Hansard: Appropriation Bill : Debate on Vote 34 - Science and Technology
House: National Assembly
Date of Meeting: 23 May 2011
No summary available.
EPC – COMMITTEE ROOM: E249
Tuesday, 24 May 2011 Take: 11
START OF DAY
TUESDAY, 24 MAY 2011
PROCEEDINGS OF EXTENDED PUBLIC COMMITTEE - COMMITTEE ROOM E249
The Chairperson took the Chair and requested members to observe a moment of silence for prayers or meditation.
Debate on Vote 34 - Science and Technology
HOUSE CHAIRPERSON (Mr C T FROLICK): Just a reminder to hon members who are participating in the debate that we have a podium in the venue, and we invite all the speakers to make use of the podium in front of us.
The MINISTER OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY: Hon Chairperson, Ministers, colleagues, Deputy Minister Hanekom, Deputy Ministers, hon members, guests and family in the gallery, it is most unusual to speak from a podium in E249; it is the first time since 1994.
Our debate today will report on the progress we are making with our key strategic priorities to signal new directions, and hopefully persuade Parliament and South Africa that science and technology sectors hold great promise for our development ambitions, and need to be given far more attention and support than they currently receive.
We also intend to outline the competence and indeed excellence that exists in our sector, and to argue that we should devote increased resource and policy support to strengthening excellence. This is particularly in disciplines and sectors that have the potential to make a contribution in improving our development status, expanding economic growth, and changing the quality of life of individuals and communities.
The funding of Science and Technology must be improved if we are to realise our ambitious national goal of building a knowledge-based economy. One of the areas that must be addressed is increased support for postgraduate study and senior researchers, plus a much more stable funding model for all our research performing institutions.
Our department was allocated R4, 1 billion in the adjusted estimates of 2010-11 and we have spent 98% of our budget. [Applause.] Our biggest hurdle is vacancies due to lack of appropriate skills. We will give this challenge more attention this year. In this financial year our allocation is R4, 4 billion. We anticipate modest growth in the outer years of this Medium-Term Expenditure Framework, MTEF, to address human resource development and infrastructure renewal in our science councils.
In this financial year, the following are some of the allocations we intend to make: Over R200 million will be spent on expanding access to the South African National Research Network, Sanren, in order to ensure that all universities in South Africa are connected by December 2011; 62 new chairs will be established in the SA Research Chairs Initiative, with a total investment in research chairs of R914 million by 2013; an additional 25 postdoctoral fellowships, each worth R180 000 per annum for three years, will be established; R433 million will be allocated to the Technology Innovation Agency, Tia; R1, 089 billion to the National Research Foundation, NRF; R687 million to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, CSIR; R206 million to the Human Sciences Research Council, HSRC; R93 million to the South African National Space Agency, Sansa; R32 million to the Africa Institute of South Africa, Aisa; and R11 million to the Academy of Sciences of South Africa, Assa.
There are four key areas that will be thrust; that we will focus upon in the ensuing financial year, but that have also received attention in our past financial year; these are: Firstly, creating a strong and responsive institutional framework in supporting the creation of a vibrant national system of innovation; secondly, supporting fundamental research and development in all disciplines while also positively responding to new opportunities that enhance our competitiveness and innovation; thirdly, developing our human resources in order to have the skills needed to work in a growing knowledge economy and utilising these skills and research, development and innovation to contribute to economic growth and socioeconomic change; and fourthly, using our geographic advantage and international partnerships in building on our local strengths while maximising African and global collaboration.
With respect to the first institution building, we intend to create an institutional and policy framework that advances and sustains a co-ordinated and responsive national system of innovation. The Tia is our key agency in this regard. I am pleased to report that Tia is now fully operational and has begun to add value to several important investment opportunities. At present, over 26 investments have been identified, and 11 have a strong likelihood of enhancing job creation and socioeconomic development. Eleven others have proceeded beyond proof of concept stage, and four are ready for commercialisation. Over R400 million will be committed to this successful and promising investment portfolio. I believe that, as a department, we must strive much harder to secure a larger investment in the Tia for 2012. It is inadequate to have the allocation we have to do the immense amount of work that must be done.
I would like to thank the board, the chairperson, Dr Ramphele, for the hard work, and Dr Duma and his Tia team, for the steps they have taken to enhance innovation success.
We have also established the interim structure of the National Intellectual Property Management Office, Nipmo, in the department. Fifteen million rand will be allocated to Nipmo this year. So, hon Shinn you don't need to ask me anymore questions about this. It is merely a friendly reminder, the hon Shinn always reminds me of what must be done and I have regard for that.
We have used this interim route in order to allow the office to begin its operations with the full support of the department's infrastructure. Nimpo works, as it must, very closely with Tia as they work in areas that are complementary. Nipmo has provided funding to support the establishment of the Eastern Cape Regional Office of Technology Transfer and the KwaZulu-Natal Regional Office. Furthermore, Nipmo supports staffing costs of offices of technology transfer at the University of Johannesburg, the Agricultural Research Council, Wits University, and the University of Cape Town. It also provides support to institutions in terms of a 50% rebate on costs incurred through patenting processes.
In this financial year, we intend to work closely with our rural-based institutions, to assess the forms of support we should provide to them through our regional offices of technology transfer. It would be in order to strengthen their technology development and innovation potential.
We have also provided skills development training in Intellectual Property Management for a range of staff. We have had two summer schools in South Africa, with support from the World Intellectual Property Organisation, Wipo. Further support from Wipo, Oxford University's Isis Innovation and Waikato University of New Zealand; have enhanced the training on intellectual property that we are supporting. All of these institutes have a credible record in intellectual property management, and we intend to use these partnerships to incrementally grow our success in the production of viable intellectual property.
I have been very pleased at recent research reports from our universities and science councils. All of them point to robust and growing research activity in a wide range of disciplines. We are committed to ensuring that we build on this wealth of intellectual activity, and intend to support our institutions and researchers much more vigorously. Our allocation of R1, 89 billion for 2011-12 to the National Research Foundation, NRF, is a positive investment in our researchers and national facilities.
Last year, we also launched the SA National Space Agency, Sansa. We congratulate the board on its appointment of Dr Malinga as the chief executive officer, CEO. Ninety three million rand has been allocated to Sansa in this financial year. The agency has been working hard to smooth the migration of all space-related entities. We have also directed Sansa to assist the Department of Science and Technology, DST, in ensuring the provision of support to Sunspace in our effort to convert it into a viable satellite manufacturing company.
We remain convinced that we have the technological capability to develop a medium-sized satellite industry. Our plans have not received support from Treasury this year but we will continue to argue for and work toward South Africa developing her own competence in satellite building. We look forward to SunSpace and Sansa producing plans for Sumbandila 2, based on the prototype Sumbandila Satellite.
We have also worked hard in expanding the number of institutions that support researchers, and our wide ranging human resource development programme. Hon members would be aware that our Centres of Excellence attract high level research and development skills, through providing substantial funding for equipment, postgraduate research opportunity, and places for focused research development and innovation. In 2010-11 we allocated R47 million to the then seven Centres of Excellence. We have established an eighth Centre of Excellence that began in 2010 with the establishment of the Applied Centre for Climate and Earth Systems Science, ACCESS. In 2011-12, we will allocate R50 million to the Centres of Excellence.
A recent score card report of the NRF indicated that South Africa's investment in the seven centres has proven to be a very worthwhile intervention. The seven centres currently host 476 masters and doctoral candidates and have produced a significant number of publications.
We intend to explore the creation of additional centres in this financial year, in order to ensure that we establish a sustainable platform for attracting and retaining scarce skills in South Africa. We also welcome and support efforts by scientists and universities to establish centres of research excellence. This year, modest DST support will be provided to a range of university-based research centres. We will also continue to provide support to our excellent African Institute for Mathematical Studies, AIMS, which is doing brilliant work in mathematics post graduate study.
We are pleased to have in the gallery some of South Africa's esteemed researchers. We have Prof Suprakas Sinha-Ray of the CSIR, who has been rated 50th by Thompson Reuters, in a list of the top 100 chemists in the world. I wonder if he would stand up so that members would know who he is. [Applause.] This list celebrates the International Year of Chemistry and recognises excellence among chemists who publish widely, and achieve high impact through their work. I am not sure whether Prof Quarraisha Abdool Karrim and Prof Salim Abdool Karrim here? They were supposed to be here as they had promised but they are not here, and I would have been able to welcome them. They are probably busy doing what they should be doing; research. Both of them are at the School of Medicine at the University of Kwazulu Natal. [Applause.]
I am pleased that DST has played a part in supporting their groundbreaking Caprisa-led research into the Tenofovir microbicide gel. All members are familiar with the research, which aims to support women in protecting themselves from HIV infection. Their work has attracted worldwide acclaim, and we are pleased that we will provide an additional R51, 2 million over the next three years to support further research work. [Applause.] The team will happily consist of a broad consortium of universities across South Africa and the United States, our Medical Research Council, MRC, and health institutes.
This is the kind of excellence we wish to expand and encourage in South Africa. Our department is excited at the prospect of improved quality health support held out by tuberculosis-focused research at the CSIR Nanotechnology Centre. We are also supporting a consortium of researchers in the SA Malaria Initiative, and a range of other disciplines that are detailed in our annual reports and other studies that members can access.
We are fully alert to the fact that attention should also be given to the character and condition of existing science and technology infrastructure. This is why I established a Ministerial Committee on Science and Technology, last year, to advise us on the state of our science infrastructure. It also has to advise us on what should be done to ensure that South Africa strengthens, maintains and further develops the architecture devoted to research, development and innovation.
The Phase One: Desktop Analysis Report confirms the progress made in the past few years. It also signals from the committee, the urgent need to attend to ageing infrastructure, inadequate human capital interventions, and the provision of a more robust support to the co-ordination of a system that is fractured, and somewhat incoherent, and performing below par, due to these fault lines. I wish to thank the committee led by Prof Loyiso Nongxa for the work they have done up to this point. They have indicated and we agree that we need a government wide co-ordinating structure to support and direct research funding nationally.
The President has supported my proposal that there should be a national committee on science and technology innovation. It should include relevant ministers, and research and development stakeholders, to ensure sustained political commitment and oversight of national research and development resources. The department's executive is drafting the proposed terms of reference and composition of the committee.
We also believe that serious consideration should be given to locating the budgets of science councils within the science and technology budget. This is in order to ensure assured and improved resourcing of all our science councils. Sector departments would still have the right to direct policy, but we would ensure resourcing and full attention to research, technology development and innovation. So, it is not controlled, it is enhancing research and development that we want.
The second key area we want to pay attention to is that of skills needed for a vibrant and productive knowledge economy. We have begun to act on several areas that will strengthen our knowledge sectors. In 2010, over R100 million was provided via NRF for research equipment and emergency infrastructure for our national research facilities. In the next three years, we will invest a further R1, 426 billion in research equipment and infrastructure.
One of our most important objectives is to ensure that, by December this year, all public university campuses will have broadband connectivity to the SA National Research Network, Sanren. We have provided R74 million for this, in addition to the R55 million awarded in 2010. Minister Nzimande, my colleague, has added a welcome R28 million, while the Square Kilometre Array, SKA, Project has designated a further R60 million, thus creating a sum of R217 million for broadband connectivity in higher education. Hon members, you can applaud. [Applause.]
The department has also provided expanded support for human capital development programmes. In 2010-11, an additional R100 million was allocated to improve the value of postgraduate bursaries awarded by the NRF. These funds are intended to increase the number and equity profile of postgraduate students, support emerging researchers and academics with an emphasis on black and women researchers. It would also be to retain and maximise the role of established researchers in increasing research productivity and supervising the next generation of researchers.
Fourty two million rand was allocated to provide more honours bursaries; R11 million toward more postdoctoral fellowships and R10 million to support masters and doctoral students who were close to graduation but did not have complete funding. A further R11, 8 million has been allocated for improving the academic qualifications of university academics because these must be attended to. [Applause.]
In this financial year, we will continue to expand support directed at growing the pool of active and productive researchers who are able to contribute to our National System of Innovation, NSI. The Research Chairs initiative is an important part of our human capital interventions. We will establish 62 more research chairs this year to add to the current 92. The call for chairs will focus on six focus areas: Technology missions; priority research areas; science and technology for poverty alleviation; and engineering and applied technology. We will have an open category focused on fundamental disciplines. We thus intend to have 154 research Chairs by 2014.
We welcome the presence today, of our invited SA Research Chairs Initiative, Sarchi, Chairs: Professors Phuti Ngoepe of the University of Limpopo; Murray Leibbrandt of the University of Cape Town, UCT; Marie Rybrandt of UCT; Sue Harrison of UCT; Francesco Petruccione of the University of KwaZulu-Natal; Rajend Mesthrie of UCT; and Soraya Seedat of the University of Stellenbosch. These are some of our renowned academics holding research chairs in South Africa. [Applause.]
More attention will be given to increasing the number of technologists and technicians in our country. We are considering a technology linked internship programme in which small and medium-sized technology firms will provide internships for young people. It will also work with our universities of technology to ensure that we address this aspect of training, which is currently neglected. Furthermore, increased attention will be given to skills-focused innovation cabins that provide technology entrepreneurs with all the resources they require to generate new ideas and products.
The third area is that of ensuring that we continue to provide support for fundamental research, while responding to new opportunities. We have had a great deal of success in building African and international research and development partnerships. One example of such success is BioFISA, our biotechnology partnership with the government of Finland. It is a national and regional collaboration implemented by the New Partnership for Africa's Development, NEPAD, Agency and the Southern African Network for Biosciences, SANB. It includes 12 Southern African Development Community, SADC, member states with a hub at the CSIR.
Bilateral research co-operation with India, Italy, France and Switzerland has seen funding to the value of R43 million provided, with over a 158 students participating in these international initiatives.
We have also had a great deal of success through our access to the framework programmes of the European Union, EU. This has been of great benefit to our researchers and their ability to develop international partnerships. Our modest investment of just R17 million in these programmes has resulted in partnership funding valued at over R250 million from our European partners. This is most exciting for the department. [Applause.]
Support for the EU sector budget support programme for poverty alleviation, through the use of technology, has added over R24 million to our programmes that are focused on using research and development to alter socioeconomic conditions. We believe that if a community lacks energy sources, we should not waste until Eskom can get its lines there. Let us use solar technology; let us use biomass and deliver energy faster to our people, rather than the slow pace we are taking at the moment. [Applause.]
If we had much more time we would be reporting on support for all the disciplines, particularly reporting on the excellent work led by HSRC and the Africa Institute of South Africa, Aisa, in the humanities and social sciences. These are neglected areas of science that we don't talk about sufficiently. We would report also on the initiatives you viewed today in nanotechnology, titanium powder development, bioprospecting in indigenous knowledge systems and on further progress in our advanced materials strategy.
However, how ever much I argued with Whips, I could not get an hour; hence I cannot report on all of these. But many of you saw the wide range of work being done by hundreds of eminent scientists and technologists in our country. We are fortunate to have such talent in South Africa.
This brings me then to the fourth focus area, which is that of making use of our geographic advantage and international partnerships to build on our local strengths while maximising African and global collaboration. Scientists I have referred to are joined in their hard work by the team working on the Square Kilometre Array, SKA, Project. Work on the SKA is proceeding very well. Our partner countries are fully committed to the SKA project and we are working to fulfill all the readiness report requirements of the global committee. I have been very encouraged by the strong support from all our partner countries, especially, Mozambique, Botswana, Ghana, Namibia and Zambia.
Astronomy has become a key area of research and development activity on the African continent. I am pleased to inform the House that I have received the final report of the Astronomy Desk from Prof Helberg. I am studying the recommendations and hope to brief the committee on them very soon. In the interim, I intend to retain the Astronomy Desk and to draw on its expertise.
I hope that the debate that will ensue today will outline the work we are doing in order to ensure that all the missions and sectors outlined in our policy instruments, receive support and contribute to our overall performance. Geographic advantage research areas such as, paleontology and astronomy, and technology missions such as, advanced manufacturing associated with our mineral wealth, the hydrogen economy, the bioeconomy, energy security and renewable sources of energy, space science and related industries, global change earth science and observation and climate effects and change, as well as human and social dynamics, all continue to influence the work that we are doing.
However, we have also recognised that the identification we did of five priority areas in our 10year innovation plan may have implied or caused a neglect of a range of disciplines that have the potential to contribute significantly to increasing our science competitiveness and our innovation performance. We have agreed that, as is practice in other emerging systems, we need to set ourselves a much longer policy horizon and develop the practice of periodic policy statements of the strategic focus of the department. This will allow us to move from broad ambitious targets to much more measurable and realistic policy goals.
We hope to use this year to prepare for this approach. We will also utilise the final report from the ministerial committee as the foundation for consolidating the current policy instruments into a coherent synthesis of policy and practice. It sets out our focus on infrastructure for science and technology, support for research and development, investment in human capital and the provision of modern infrastructure and an institutional architecture that supports research and expands innovation and business formation. We believe these areas should be the basis of a performance-oriented national system of innovation.
As you have seen, we have made advances in all the disciplines and missions we have spoken of today. We have begun to build on our solid foundation of excellence and to invest in our strengths in order to significantly increase our research and innovation outputs. These would be used to improve our socioeconomic profile.
In closing, I really will like to thank all the guests from our science councils and our universities, who have joined us today. I am truly grateful, all of you, for your presence. [Applause.]
I also wish to thank my wonderful Deputy, Deputy Minister Hanekom, for his hard work, friendship and leadership, and the support that he provides to all of us. I wish to thank our director-general, Dr Phillim Jwarha, our deputy directors general and the entire team of the department for the work that they do. My all suffering ministerial officials of the Minister's office, thank you very much for your support. All the chairs of our board and board members who give of their time unselfishly to South Africa, we thank each and every one of you. We thank the hon members of the portfolio committee led by Dr Ngcobo, who provide us with support, vigilance and of course with no slacking because we are assured that we will always be watched. I must do something that I always forget, of thanking my wonderful family, I wish my daughter well in completing her PhD in the next few months. Thank you very much.[Applause.]
Mr E N N NGCOBO / ARM / END OF TAKE
The MINISTER OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY (Ms G N M Pandor)
Mr E N N NGCOBO: Hon House Chair, it becomes very difficult to say anything articulately when the Minister of Science and Technology has already said it mouthfully. Otherwise, hon Chairperson, hon Minister Comrade Naledi Pandor, hon Deputy Minister of Science and Technology, Comrade Derek Hanekom, hon Ministers and Deputy Ministers present here, hon members and guests of Parliament, your Excellency Director-General and his delegation, heads of science councils also present here, sons of the soil and flowers of the nation, people of integrity. [Laugher] [Applause]
On 13 April 2011 the Portfolio Committee on Science and Technology was briefed by the Department of Science and Technology Director General, Dr Phil Mjwara. The presentation included a focus on the Department's strategic and principle goals that is, building a National System of Innovation, NSI, with a further focus on key priorities and recent outputs; current strategic challenges; monitoring and evaluation; gross expenditure on research and development and the financial resources of the Department.
The Department's Corporate Strategy is mainly guided by the White Paper on Science and Technology, the Ten Year Innovation Plan, National Research and Development Strategy and by the ANC's Government Medium-Term Strategic Priorities.
The Director-General told the Portfolio Committee that the Department's main aim is to develop innovation capacity to further contribute to socio-economic development of our country. That the current review of the National System of Innovation is aimed at enhancing the country's innovation capacity and to build a world-class Science Technology Innovation infrastructure, so as to extent the frontiers of knowledge, train the next generation of researchers and enable technology development and transfer.
That such infrastructural development would position South Africa as a strategic international research development and innovation partner able to exchange knowledge capacity and resources with its regional as well as international partners.
Innovation by definition is creative destruction of old order with minimisation of costs and redeployment of resources. I have to describe it because I have had an appeal recently that the Science and Technology must be brought down to the level of the people. That is why I taught it is important so that we know what some of these terminologies of science and technology exactly mean.
In a nutshell, it is renewal and renewal often thrives through creation and destruction forces. The principle translation of this definition is that unless the organisation is prepared to renew its products or services on a continual basis, its survival is slim if not nil.
The alternative description of innovation is that it is a product of diversity of input ideas found at the intersection or juncture of such diversity and generates wealth as its output. On the contrary, invention is the creation of the new idea for a product process or service which may include a new combination of pre-existing knowledge and the demonstration of its feasibility.
Hence from this, whereas inventions create new knowledge, innovations create wealth which may be summarised mathematically probably in the following model: innovation = invention + market exploitation.
The National System of Innovation on the other hand, is ideally a set of functioning institutions, organisation and policies which interact constructively in the pursuit of the common set of social and economic goals and objectives.
For effective co-ordination of activities of these components, government is central. This is the reason why the Department of Science and Technology, DST, is driving a Ten-Year Innovation Plan for the renewal of our economy. In its mission of realising its Ten Year Innovation Plan vision in 2018, the Department is supported and strengthened by its entities such as the National Research Fund, NRF. At about the same time when the Ten Year Innovation Plan was born in 2008, the NRF as an engine of skills development in the National System of Innovation also adopted the so-called Vision 2015.
Under this vision, the NRF aims to focus on, amongst other activities, firstly, the Human Capital Development, HCD, by providing financial support to the first generation of post graduates from poor and working class families. As well as to support black women researchers in order to develop the next generation of academics and researchers who were otherwise historically disadvantaged by apartheid policies of grotesque evil the world has ever experienced.
Secondly, to focus on strategic research infrastructure and provision equipment, thirdly, support for the international competitive research as a basis for a knowledge economy. It is clear from the conceptual background of these two great visions of the Department of Science and Technology and NRF that we can formulate another mathematical working model which says: vision Ten Year Innovation Plan + Vision 2015 = Knowledge Economy South Africa.
Since the adoption of Vision 2015 in 2008 by the NRF, there have been various policy developments that have impacted on the science system. For our interests with regard to the National System of Innovation and the innovation capacity building, we choose to focus on IPAP2 or Industrial Policy Action Plan 2, in that it emphases the maintenance of our country's technological edge in knowledge-intensive sectors of our economy in collaboration with DST strategies.
The central thrust of trade and industrial policy has to be the pursuit of employment creating international competitiveness. Central to the latter is the development and application of science and technology with the National System of Innovation and consequently the success of the growth and development strategy of the ANC-led government, in particular, the recently adopted New Growth Path.
Even our President, Comrade Jacob Zuma in his address said that the Boao Asia Forum, meeting in China on 15 April 2011, highlighted the importance of the newly adopted Growth Path as a focal point for job creation. In realising this dream for our country, innovation is as important to us as oxygen is for people of this world.
Many companies and institutions fail to create the future not because they fail to predict it, but because they fail to imagine their place and role in it. This remains one complex space in any endeavour to innovate and we must only wish the Department of Science and Technology good luck in this great endeavour and challenge.
The recent outputs and achievements of the Department, the Minister has highlighted a number of them, I will just list a few here to show much our Department has really put its endeavours on changing the way we live.
One of the achievements is the establishment of the Technology Innovation Agency, TIA. As the Minister said, the Intellectual Property Rights from the Publicly Finance Research Act, IPR Act, and protection of scientific research results through the National Intellectual Property Management Office, NIPMO, is in the process of being established.
Centres of Competence, Research Development and Innovation to support sector competitiveness and dynamism; Provisional innovation systems; Hosting of World Science Forum in 2015, actually Minister the World Science Forum is one of the top forums in the world, you do not apply to go there, they identify you and the Minister has been identified to go and address the [Applause] 2015 Forum, and of course indeed myself I also have also been identified to attend. [Laughter]
We have also been honoured by being appointed to host the Astronomy Development Office here in South Africa. We have also hosted the International Academy of Science here in South Africa very recently.
Coming back to the analysis of Budget Vote 34, our President Comrade Zuma in his State of the Nation of 2011, highlighted that in order to enhance our innovation in science and technology, we are bidding to host the Square Kilometre Array, SKA, radio telescope.
It is noted that the bid has created thus far 800 job opportunities in Northern Cape and is expected to create 100 more jobs this year. However, both the 2011 SONA and the Budget Speech have not much reflected as to what role the Department should play in contributing to the gal of job creation.
The Department had a projected number of internships to be awarded which were 348 while at the end it only achieved about 121 only. The Department had projected 2800 household for benefiting from technology based interventions per year but only 420 households benefited at the end of the first six months.
It is clear therefore that the department needs to try and probably adjust some of its initial targets if they are not achievable because the Department is the darling of both the treasury and the Auditor-General's office.
In recent days when we invited them they told us that the Department of Science and Technology is a good model for good governance in this country and in particular, they said that the CSIR is looking at going to be the representative entity to meet the 2014 Millennium Development Goals. I think that the Department needs to be congratulated for that. [Applause]
Otherwise, all in all, the Department has performed marvellously well as to make our Portfolio Committee on Science and Technology proud and respected. Our Portfolio Committee therefore proudly supports the Budget Vote 34.
I Also on this juncture wish to thank all the members of my committee, the Minister and the Deputy Minister's support, they are frequent members of my study group, that is why most of what I said is almost linking up with what the Minister has said [Laughter] there is no way that you can quarrel because we planed together [Applause].
At the end I will also like to thank all our members who have been a source of support during this very difficult period. Thank you very much. [Applause]
Ms M R SHINN / JN / END OF TAKE
Ms M R SHINN: Chairperson, South African science is pawing at the starting line, desperate to be unleashed so it can transform this country into an internationally acknowledged powerhouse of innovation that combines the best disciplines of traditional scientific practise with our wealth of traditional knowledge.
No country in Africa is better positioned to exploit these two worlds to advantage than South Africa; but we're stuck in the mud. We tinker at the edges of what's in place because we don't trust ourselves to be bold. When the DA governs South Africa, here's what we will do to get our feet of the mud. We will fix education, and very fast - with vision and energy.
My colleagues in the Basic and Higher Education portfolios have addressed many of these issues. Science and technology would leverage the nation's information and communications expertise infrastructure to support the development of science and maths matriculants to international standards.
There will be no dumbing down of the science and maths curricula. A science pass on a matric certificate is only that. What matters in the real world of scientific endeavour is knowledgeable people with agile and questioning minds. Our public school system is producing far too few of these. Science and technology's contribution to getting education out of the mud would be to use the expertise of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research's Meraka Institute to deliver computer-based curriculum content and teacher support through its South African Research Network.
This network is being rolled out to universities and research facilities throughout the country and must serve as the nervous system for the delivery to schools of the many innovative private and government development education initiatives.
The DA in power would establish focused science and maths schools at the rural universities and research facilities that are on the nodes of the network. We'd incentivise university students and lecturers to participate in teaching maths and science at these schools. We would also radically revise visa requirements to make it easier for foreigners with specialised skills to fill the gaps in our high-tech landscape and share their knowledge and expertise with our young learners, researchers and technologists. We would also promote a working environment that would encourage many of our graduates to return home.
We must aggressively develop initiatives that attract to South Africa the world's best scientific skills in what has become a highly competitive global talent grab. By encouraging these people to work in South Africa there will be little compulsion to send our graduates overseas to gain top-class research experience. The SA Research Chairs initiative was implemented to attain and retain excellent research leaders, but it's failing to attract incumbents. I was hoping the Minister would announce bold initiatives to address our failure to fill the chairs we already have, but instead she extended the target and allocated more money. These aren't the problems. Making South Africa an attractive research environment is, and there is no hint of a solution from the Minister
The DA in government would properly fund, equip and maintain all science and technology research facilities across its entities to ensure that they meet international best standards. They are currently in a fairly shabby state. We are in danger of losing research opportunities and foreign currency because our lack of care shows. You can't do leading edge research in a laboratory that is roofed with discarded election posters and pumpkins.
If we doubled the science and technology budget – which the DA would aggressively work towards, we would ensure that all our research facilities were equipped with leading-edge instrumentation in our chosen fields of expertise. This would help secure research contracts from around the world and encourage top-class scientists to work here and share their skills with our fledgling researchers. This would help keep many of our young graduates working in South Africa rather being obliged to seek world-class experience offshore.
We would make sure that the Department of Science and Technology is not viewed as the Cinderella of government. It is a vital force in thrusting our expertise into its rightful place in the global knowledge-based economy. But the ANC government expects it to do this on a pittance. We get only 0,9% of the budget allocation made to all departments. This R4,4 billion is marginally up on last year's adjusted appropriation but it doesn't keep pace with inflation. We need more money.
It is tragic that the hon Minister Pandor is surrounded by colleagues who choose to pay little heed to the powerhouse for development that is at her disposal. Maybe the new national committee would help address this problem.
In his state of the nation address, the President made much of 2011 being a year of job creation. He singled out six priority areas to do this: Infrastructure development, agriculture, mining and benefication, manufacturing, and the green economy and tourism. But how we gather the knowledge that will inform growth in these focus areas was invisible.
The benefication of our nation's mineral wealth cannot happen without scientists. The green economy is just a fashionable phrase unless researchers can reliably inform us of what interventions can be effective in protecting our fragile earth.
In the President's 5000-word state of the nation speech, only 44 words were spent on science and technology. That was passing mention of the need for South Africa to win the bid to site the Square Kilometer Array. While it may be unfair to compare South Africa with the United States it is valid to note the level of government at which science and technology is being driven.
In the United States, the charge for increased spending on science and technology is being led by President Obama. He wants a 6% increase in funding because he understands that by building the United States economy and winning the future, can be done only by out-innovating, out-educating and out-building global competitors and creating the jobs and industries of tomorrow.
President Obama has set ambitious targets to boost the production of teachers of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. He has committed to doubling the funding for key basic research agencies, and to raising the total amount of spending by government and industry on research and development to 3% of the Gross Domestic Product, GDP.
South Africa has failed to reach its targets for research and development as a percentage of GDP. Initially, this was set to be 2% by 2018. We hoped to reach 1% by 2008, but are only at 0,92%. Human Science Research Council researchers, William Blankley and Irma Booysens stated that: "For South Africa to have achieved its 2008 target, the country should have spent an additional R1,8 billion on research and development. As that didn't happen, we stand little hope of reaching 2% by 2018.
The 0,92 % closely mirrors the 0,9% that the Treasury gives the Department of Science and Technology to dispense to its entities. Research and development is only getting what the government is prepared to put in. Government must ramp up its financial commitment to developing a knowledge-based economy that is globally competitive.
The tax rebate incentive scheme to encourage industrialists to invest in research and development floundered because it was designed by bureaucrats who failed to understand that in real world, time is money. Industrialists felt the cost of completing the forms outweighed any possible financial benefit. There have been amendments to the process and we are waiting to see whether business feels this scheme is worth the effort - fouryears after it was launched.
Government must urgently boost its investment in research and development by properly funding the science and research infrastructure that exists. Two entities that have taken a serious financial knock in this budget are those best positioned to feed job-creating technological innovation. These are the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research and the Technology Innovation Agency.
Under the Medium-Term Expenditure Framework set out in last year's budget, R687 million was earmarked for the Council of Scientific & Industrial Research, CSIR, for this financial year. Because economic times are tough, it has only been allocated about R631 million. The current government grant to the CSIR is barely adequate to maintain its facilities to international standards. Meeting these is critical if CSIR's research is to compete in an international marketplace and deliver top quality solutions for South Africa's developmental needs.
The Technology Innovation Agency, TIA, has had a baptism of fire. Its integration of seven biotechnology institutions into one was aggravated by the fact that the department initially failed to secure sufficient funding to support this exceptionally complex task. Last year, the Technology Innovation Agency stated that its required funding for the current financial year should be R652 million. All its getting is R433 million. It projected that it would need R705 million next year, but it's likely to get only R455 million. This is a total shortfall in funding of nearly half a billion rand over two years.
This sets up the Technology Innovation Agency for failure to deliver on its potential. Without sufficient government backing, it cannot seek matching finance from entrepreneurs keen to invest in the nation's ingenuity. The ANC-led government should not be allowed to get away with neglecting to adequately fund one of its major vehicles of enterprise and job creation.
The centres of excellence are a successful new initiative that has concentrated top researchers and turned out excellent graduates. It's a model that needs expansion. The Minister sings their praises but managed to give them only a 2% funding increase instead of the 4% they were promised. This is to no way to reward excellence.
Under a DA government centres of competence and centres of excellence would have fully funded secretariats, technical support and internationally comparative remuneration for their directors and core researchers. This would give them operational security from which to seek project funding from government and the private sector.
I'm pleased that hon Minister Pandor, contrary to her responses to my questions in 2009 and late last year, is keen to bring the research councils under the Department of Science and Technology's jurisdiction. We would support this.
South African scientists are committed to addressing the challenges of our fractured past. They want help drive the solutions, not only for South Africa, but for the rest of the developing world. They want to use their home base to collaborate with international colleagues and deliver world-class innovations. We must pay them enough to keep them here. We should lighten their load by giving them administrative and technical support and minimise the nuisance value of bureaucratic busy bodies. They need supportive government with a light touch to set them free to express their ingenuity to South Africa's advantage.
The DA will be that government. [Applause.]
Ms S K PLAATJIE / TM / END OF TAKE
Ms M R SHINN
Ms S K PLAATJIE: Chairperson and hon members, Cope would like to congratulate the Independent Electoral Commission, IEC, on the very successful local government election and also thank them for hours of work dedicated to this cause.
President Zuma declared 2011 as the year of job creation. This must be a focus of all government departments – no one is excluded – and Science and Technology must also play its part. We are all aware of vacancies that exist in the department for extended periods of time. Not much has changed, and the Minister has acknowledged this. How will the department be able to effectively deliver on its mandate when faced with such a shortage? The Minister needs to report on the current status of vacancies and indicate how the department will address the issue.
In the recent Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, OECD, Science and Technology Industry Outlook, published at the end of last year, the OECD highlighted some issues of concern in the South African science and technology environment. South Africa has experienced a decline in gross expenditure with regard to research and development finance from abroad. Industry finance gross expenditure on research and development also came down. The big concern, however, is that South Africa has less than one triadic patent per million of the population, well below the average. South Africa's indicator for human resource in science and technology is weak. We have one and a half researchers per 1 000 employed and a small percentage of 16% on science and engineering degrees in all new degrees. Much more needs to be done.
Although gross expenditure on research and development has shown some improvement, we have never seen a 1% gross domestic product, GDP, figure, a crying shame. The Minister needs to tell the House how she intends getting to 1,5%.
Chairperson, we need to realise that South Africa, as a country, is facing a tough challenge in developing science and technology. The shocking state of education in this country is proving to be a huge barrier to science and technology development. The engineering gap created as a result of lack of design, engineering, entrepreneurial and management actors and research and development capacity is a grave concern. Government needs to realise that human capital for science, engineering and technology are at a suboptimal level and that there is a need for a planning framework over the long term.
Chairperson, we need to realise that a global war on talent is raging. Foreign countries are poaching South African talent, and we have no answer. Bureaucracy, and red its tape, is hampering our efforts to encourage foreign talent to come to our shores. We need a simplified process in order to assist foreign academics and their families to settle in South Africa, while pursuing their field of study or research. Some countries have a science visa and, in the United States, PhD graduates have the option to extend their study visas for up to two years to allow them the opportunity to find employment. Most grab this opportunity, and they are lost to their countries of origin.
The South African system is struggling. We need to act and streamline the process of allowing foreign academics to come to our shores. Chairperson, many commentators have dubbed the Square Kilometre Array, SKA, satellite project the Olympic Games of science and technology. I do not think that South Africans understand the enormity of this project and what it can mean to South Africa and our partner states if awarded the SKA bid in 2012. The SKA central computer will have the processing power of about 1 billion personal computers. The SKA will use enough optical fibre to wrap twice around the earth. The dishes of the SKA will produce 10 times the global internet traffic and the aperture arrays more than 100 times that figure. The SKA will generate enough raw data to fill 15 million 64 gigabyte iPods every day. According to the South African SKA website, the SKA building costs will amount to €1,5 billion and cost €150 million per year to operate. The SKA will be built and funded by a consortium of 16 countries. Imagine the possibilities that will flow from such foreign investment for South Africa and its eight partner nations. We simply cannot afford this once in a lifetime opportunity to slip through our fingers. We have to do everything in our power to ensure that South Africa is elected as the main host.
Cope would like to voice its support for the Joule electric car being developed by optimal energy. Unfortunately, funding still remains a problem, and government needs to step up to the plate. We need to realise that multinational companies are in business to make money and, to date, both Chevrolet and Nissan have produced similar vehicles for the market. These are just two examples, as there are many more and many more will follow. We have the opportunity to be frontrunners in the race for a slice of the electric car market. Will bureaucracy and short sightedness be the downfall of yet another South African innovation?
The department needs to clean up its act. Estimations of National Expenditure 2011 figures are not aligned to the figure listed in the department's strategic plan. Why is this? The Minister must explain to the House why there is a discrepancy between the two documents related to the numbers of household benefitting from the technology-based inventions per year. The department also needs to provide details on why the set target on socioeconomic partnerships do not respond to the strategic target of 1 200 partnerships. I thank you. [Applause.]
Mr J H VAN DER MERWE
Ms S K PLAATJIE
Mong J H VAN DER MERWE: Mme Letona, dumela. O tsohile? Le nna ke tsohile hantle. O bua hantle, ka matla mme re a leboha. [Mahofi.] Jwale ke tshwanetse ho bua Senyesemane. [Ditsheho.]
For those uneducated members who do not understand Sesotho, I have just invited the Minister to join the IFP. [Laughter.] Chairperson, I am not a member of this committee, unfortunately. Mr Peter Smith is but, as I have announced this morning in another debate, Mr Smith is part of thousands of IFP workers in the streets canvassing for the next election. [Laughter.] As I said to Minister Oliphant, the good news is when the IFP governs the country in 3 years' time, we will retain you as a Minister. [Laughter.]
Chairperson, the Department of Science and Technology is one of those departments in government which appears not...
Mr M J ELLIS: May I ask the hon Koos van der Merwe a question?
Mr J H VAN DER MERWE: Yes, provided it's an easy question. [Laughter.]
Mr M J ELLIS: Chair, this is the second time today that Mr Van der Merwe has ensured the ANC Minister that the IFP will be retaining that Minister when the IFP is in Parliament in 2014. May I ask him whether he intends having any IFP members as Ministers? [Laughter.]
The TEMPORARY CHAIRPERSON (Prof L G B Ndabandaba): Hon Van der Merwe, are you able to answer the question?
Mr J H VAN DER MERWE: Yes, certainly. What I want to assure hon Ellis is that he will not be in our Cabinet. [Laughter.] Chairperson, let me start again. The Department of Science and Technology is one of those departments in government which appears not to court controversy. It does so by virtue of first succeeding in one area where most other departments fail, namely, generally sound management and regular clean audits. I think that deserves applause. [Applause.]
However, despite the glamour associated with many high profile projects, one should not lose sight of the fact that South Africa is still underachieving in key areas. I want to refer to the targets adopted by government. Indeed, the issue of targeting and what this entails is of deep concern to the IFP, because we are of the view that targets are seemingly being set without regard to the likelihood of them being met. The department may well be caught between a rock and a hard place in this regard. If the targets are too low, why bother, why the Budget? But if they are too high, why set oneself up for failure, why the fantasy that they are meaning anything?
A couple of key areas deserve particular attention. In respect of human capital development, which is in our view without doubt the single most important programme of the department, and especially if we have regard to the numbers of set Masters and PhDs – may I also congratulate your daughter, Madam Chairperson, on getting her PhD.
An HON MEMBER: Not yet!
Mr J H VAN DER MERWE: Not yet? It is the same with me; I am also getting mine in a few months. [Laughter.]
Despite this, the situation is little short of woeful. Likewise, the number of peer reviewed set papers, is a small fraction of the target. When we speak of the targeted number of patents, internships and the development of new technologies, we are way behind our stated goals. I think it important that we do not simplistically apportion blame for failings to the department, as if it is this department alone that is responsible for securing the outcomes reflected. Is my time over?
The TEMPORARY CHAIRPERSON (Prof L G B Ndabandaba): Hon Van der Merwe, you have one minute left.
Mr J H VAN DER MERWE: One minute left? I have three years left in this Parliament, not one minute. [Laughter.] Having expressed some reservations, I want to state, however, that we are generally impressed with the people in the department, and of course, with the Minister, with their passion, dedication, and love of what they do, and therefore we will support the Vote, and I say to the Minister...
Tsamaya hantle. Kgotso. [Mahofi.]
The DEPUTY MINISTER OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY/Mohau/Mia (Eng) / Sesotho: A N N (ed) / END OF TAKE
Mr J H VAN DER MERWE
THE DEPUTY MINISTER OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY: Hon Speaker, Minister Pandor, Ministers and Deputy Ministers present, hon members, it is good to see you all back in the House after the robust elections campaign. The Independent Electoral Commission, IEC, once again, did an excellent job in ensuring successful free and fair elections. To a large extent, technology made this possible. And indeed, we are convinced that science and technology can make us a winning nation in many ways.
As you have heard from the Minister's speech, there is a lot happening in our country in the area of science and technology. There are new inventions, successful clinical trials, groundbreaking and pioneering research, the design, manufacture and operation of a satellite, the bid for the most powerful radio telescope in the world and the list goes on and on. However, let me start with our youth as they are our future.
It is vital to attract South Africa's young people to science and technology studies and careers. Our collaboration with the Department of Education is very important in the achievement of this goal.
Through the Youth into Science programme, the Department of Science and Technology, DST, sponsored the participation of over 11 000 Dinaledi school learners in the National Science Olympiad last year. The plan is to increase this to 20 000 learners in 2012. Science centres also play a vital role in the implementation of the Youth into Science Strategy. Twenty-nine science centres are currently receiving support from the DST, and 90 schools in Mpumalanga, Limpopo and Gauteng stand to benefit from curriculum-basedscience experiments that will be provided through the mobile laboratories that were given to three science centres last year. Four more centres will receive mobile laboratories during this financial year.
The private sector plays an enormously important role in support of science centres. One fine example is ArcellorMittal, who has taken the lead in opening their third sponsored science centre in South Africa. BHP Billiton also deserves special mention for supporting a R4 million expansion to the Unizul Science Centre in Richards Bay. The completion of this project will result in the first science centre in this country that, in addition to an early childhood development programme, has dedicated 600 square metres to a children's museum.
We are creating real opportunities through our Youth into Science interventions. Joining us today is Matsobane Makgota from Limpopo, a University of Cape Town, UCT, student who benefited immensely from participating in the DST's Thuthuka Maths and Science Development Camps and Maths Olympiads. He matriculated with six distinctions and made it onto the Dean's merit list at the end of his first year. He is now doing his third year in civil engineering. Matsopane's is one of many success stories we should all celebrate. Matsopane, where are you? [Applause.]
All our efforts are geared towards a better future for our country. However, it is important for us to appreciate our past, the distant past and that we are studying through the outstanding work of our palaeontologists and archaeologists that represent the collective past of all of humanity.
We initiated a consultative process last year to formulate a strategy for archaeology and palaeontology. We want to instil a sense of pride in the special place that South Africa occupies in the story of life and humanity on earth. Our intention is to empower our museums to curate our extraordinary fossil collections, to create capacity in our universities to produce a critical mass of archaeologists and palaeontologists, and to drive knowledge production to make South Africa a world centre of scientific excellence in these disciplines. Our plan is to establish at least one centre of excellence, as well as a few research chairs in these fields, where we have a heritage, unrivalled by any other country in the world.
Climate change may be the biggest single challenge facing humanity today. This is not just the forecast of pessimistic scientists. It is real, it has started, and it will get worse, much worse. We have already witnessed devastating floods, heat waves and droughts in various parts of the world. We have to use science to prepare ourselves for what is likely to happen in our own country. We will use the opportunity of South Africa hosting COP 17in Durban later this year, to showcase some of the research, development and innovation activities we have initiated, in response to the threat of climate change.
Human and institutional capacity to assess the vulnerability and environmental risks of global environmental change is essential for proper planning at local government level. To develop this capacity, five university-based centres will be established over a period of three years, starting with the Universities of Limpopo, Fort Hare and Walter Sisulu. These universities will be fully supported by the DST to produce high quality honours, masters and PhD students that can support local municipalities.
Improving the scientific understanding of changes to our global environment is crucial to our country's responses to the impacts of climate change. The department has now finalised a 10-year Global Change Research Plan to guide our research efforts towards a better understanding of global environmental changes and to provide a scientific basis for our responses to climate change.
By far, the biggest contributor to climate change is the CO2 emissions from our current unsustainable energy sources, especially the burning of coal to generate electricity. South Africa has made the bold commitment to a 34% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. This can only be achieved through a radical shift towards the use of clean and renewable energy.
The department supports a number of renewable energy initiatives. We have established renewable energy research programmes focusing on biofuels, wind and solar energy. Specific capabilities being advanced include the development of second generation biofuels like algal biofuels, at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University. An amount of R24 million from the European Union's Sector Budget Support programme has been allocated to three energy initiatives. One of these is a University of Fort Hare-based project, piloting the use of solid municipal waste to generate biogas that will be used as a source of energy in food processing and preparation of meals for the school nutrition programme.
As you know, South Africa is rated the number one producer in the world of strategic minerals like platinum – a key material in autocatalysts, which are used for cleaner internal combustion engines, among other things. With 75% of the world's known platinum reserves, South Africa has become the focus of the world, with the intensification of research and development efforts towards a hydrogen economy.
Under the Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technologies Research, Development and Innovation strategy, there are currently three Hydrogen South Africa,Hysa, centres of competence, cohosted by the universities of the Western Cape, Cape Town and North West, in partnership with Mintek and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, CSIR.
The scope of the research and development work being undertaken by the centres comprises four key programmes. These are combined heat and power, portable power, hydrogen-powered vehicles and combined lithium-ion battery and supercapacitors.
In the area of lithium-ion batteries, Hysasystems have produced the first prototypes of cells with a capacity of up to 20 amps per hour as the energy storage devices in fuel cell-powered vehicles. In the short to medium term, these can be used for electric cars, scooters and bicycles. Last year the Minister launched the first hydrogen-powered bicycle, built by students from the Tshwane University of Technology. Hysa Systems developed the hydrogen storage technology for the bike. The ultimate goal of the Hysa programme is to supply 20% of the global fuel cell catalyst demand by 2020.
In our drive to apply knowledge and technology in the fight against poverty and unemployment, we have introduced pilot projects to determine the technical, environmental and financial feasibility of technology solutions in the cultivation of medicinal plants, fish, essential oils and new plant cultivars. Successful pilot projects will be converted into commercial ventures and serve as models to stimulate further expansion.
One such successful pilot is the onshore production of abalone. Working in partnership with the University of Stellenbosch and the community of Hondeklipbaai, the DST has demonstrated that abalone can be grown successfully on the West Coast. We are now working with other departments to explore the expansion of the pilot to a 120 ton per annum abalone farm, which will create over 120 jobs in the area.
Equally promising is an initiative on the cultivation of the plant Artimisia annua, commonly known as sweetworm wood. Its extract artemisinin has been demonstrated to be effective in the fight against malaria. A British variety which has been planted at various altitudes across the country seems to be adapting well to South African conditions. The trial plots will lead to the selection of a site that produces high levels of artemisinin, and will therefore offer viable enterprise development possibilities. This early work has already attracted the interest of the Industrial Development Corporation and pharmaceutical companies.
To increase the competitiveness of our economy, we will have to build on the strong science and technology capabilities that we have in a number of areas, with the potential to create more hi-tech industries. The department has a growing portfolio of research and development initiatives that are designed to support these industries. We are making good progress, including a few significant breakthroughs.
You may recall that researchers at the CSIR successfully developed a novel technology for producing titanium as a metal powder, which provides considerable cost and other advantages in the manufacture of components and parts, including components used in the manufacture of aircraft. A global race to produce titanium powder cost-competitively at industrial levels is currently under way.
Participants in the race will have to address technological and production challenges related to the production of titanium powder to scale, where the final product meets strict international standards. Without giving too much away to our competitors, we can report that the team at the CSIR is now able to produce titanium powder continuously at a rate of 1 kg per hour.
This is an impressive achievement at laboratory scale. The next step is to build a pilot plant capable of producing at 2 kg per hour, and to start including production challenges related to waste, energy, water and recycling. Dealing successfully with these challenges will determine the economic feasibility of commercialising this novel titanium technology.
To complement the titanium metal powder programme, the DST is supporting a partnership between the National Laser Centre and the aircraft manufacturer Aerosud. This has resulted in the successful development of a proof of concept for titanium-based aircraft components using laser-based technology. This proof of concept has met the strict requirements for use in the aerospace industry and enjoys a high level of confidence of Airbus.
The DST will continue supporting expansion of the capabilities at the National Laser Centre so that they are in a position to support technology development that enables South Africa to produce parts at a scale that is required in the manufacture of aircraft. These and other exciting initiatives will contribute greatly to the development of world-class, competitive industries across a range of industrial sectors in South Africa.
Our government has achieved a great deal in the area of water service delivery. However, millions of people in rural areas still have to walk long distances to fetch water, mostly from polluted streams. Providing universal access to safe drinking water, is a huge challenge, which requires innovative solutions.
The pilot project that we started over two years ago, jointly managed by the CSIR and Human Science Research Council, HSRC, was designed to ensure that people who live in remote rural areas, have access to safe drinking water. A holistic approach was followed, comprising social mobilisation, hygiene promotion activities, the provision of ceramic filters, the construction of communal water stations, and the institutional arrangements for operation and maintenance.
By the end of last year, we had distributed about 2 000 ceramic filters at the selected sites. Communal water stations with purification plants were constructed to produce three cubic metres of potable water per hour. The water is then pumped from a storage tank in the water station to a reservoir, from where it is piped to taps in the villages through gravity. The ripple effect of the project is improved health through hygiene promotion activities, improved skills through training, the creation of jobs in the villages through social mobilisation and construction activities, and exposure to different appropriate technologies.
The project will be launched next month at one of the sites in the Amathole District. We have started the process of expanding the project to rural districts in Mpumalanga and Limpopo.
It remains an enormous pleasure working with Minister Naledi Pandor, who, we are pleased to hear, will be in the next Cabinet formed by the IFP. [Applause.] I trust she will retain me as her Deputy Minister. Minister Naledi Pandor with her passion and drive is ensuring that we achieve the highest possible standards. The competent and hard working team at the DST, led by our extremely capable Director–General, Dr Mjwara, continues to make us proud.
And finally, we appreciate the support we get from members of all parties in the Portfolio Committee, under the leadership of the chairperson, hon Ngcobo. We are looking forward to the opportunity to share with you, in greater detail, some of the exciting initiatives that we have just touched on today. Thank you. [Applause.]
Mr M NONKONYANA / Src / END OF TAKE
The DEPUTY MINISTER OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
Mnu M NONKONYANA: Mgcini-sihlalo, Mphathiswa wesebe ohloniphekileyo, nabo bonke abaPhathiswa belizwe abakhoyo kule Ndlu noosekela babo, malungu ale Ndlu ahloniphekileyo, zindwendwe ezihloniphekileyo eziquka oongqondo-ngqondo namaciko obunzululwazi asebenza kunye neli sebe lethu, manene nani manenekazi, ndiyanibhotisa. Mandithabathe eli thuba, Mhlalingaphambili, ndibulele wena nombutho wesizwe i-ANC ngokuthi ninditefise ngeli thuba, nam ndibeke libe linye abemabini mathathu ekuxhaseni isindululo sombutho wesizwe i-ANC. Sindululo eso sithi imali eyabelwe eli sebe mayiphunyezwe yiPalamente ukuze umzabalazo wophuhliso kwilizwe lakowethu uqhubeke. Sakukhumbula ukuba eli lizwe laqalekiswa ngokubukulana kweentlanga ngeenjongo zokucinezela abantu abaninzi nabantu ababengabemi beziinzalelwane zalo. Ezentlutha zabekelwa bucala zibekelwa igcuntswana ngeli lixa abantu abaninzi bebulawa ngendlala bephila.
Amaqabane am sele ethe aphuhla kakhulu, ezathuza ngokwaneleyo ukuxhasa isindululo sokuphunyezwa kohlahlo-lwabiwo-mali lweli sebe. Xa ndidadela enzulwini nangelixhasayo, ndifuna sabelane ngoxanduva lwesebe malunga nokuzisa amandla angenabungozi nokolusa oko kusingqongileyo kungachanyelwa ziintsholongwane nezifo. Amakhumsha ayibeka ngolu hlobo:
The responsibility of the Department of Science and Technology on the delivery and supply of energy in support of continued growth and supply of power, as well as the reduction of South Africa's share of greenhouse gas emissions in line with Kyoto Protocol and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
The ANC, being the only progressive political party and the only political party given a mandate by the people of South Africa to govern our beloved country, realised this. [Applause.] At our 52nd national conference in Polokwane - whilst the DA was confused and stuck in the mud - among other things, we noted the following:
There is already evidence that climate change, which is leading to the warming of temperatures in the oceans, is affecting the flow and temperature gradient of the Benguela Current which has been responsible for the nourishment of various types of fish crucial to our fishing industry on the Atlantic Seaboard.
Changes in temperature are already beginning to affect the availability of traditional fish stock, such as certain types of pelagic fish and crayfish. The bulk of the world's greenhouse gas emissions are generated by the developed world. However, as the pace of development increases, developing countries, including China, India and South Africa, are contributing an increasing amount to the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
South Africa is responsible for about 1% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions. This is a relatively small proportion, but it means that we are the world's 14th largest producer of greenhouse gases. Along with India and China, we are seen as one of the largest developing countries' emitters.
The reason for this is our country's heavy reliance on coal, as the Deputy Minister correctly pointed out, as the main source of our energy. This places an obligation on South Africa, in terms of fulfilling our international responsibilities to demonstrate our seriousness and commitment to greenhouse gas reduction.
South Arica's economy is growing rapidly. It is likely to reach a 6% growth. In order to ensure continued growth, the supply of power will have to be doubled in the next 15 to 25 years. Coal-generated power will result in increased carbon dioxide emissions. A growing economy also means that, as people become more affluent, people transport will increase. We are already seeing an increased number of cars on our roads.
South Africa has huge untapped potential for renewable energy. A shift towards renewable energy will reduce our emissions and hold substantial sustainable development benefits, including development of sustainable livelihoods, as well as small businesses and job creation opportunities. Hence we resolved - whilst the DA is confused in the mud - that we need to recognise that climate change is a new threat on a global scale and poses an enormous burden upon South Africans and Africans as a whole. Because we are most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, the risks to the poor are the greatest.
We also need to recognise that the evidence of climate change is indisputable and that immediate action by all governments and the public as a whole is needed. We must also set a target for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions as part of our responsibility to protect the environment. Furthermore, there's a need to support the meeting of the target through the following: energy efficiency improvement in industry and households, as well as by setting vehicle fuel efficiency standards; diverting energy sources away from coal, including through nuclear energy and renewables, especially solar power; putting a price on the emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases; allocating significant additional resources for the research and development of innovative, clean and low carbon technologies, including by retrofitting existing technologies; further exploitation and development of carbon capture and storage methods; the introduction of tariff systems that promote the efficient use of electricity and the promotion of affordable public transport, the expansion of rail logistics and reversal of the apartheid spatial legacy.
The move to an energy efficient economy should take due regard to the imperative of creating jobs. Consideration should be given to the launch of a green jobs programme. We need to mobilise the public, business and other players to act responsibly and save energy, both as collectives and in their individual capacities, including through a mandatory national energy efficiency programme. Industrial and commercial buildings have particular potential for efficiency improvement. Government, as a huge consumer of electricity, has a special responsibility in this regard. Government buildings and installations must be given mandatory targets to become energy efficient.
Further, we need to integrate climate change consideration with sustainable development strategies - the science and technology agenda, integrated energy planning, transport policy and evolving industrial policy. In this context, to maximise the integration of a full cost accountant economy in which the life cycle of products is internalised and the goal of zero waste production is pursued, we must continue proactively building our capacity... [Interjections.]
Before I conclude, I just want to say that the department needs money to execute its mandate. We appreciate the work and accountability of the department. As the ANC we have no hesitation that this department will use this money for the projects set out by them. In this regard, we support and will continue to support, with pride, what the department is doing.
Xa ndikhwelela kweli qonga, njengokuba sele utshilo Mhlalingaphambili, ndiyathemba ukuba ndivakele xa ndisithi umbutho wesizwe uphala phambili ekuziseni iinkonzo njengokuba nabantu baseMzantsi Afrika benze njalo kolu nyulo. Sicela ke ukuba nabantu abarhuqa emva bazeke mzekweni ukuze bakwazi ukuba bakhokelwe ngulo mbutho unjongo ziphambili zikukuzisa inkonzo engcono kubantu bonke eMzantsi Afrika. Ndisatshaya. [Kwaqhwatywa.]
Mrs C DUDLEY /UNH / END OF TAKE
Mrs C DUDLEY: Thank you Chairperson, the ACDP acknowledges the important work being done by the Minister and her department and will support the Budget.
A key priority, we would suggest, stems from the fact that - as the Deputy Minister others have said - the world is in turmoil with climate change, the rapid depletion of fossil fuels and the deterioration of energy infrastructures.
The South African public is acutely aware of the looming threat of blackouts, the mismanagement of power and water delivery and the time spans required to rectify the situation. The public is also aware of the taxes that will be levied on produce with high carbon intensities and that because of our dependence on coal; jobs will be threatened if the status quo is maintained. The public is also aware of the high cost of wind and solar energy and their so far relatively small impact on overall power requirements. We are at the crossroads with the dismal future for our children if we do not have the courage to make definitive changes in the strategy to tackle these challenges.
This is where the department can play a critical role as emerging technologies exist that integrate power supply as well as waste and wastewater remediation in the context of local communities. These technologies will provide the power requirements of a community while remediating and recycling water, as well as, eliminating waste of the community at its point of generation; thereby eliminating the need to transport the waste at huge taxpayer expense. These technologies have been patented in South Africa by South Africans and their commercialisation will open new market spaces that will create massive employment opportunities for our people and opportunities for export of technical know-how to other countries.
South Africa could then have an opportunity to generate licence revenues that will substantially provide for the establishment of these facilities throughout Africa.
The ACDP appeals to you, hon Minister, to urgently investigate this unique opportunity for us as South Africans to take a leadership role in delivering leading edge solutions globally for service delivery. We can pioneer the transition from carbon based economy to hydrogen. I will forward the relevant information to you. Obviously, other departments such as Water, Energy and Health local government need to be spearheaded by somebody but it looks very exciting. Thank you.
Ms A Z NDLAZI
Mrs C DUDLEY
Ms A Z NDLAZI: Hon Speaker, the Minister and the Deputy Minister of Science and Technology, Chairperson of the committee: Science and Technology, hon members, distinguished guests and everyone present here today, I greet you all.
Today, the Department of Science and technology presents its Budget Vote to the House and the nation as a whole. My task today is to brief everyone present and those who show interest on the department's work, the projects that this department has undertaken to improve the health system and to bring innovative ideas that will assist in the fight of many diseases, pandemics and health issues faced by our people. Some of these projects include: the bilateral partnership between South Africa and India to develop an HIV vaccine; the South African HIV/AIDS research and innovation platform projects, SHARP; South Africa Tuberculosis Research and Innovation Initiative, SATRII, and the South African Malaria Initiative, SAMI.
The HIV vaccine is urgently needed to curb the AIDS pandemic. Most viral vaccine work by stimulating, neutralizing antibodies, however, designing an HIV vaccine able to induce such antibodies has proven to be exceedingly difficult. With the recent failure of the Merck CTL based vaccine and the modest efficacy shown with the RV 144 vaccine in Thailand, there is now renewed interest in designing a vaccine that is able to stimulate neutralising antibodies.
As a result, a joint South Africa-Indian committee on Science and Technology co-operation has been established and funded by DST and India to look at defining the HIV antigens required for inclusion in a safe and effective HIV vaccine. This is the first time that researchers from both countries are working together in a bilateral to contribute in vaccine development. The three areas where they will make meaningful contributions will be in: Identification of neutralising antibody epitopes on India and South Africa HIV-1 subtype viruses for HIV vaccine design; HIV vaccine immunogen design: comparative immunogenicity of novel Indian and South African HIV-1 subtype Env peptide and recombinant protein constructs.
The project aims to identify neutralising antibody epitopes that will be useful for HIV vaccine design and define antigens that are known to be associated with control of HIV replication for inclusion into HIV vaccine.
This project started three months ago and is already yielding positive results. In addition, the project contributes in building research capacity in both countries and establishes strong links between India and South Africa. This is to be done through exchange of knowledge, staff, students and sharing of data.
In 2010, the DST/NH- funded CAPRISA 004 clinical trial and showed that 1% Tenofovir Gel prevents 39% of new HIV infections in this population. Despite this unprecedented finding, understanding how we can further protect more women is an urgent priority. In 2009, SHARP began funding a basic science study led by doctors, Vivek Naramblai and William Carr, to understand what role the innate immune response may play in HIV acquisition in the CAPRISA 004 trial.
As part of the assessment of models for health services implementation above CAPRISA 009 is expected to assist in defining the optimal treatment pf women who become infected during Tenofovir Gel trials and also provide treatment and care to women who acquired HIV during CAPRISA Tenofovir Gel clinical trials.
CAPRISA realised in 2010 the results of the CAPRISA 004 phase II Clinical trial that demonstrated the microbicide, Tenofovir Gel was effective in preventing HIV infection in women. The results showed that Tenofovir gel was associated with a 39% lower risk of HIV acquisition overall, and 54% reduction among women who achieved the adherence. The results from the trial hold promise for women initiated and controlled HIV prevention option. DST has made a commitment to provide necessary financial support for clinical work necessary to confirm the safety and efficacy of 1% Tenofovir Gel preventing HIV infection.
The new platform H3-D centre at the University of Cape Town; that is a centre for skills transfer, knowledge sharing, technology transfer, human capacity development and providing tangible results in the form of products and services of the people of South Africa; has a lead malaria compound that will be ready for pre-clinical studies in the next six months. This process was fast-tracked as a result of partnerships that they have established with the medicines for malaria venture.
The above statement shows testimony to the Department of Science and Technology's commitment in advancing South Africa's health through developing ground breaking and innovative ideas.
The Budget Vote is supported by the ANC, I thank you.
Dr W G JAMES / LIM / END OF TAKE
Ms A Z NDLAZI
Dr W G JAMES: Chairperson, hon members, Minister and Deputy Minister. I would like to say that HIV and the production of the HIV vaccines is one of the complex science issues. The reason why is extremely complex and difficult problem to solve, is that the vaccine enhances weak natural immunity. There is no immunity whatsoever for HIV except in one or two exceptional circumstances. Therefore, a vaccine for HIV requires a science solution is not a technical solution but a science solution. A science solution has to both produce and trigger an immune response and also enhance it. What I have listened to now was an embarrassment in terms of talking about the science of HIV.
I wanted to start of by saying that Minister Naledi Pandor, delivers science and technology policy and she does it very well. [Applause.] Her Deputy is the very experienced Derek Hanekom, whose special interest in hominid origins makes him popular in the paleontological, archaeological and evolutionary genetics' communities. Come to think of it I think you should speak to President Zuma and share some understanding of the science of ancestral origins. [Laughter.]
In case you think I have come here to praise instead of to bury Ceasar, I come rather in praise in order to ask a question and it is this. Is the Department of Science and Technology supporting innovation that results in new applications to improve the delivery of water, sanitation and waste removal to alleviate poverty, improve housing to improve health and provide quality science education? This is the question and is a very serious one.
It's a question that the Minister should answer.
My impression colleagues are that not enough has been done in dealing with problems of poverty and disease in our country. Not enough is done in developing energy efficient housing designs using modern construction materials. Not enough is done in developing new technologies for water, provision, recycling, sanitation and waste removal. Not enough is done by far, colleagues if you can just listen, in the development, the manufacture and distribution of vaccines for better health, a topic on which I have five minutes to focus.
The department funds colleagues a spectrum of human and animal vaccines required by our burden of infectious disease, following a biotechnology and biomedicine strategy. In this Minister Pandor's responsibility is the nurturing of new ideas, innovative concepts and fresh vehicles to produce vaccines. I was going to note parenthetically, from a science point of view; understand that vaccines enhance weak natural immunity. HIV is a disease of immune deficiency, a concept that the former President Thabo Mbeki never understood. There is no immunity whatsoever, at least in most human beings.
Vaccine production is not Minister Pandor's primary responsibility, yet to her great credit, she has established public-private partnerships, a policy we as the DA supports. For example Biovac Institute which manufactures vaccines. Manufacturing should be done by the private sector and it has responded very well on this side though it must be said that research and development in finding new approaches to dealing with new strains of malaria and tuberculosis, TB, leaves a great deal to be desired,and perhaps because of low profit margins associated with that.
It is not the Minister's problem that the right modern vaccines are not getting to the right farmers in the right quantities. These are plant based and animal vaccines. It is the fault of the hon Tina Joemart-Petersen's Ministry, whose agricultural extension services are in a sorry state of disorganisation. It is not the fault of Minister Pandor, that the water that Deputy Minister, Derek Hanekom spoke about is not getting to the places all together. It is the responsibility of the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Minister Sicelo Shiceka that there are all kinds of barriers.
Minister Pandor's responsibilities are with our nation's science brains. She must support the rapid expansion of our academic science, graduate and post–doctoral communities and the construction of state of the art biological laboratories. She must spend much more money and I support most of my colleagues that this government must find more money to fund our science councils and improve their efficiencies. A mere R60 million colleagues, is spent on what is called the biologics focus area at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, CSIR, It is a pittance compared to the monumentally wasteful R10 billion spent on the Pebble Bed Modular Reactor, PBMR.
If I can just end by saying, three things about malaria, tuberculosis, and HIV. As you may know malaria is a parasitic disease, TB is a bacterial disease and HIV is a viral disease. Solving finding vaccines for those three diseases which is the burden of Africa and the South, is one of the most important things we can do. It would not be enough to have South African science community tackle the issue it has to be global effort. It is the global problem and it is not been addressed because the North is not willing to spend the money necessary on the burden of the disease for the South, that is the problem.
I would like to end by saying, to find the answers to that question Minister Pandor requires investment in global partnerships with the global science community because the answer to the question is not technical. It is the cracking of the science problem and not simply a technical problem. Therefore, I would say in commendation to the work that you do in your department, I would support that much more money be given to your department so that you can support our thriving science community in doing the things that they can do
best. Thank you very much. [Applause.]
Ms M L DUNJWA / AZM MNGUNI/ END OF TAKE
Dr W G JAMES
NkskM L DUNJWA: Mhlalingaphambili obekekileyo, uMphathiswa obekekileyo uPandor nesekela lakhe, aBaphathiswa namasekela akhoyo, amalungu ekomiti yenzululwazi nobuchwepheshe, iindwendwe ezibekekileyo ezikhoyo apha, aMalungu eNdlu yoWiso-mthetho abekekileyo, xa ndimi apha kuthi mandikhahlele ndithi: Yinkunzi abayikhuz' ukuhlaba ingekahlabi; amaqobokazana angalal' endleleni yazini kunyembelekile. [Uwelewele.] Yiyo loo nto simi apha namhlanje sizokuthi siyababulela kubantu boMzantsi Afrika ngokuthi kwakhona banike lo mbutho wesizwe uxanduxa lokuba utshintshe ubomi babo.
Let me begin by saying that as the ANC-led government we recognise the capacity of science and technology to transform the quality of human life. We also understand the scale of poverty in South Africa today and how high levels of unemployment undermines the government's policy which aim at greater equality, poverty reduction and development of disadvantaged communities particularly those in rural areas.
In the light of growing global poverty in developing countries like South Africa and other sub-Saharan nations, science and technology has no doubt in accelerating the social and economic potential of individuals, businesses and governments. The modern age inventions of science and technology have brought about solutions to a lot of human problems although it is not completely successful in ironing out the solutions to the global poverty.
It is evident that with the application of science and technology social and economic values have changed. There has been notable progress in how business is conducted by government and private sector today.
However, it is also evident that the advancement of science and technology in South Africa has not reached all citizens equally. As a result those who have been left out of the technology loop are gradually left far behind while those with the purchasing power steadily advance. This widens the gap between the two groups.
The Department of Science and Technology strives to invest and promote sustainable economic livelihood projects by providing funding. Among the various sustainable livelihood investment portfolios is the funding of applied and experimental aquaculture projects such as the sea cage finfish farming project in the Eastern Cape which aim at expanding the yellowtail pilot in Nelson Mandela Bay. Another project is the abalone hatcheries established to lead hatchery in Northern Cape, in Hondeklipbaai and in Western Cape.
In addition, there is the KwaZulu-Natal, KZN, aquaculture development project in Richards Bay which uses two cages and four cage growing system. This serves as a pilot in the production of dusky kob.
Furthermore, as the ANC-led government we remain committed in supporting development of new technology in agricultural sector. Just to step back, before we came here we went to see some innovations that were displayed. I couldn't believe what I saw within the context of rural development. I didn't know that you can make a scone out of a hot potato. There are tasty sweet potato chips. Precisely, you can see how best science and technology innovations can change the social conditions of our people. Unfortunately, I thought I was going to bring one.
Through the Department of Science and Technology, DST's demonstration agronomy mechanisms are in place to bridge the gap between harvesting from wild and agricultural cultivation. Funds were provided for South Africa to build the ability to develop novel and indigenous commodities or expand and sustain the products of species that have already been or partially commercialised.
This funding is targeted for use at the state owned land, experimental farms and at rural universities. Such an example is the current applied research project at the University of Fort Hare aiming at providing opportunities for young scientists, chemical analysts and natural product chemists to do research used in the treatment of bronchitis through establishing a nursery at ten hectare grow out field.
Poverty alleviation and rural development are among the key strategic priorities of the ANC-led government and they are very complex by nature as they concern people and the changing social, economic, cultural and political environment.
In applying science and technology to alleviate poverty and take forward rural development agenda, the ANC government has programmes to ensure the provisions of technology and necessary infrastructure and skills. That is why I find it very strange that today the ANC-led government has the ability to change programme in the Department of Education to ensure that young scientists are developed. It is precisely because of the legacy that the apartheid regime had. I was checking with my chairperson when was the bantu education started and in that bantu education it was to ensure that a black child does not study science and technology and today as the ANC-led government when there are programmes that we have put in place in ensuring that we develop young scientists.
Therefore, the provision of appropriate technology to suit the needs and resources of the area is pivotal in alleviating poverty. in other words, it is not of the much help to apply high and sophisticated technology that is not appropriate to the needs of the recipients because it could even intensify the problem of poverty.
I do think that when we really talk about science and technology it is important that we must understand that it is a department that cuts across all the programmes of the ANC-led government. In education, health, science and technology, rural development, safety and security because without those we would never then be able to achieve what we think and ensuring that we change the social conditions of our people.
In applying technical expertise to local communities such as in generating energy and power which are keys in poverty alleviation, we should apply technological advancements in the energy, communication and information technology sectors to provide power and energy to the poor particularly those in the rural areas where the provision of social services need to be accelerated. We are standing here without being ashamed and we are confident that where there are areas that we couldn't do better within the science and technology can then be able to ensure that we change the social conditions of our people. We know that people are complaining about the state of houses but in science and technology we know that we have got houses that technology can be used in ensuring that we build better houses.
Therefore, it is not going to assist anybody in this House irrespective of whatever political party we are coming from together we ensure that where science and technology when black people in particular were not provided an opportunity in that sector because it is that sector that is to change the their social conditions.
The provision of solar energy and biodiesel plants such as sunflower and soya beans saves as an alternative energy source from fossil fuels and is less expensive. This should add to the number of rural jobs and not reach all citizens equally. As a result those that have been left out of the technological loop are gradually left far behind with those with the... [Interjections.]
The HOUSE CHAIRPERSON (Mr C T Frolick): Hon member, you have one minute to conclude tour speech.
Ms M L DUNJWA: The critics of biofuel energy of commercial scale argue that this may threaten food security for replacing food production with fuel feedstock farming that demand more water. We therefore need to maintain a balance so that we apply real technologies that support local growth, employment and reinforce local economic progress and involvement of communities in the development of this programmes.
The incorporation of information and communication technology in poverty alleviation programmes and propoor policies become pivotal in the fight against poverty. As the ANC we will ensure enabling policy to facilitate the use of science and technology innovation in reducing poverty levels and developing our rural areas. We support the application of science and technology in all sectors as a way of facilitating the achievement of government's objective to move back the frontiers of poverty. And as the ANC we support the Budget Vote. [Applause].
THE MINISTER OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY /NN (Eng)/ GM (xh) /GC/ END OF TAKE
Ms M L DUNJWA
The MINISTER OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY: Chairperson, I thank all the hon members who have participated in this debate. I'm truly grateful for the support that all of you have indicated to the department. I can confirm that it is an extremely hardworking team which is very committed to advancing science and technology, working with a very capable group of South African and international scholars. Therefore we are very fortunate, and I believe we have a wonderful foundation for doing very, very well.
We are most enthused with the Deputy Minister and the support indicated for the department in so far as its budget is concerned. I would like to remind hon members that now they have some power over the budget, and I hope they will utilise it. But let me say no more than that.
With regard to the comments that have been made by hon members, let me thank the chairperson for an interesting formula: invention plus market equals innovation. I thought it would be something like: problem solved and solution equals innovation; but I'm not a scientist. But, I suppose, we will discuss that later. Thank you very much chairperson. Thank you for the support that you give to the department and to our work.
With respect to the questions posed by the hon Shinn, let me say that we have 89 of the 92 chairs filled; three are vacant. One vacancy arose due to the death of one of the chairholders. Of the 89 chairs that are filled, 18 are international, and five are chairholders from industry. So we do have international collaboration, and we do believe that it is an important intervention by the Department of Science and Technology to continue to expand it and utilise it for the developments we have seen since its inception.
Furthermore, I believe that all the chairholders – I have met several of them and have read their CVs – are top-class scientists. We are very fortunate that they have chosen to work in South Africa. I think where the hon Shinn is right is that we shouldn't have a modular approach to the intervention – the science chairs initiative.
We have agreed with department that you may very well find that they may be chairholders who might not want to come and live for five years in South Africa. They might very well want to come and spend a semester here and then go back to their home countries or institutions and return for a further period. We are going to introduce a more flexible approach to chair holding. But it is a wonderful intervention and is delivering the goods, and we believe that we are correct to expand it.
Let me also say that I don't think the Department of Science Technology is the Cinderella of government. I don't look like Cinderella ... [Laughter.] Definitely not. [Interjections.] But, I do agree ... [Interjections.] Yes, maybe I do turn into something terrible at midnight; I'm not sure. But, I do believe that we do need more budget; I would agree with you there.
Of course, just being a department of a very few short years, I think the progress we have made is really excellent. I don't think we are stuck in the mud at all. In fact, we are advancing significantly.
What has been a pain for me in preparing for this budget is how much I have had to leave out and how much I couldn't say because of the time dear Parliament grants to us. For example, I have made reference to the matter of water. This is a very important area of research that several of our science councils are focussed upon. We are very pleased that the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, CSIR, will launch the national freshwater ecosystem priority areas project in June of this year.
We are also very pleased that we have a centre that examines what we do with respect to producing new material to build much more secure and durable housing. We have also created a bio-composite centre of competence at the CSIR - a very ambitious project which focuses on job creation, agricultural development, the manufacturing sector department and the green economy. It falls well within the Industrial Policy Action Plan that hon members referred to in the debate. Therefore we are very excited that, in all the areas of concern, we, indeed, have responses and institutions attending to them.
I sincerely hope that one of the things members will do after today's debate is really to look much more into the research endeavours of all our universities and science councils. You will be astounded at the record that we find there.
Of course, I will not refer to the dream, which will never be realised, of the DA ruling. The ANC will rule for many decades to come. [Applause.]
It is not ... [Interjections.] It is not accurate to indicate that the tax incentive scheme has floundered. It has not floundered, but it is true that several – particularly small- and medium-size businesses – have indicated that it is far too beaurocratic and the administrative load is great. This is why we have been meeting with treasury to look a t how we can make the process far easier. Once we have concluded our deliberations, we will inform the committee as to what we are doing. However, many more companies are taking up the advantage of the tax incentive opportunity, and we are very excited about that.
I think it would be accurate to say that the investment allocated to the Technology Innovation Agency, TIA, is really as I said at the beginning. It's a new institution; we never saw this as the full budget of such an important institution. We have begun a process of looking at improved funding of the TIA. We agree with hon members that it does require far more funding than it has received up to this time.
In fact, I believe that all our science councils' funding needs to be looked at. I think the pressure of having to seek contracts, which all of them have to face, is detracting from the role that they can play in development and in addressing the challenges confronting South Africa. Therefore, as we discuss further budgetary outlays, we must look at how we improve the parliamentary grant to the science councils because it cannot stay at the level that it is at currently.
We have also addressed with Home Affairs the issue of ensuring that scientists who wish to come and work in South Africa do not find that they are burdened by a range of demands with respect to visas, etc. In fact, I observed Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma's debate on Home Affairs. She did indicate the steps we are taking with respect to easing access to permits for those who have critical skills and who come to work in our country. Therefore, we are certainly working to assist. Working with the CEO of the CSIR, we did manage to resolve some challenges that we had in that regard. I believe that the department continues to assist where necessary.
Compared to many other government departments, the vacancies are not of a level that should make us, really, hon Plaatjie, so horrified. It is around 8%, far lower than that we have in many of the departments. We would agree with you that, now that we produced a prototype of the Joule, those who invest in commercialisation, such as the Industrial Development Corporation, IDC, through the Department of Economic Development, need to take up the challenge. They need to produce an agreement on a plant and begin to produce that very lovely, the Joule. Therefore, certainly, we agree with you that the work the Department of Science and Technology did must be taken to its logical conclusion of an electric car produced in South Africa.
We do intend to work harder at ensuring that, through you and with your support, hon member, we increase research and development spending in South Africa. We, of course, have to ask how we will do this. We are building a case for such an improvement in funding of our national system of innovation. We believe that some of the key elements that must be attended to are recapitalising all science councils, increasing our investment in human resource development, strategically using public funding to leverage international and private sector funding, and improving incentives for the private sector and international partners. These are some of the areas that we will specify in the plan that we will put forward for improved contribution of GDP percentage to science and technology.
I believe that all members were addressing this matter of funding to the Department of Science and Technology. On the matters raised for renewable sources of energy, hon Nonkonyana, you would see that, indeed, Deputy Minister Hanekom referred to some of what is being done. I think looking at the work of the nanotechonology centre at the CSIR, as well as some of the work being done at Rhodes University; one would see the advances that are made.
I would agree with the hon Dudley that, certainly, we must have a conversation on hydrogen opportunities - I'm open to lunch some time – because I think it is an important growth area, given our mineral wealth in platinum and other resources. Therefore, certainly, we will welcome any recommendations you would have.
Hon Ndlazi, you are absolutely correct. Research into and how we resolve our massive health burden is absolutely important. It is something that South Africa must attend to with vigour. I have seen through our health innovation funding that we are devoting a large amount of our resources to supporting investigations and innovative developments in health research and ensuring that we do begin to address the massive health burden that we face both in South Africa and in Africa. We will do so attending to all the correct scientific issues that the hon James referred to. I think our scientists are fully alert to all the main issues that pertain to use and production vaccine.
I am keen to take forward the discussions we have been having with the government of the Western Cape about establishing a biotechnology park in the Western Cape province, building on the success we have achieved through Biovac. We are now at a point where we are going to commission the feasibility study so that we are able to carry out the full process related human and animal vaccine production in South Africa, and stop relying on exports for things that our scientists can do. [Applause.]
Let me say to the hon Dunjwa that, certainly, we congratulate the ANC on its six out of 10 win in the local government elections. It would seem no one realises that it actually won when one reads some of what we see. However, it won very well.
We also agree with you that poverty alleviation is absolutely imperative. The sweet potato crisps were indeed delicious. I avoided the biscuits because I don't wish to grow bigger. But what was exciting was to learn of the work that is being done by communities, both in growing the sweet potato and its varieties, and then developing products that are to market for income for local communities. Our universities that are involved in this particular sweet potato project are doing so through the support of the Agricultural Research Council and the Department of Science and Technology, doing excellent research and development work.
So I think, hon members, that your contribution to our debate clearly indicates how keen you are to ensure that science and technology, through developing our abilities in research and development and innovation, truly begins to make a massive contribution to ensuring that South Africa is successful. There are numerous initiatives and, again, I do ask you to read all the annual reports of our universities and science councils.
For example, I have been very intrigued ...
The HOUSE CHAIRPERSON (Mr C T Frolick): Hon Minister, your time is about to expire.
The MINISTER OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY: Alright. I have been very intrigued by some of what we are being told may come out of work that is being in the fluorochemicals industry development initiative, where our particular unique capability in handling fluorochemicals, together with our fluorspar reserves, promises us the building of a new fluorine-based industry in South Africa. This is an industry with massive job creation potential and global economic opportunity.
These are products that can range from teflon-coated parts to a range of electronic goods. South Africa stands on the cusp of new opportunity, and, thus, Caesar cannot be buried because Caesar is alive and well. Thank you very much, hon members. [Applause.]
The Committee rose at 16:24..
END OF TAKE
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