nature of the information. The Committee still awaited some feedback in this regard. The strategy had still not been approved by Cabinet, but since the Committee resolved to maintain its good relationship with the Department on the aspect of achieving results, the Committee would adopt the Bill at the meeting.

A State Law Advisor pointed out that the Space Affairs Act referred to in Clause 3 actually emanated from the Portfolio Committee on Trade and Industry.

Mr A Ainslie (ANC) asked that the policy be presented to the Committee once it was available.

The Chairperson suggested a change to Clause 7, specifying that the Minister could only appoint members of the Board “after:” publishing a notice in two newspapers and in the Government Gazette. This clause and Clause 5(3) of the HSRC Bill were discussed together.

It was finally decided, after approving the new clause 5(3) of the HSRC Bill, that the printed clause 7 of this bill would be deleted and replaced by a new clause 7, which would follow the same wording as that for the HSRC Bill, save that the short list of candidates to be compiled by the panel must consist of thirty members. Once again the new sub-clause (d) required the Minister to submit the short list to the National Assembly, who would then submit to the Minister an approved shortlist from whom the Minister must make the final selection. 

Ms Mehlamakulu referred to Clause 13, and suggested that the reference to Section 8 must be removed, as this would limit the appointment to South Africans only.

Mr Oliphant said the Committee could not remove the reference to the entire Section 8, which made reference to countless other criteria for removal from the Board, just to accommodate non-South African members.

The State Law Advisor said that the reference to Section 8 in Clause 13(2)(c) was actually a misprint and should read Section 10, as the latter referred to remuneration of members of Board.

Mr Oliphant suggested that the reference to any section at all be removed, as it did not add any meaning.

Ms Ngcobo said that the Committees of the Board did not consist only of members of the Board as many outside experts served on these committees.

The Committee proceeded to a clause by clause deliberation on the Bill.

Clause 1, relating to the definitions, was approved, with amendments to the definitions of “space mission applications”, “space mission operations” and a new definition for “satellite imagery”. Two technical clause references were also changed.

Clause 4 had substituted certain words: firstly “space science” was substituted for “astronomy, earth observation” in line 27, and secondly “and infrastructure development” was added after “outreach programmes” in line 30.

Clause 5 omitted the word “data” in line 39 and inserted “imagery”. Line 3 of page 4 omitted “and astronomy” and substituted “science.

Clause 7, as mentioned earlier, was rejected and replaced with a new clause 7.

Clause 8 had been rejected; and a new clause 8 was substituted.

The Committee approved Clauses 9 and 10 and 11 and 12.

Clause 13 was amended to delete the reference to “subject to section 8”.

Clause 14 was to be deleted entirely.

Technical changes for consistency were made in the Memorandum on the Objects of the Bill and the Long Title.

Members agreed to the motion of desirability.

Members also voted to adopt the Bill. It was noted that no opposition party members were in attendance.

Greville Wood Developments (GWD): Briefing on plans to address unemployment
Mr Wood of Greville Wood Developments, introduced his team, who among them had over fifty years of experience in development and manufacturing in the automotive industry, as well as manufacturing expertise in other fields. The team included representatives of the African Housewives League (AHL) who would facilitate the implementation of the plan to address unemployment in communities.

Mr Wood described their struggle with government institutions and departments over more than ten years, in finding support for their proposals. These proposals aimed to address joblessness and economic growth. He claimed that the reason South Africa was falling further and further behind other developing countries, while poverty, violence and crime were on the increase, was because government leadership did not have the engineering and technical understanding to drive a Reconstruction and Development Policy (RDP) similar to those which had proven highly transformative and successful in countries like India, China, Malaysia and Argentina.  Mr Wood quoted figures from the Centre for International Development (CID), which supported this contention. South Africa’s exports had only grown by 0.7% annually from 1960 to 2004, whilst Argentina’s had grown by 169%, Australia by 238%, Botswana by 1887%, and Malaysia by 4 392%. South Africa had six million jobs less than similarly developed countries in the Americas, Eastern Europe and East Asia. China had realised that technical experts were needed to recover the economy. This resulted in an increased demand for consumer goods while local governments began to direct savings into collectively owned manufacturing firms. Engineering drove this economic transformation, rather than policy.

The proposal put forward by GWD consisted of a feasibility study for factory-manufactured low cost houses, offering employment, skills transfer and houses. The project aimed to deliver 1 670 houses per annum per factory. The project could potentially fast track development engineers into national projects, ensuring the upgrading of semi-literate, low-skilled township and rural communities to first world competencies. The plan could potentially grow the national manufacturing industry through the development of production tooling, operating processes and skills training, as well as empower communities through ownership. The factory concept could be replicated.

The proposed prefabricated house measured 55square metres, and consisted of cement insulated walls and an insulated ceiling. It comprised two bedrooms, bathroom, lounge, bathroom and kitchen. It would have all trimmings and facilities needed to make it liveable, and would be transported in sections and then assembled on site. The houses would comply with SABS 0400 standards. Alternative designs were available. The product held various advantages over the conventional constructed house.

It was proposed that a development facility be implemented to validate and refine the production process, and then to transition into a fully productive housing factory. Thereafter, community-operated factories could be operated in multiple locations for the mass production of complete houses, to be funded by Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) and National Empowerment Fund (NEF) loans. An employment benefit structure that contributed towards factory ownership was also planned. In the context of the government currently being able to provide only 260 000 houses per annum, the projected backlog presented an opportunity for the delivery of cost efficient, quality houses at an accelerated pace. One factory could manufacture seven houses per day.

The industry was currently hampered by lack of primary skills. Traditional construction methods did not facilitate the learning of transferable skills and therefore could not lay the foundation for a sustainable economic community. One of the many advantages offered by this method of manufacturing was the independence from unpredictable weather conditions.

The manufacturing facility would be able to comply with ISO 9000-Quality and ISO 14001- Environmental and OSHAS 18001- Health and Safety. A manufactured house could currently sell at R39 500. An initial investment of R29 million was required for development and production. Profitability, sensitivities and risks were discussed, as well as opportunities.

Mr Wood stressed that the plan could provide the momentum to encourage on-going development of new manufactured products for domestic and export markets, with much needed jobs, income, lower housing costs and a sense of ownership. To succeed, however, there was a need for recognition that a manufacturing and engineering focused policy was imperative for addressing sustainable job creation, skills development, housing delivery and economic growth. The plan would require land with services to be made available, and funding.

Mr Oliphant asked what relationship the team had with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and asked what GWD expected them to provide. He wanted to know whether there were houses ready to view.

Mr Wood said that originally the plan had been endorsed by the CSIR in 1985, when they had actually been involved in the first manufacturing of the house and had provided the SABS certificates. As soon as Ford and GM had left the endeavour, the CSIR had started sabotaging the project. A letter sent to the Chairman in 1996 had been ignored. In 2005 the CSIR had admitted finally that the Department of Housing did not have the technical skills needed to provide the housing necessary in the country. Various attempts to have the business plan reviewed had been refused.

Mr Oliphant suggested that the Department of Housing should be presented with the proposal.

Mr Wood said that funding had been a problem since 1994, when the then- Premier, Tokyo Sexwale, and his three advisors had told him that the government did not have the relevant policy to provide for funding of this plan. He said it was imperative to understand that this plan was not essentially about the manufacture of housing or a housing scheme. It was rather to do with the development of a manufacturing nation, using the vehicle of housing and classrooms. It had been found, for example, that China needed tractors and farming implements, which were then manufactured to develop the skills needed to take their economy further. The team at GWD had looked for such a common product in South Africa and it was found that houses and classrooms provided such a common catalyst.

Since 1995 there had been no policy to fund this project. The plan had found tremendous support with the CSIR in 1984 and the CSIR had been closely involved when the prototype had been developed. This was at a time when thin cement sheeting had been a foreign concept in South Africa and had come up against much resistance. However, it was commonly used the world over. Mr Wood said that the United States produced one million houses every year using timber framed and fibre cement cladding. Some could even have a brick veneer. These were not manufactured necessarily in factories but were assembled on site. The SABS had used the standards used in Canada and the United States for these structures.

Mr Wood said the only real obstacle to implementing the plan was finance. However, there was a resistance among business leadership to the concept, as big companies, especially construction and engineering companies, many of which were owned by mining houses, had hoped to secure more work from he government for housing. It would require R12 million to pilot the plan and a further R17 million to go into full production. It seemed, however, that the government did not have the mechanism to fund it.

Mr Oliphant mentioned the Innovation Fund and asked if this possibility had been considered.

Ms Pyoos said the government did not fund start ups.

Mr Oliphant said it was necessary to engage and direct GWD to the appropriate channels. It should be determined whether the project was technically feasible, and if it was found to be feasible, there was no reason to reject it, but efforts should be made to facilitate it.

Mr Ainslie mentioned that the prefabricated houses in Acacia Park were not very durable and questioned whether the houses being proposed would be durable in all weather conditions. He asked whether they were SABS approved.

Ms F Mahomed (ANC) said the Committee could only hear the plan. She could not understand how such a plan could not have found support after many years of canvassing, unless there were other reasons. She said that models from Canada and the United States could not simply be replicated in South Africa, as the conditions were different. This Committee did not have a mandate to approve funding. She could not envisage how it would be possible to engage low-skilled and semi-literate people in this project. Houses currently were costing R15 000 and therefore the proposed cost of R49 000 was considerably higher.

Ms B Ngcobo (ANC) agreed with the previous comments and also expressed concern about the housing in Acacia Park, where several houses had needed revamping as a result of collapsed foundations. She asked whether similar foundations would be used for the proposed houses. She suggested that the team manufacture a classroom and place it somewhere in the Eastern Cape as an example. She asked for elaboration on the comment that this plan could serve as a catalyst to manufacturing in many industries.
Mr Oliphant suggested that the GWD team have a look at the houses in Acacia Park to see if they were similar to the kind that it proposed to manufacture, so as to be able to make informed replies to members’ questions in this regard. He reiterated that it was the function of the Committee to assist in directing these kinds of proposals into the appropriate directions.

Mr C Morkel (PIM) asked for clarity on the conversion of skills to other related manufacturing skills.

A Member asked what consideration had been given to the houses in terms of being environmentally friendly and energy conserving.

Mr Wood said that the houses that GWD proposed to build were nothing like the houses in Acacia Park. Their houses were all SABS approved, and there would be a SABS inspector in every factory. The proposal had been rejected by Mr Alan Hirsch of the Department of Trade and Industry, who had been convinced that the Mineworkers Development Agencies knew more about manufacturing than companies such as Ford, Siemens and GWD. This plan could revolutionize economic growth and skills development. Mr Wood explained that labour skills transfer did not really take place in the construction industry since the skills obtained were not portable. There were about eight skills involved, such as mixing mortar and laying bricks. However, manufacturing skills, such as machine operation, assembling and welding, were extremely transferable. This was exactly what had been achieved in countries like India, Malaysia and China, where manufacturing skills had been developed.

Mr Wood suggested that the same standards that were applicable to current houses should pertain to their proposed houses. He stressed that these houses would fulfil all existing requirements and quality standards.

A Member asked whether any provision was being made to install solar water heaters.

Mr MacGeoghegan, GWD, said the houses fulfilled ISO 9000-standards for Quality and ISO 14001standards for environmental requirements. He said that low-skilled people were not necessarily unsuitable for such work, as his own experience had clearly shown. He had taken people who were assessed and were found to be functional at Standard One. They were trained into being able to provide world class products at zero defect standards through learnerships.

A representative of the Housewives League said that the plan would train low-skilled and semi-skilled workers to attain skills that would empower them and enable them to become proficient in skills like furniture manufacturing and piping. The proposal could only benefit their communities.

Another representative of the Housewives League added that the Plan would ensure black economic empowerment, and that it would develop townships and rural communities through a social labour plan, which would ensure that skills were sourced from surrounding communities, especially among women and youth.

Mr Oliphant said he was in no doubt about this. He thanked the team for briefing the Committee.

Other Committee Business
The Chairperson noted that the Committee was expected to consider the report on the Joint Initiative on Priority Skills Acquisition (Jipsa) in South Africa, although the Portfolio Committee on Labour would be presenting the report. 

The meeting was adjourned.


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