Hansard: EPC: Debate on Vote No 30 – Science and Technology
House: National Assembly
Date of Meeting: 21 May 2015
No summary available.
EPC – OLD ASSEMBLY CHAMBER
Thursday, 21 May 2015 Take: 1
THURSDAY, 21 MAY 2015
PROCEEDINGS OF EXTENDED PUBLIC COMMITTEE – OLD ASSEMBLY CHAMBER
Members of the Extended Public Committee met in the Old Assembly Chamber at 14:05.
Temporary Chairperson Mr M R Mdakane, as Chairperson, took the Chair and requested members to observe a moment of silence for prayer or meditation.
The MINISTER OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
Start of Day
Debate on Vote No 30 – Science and Technology:
The MINISTER OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY: Chairperson, hon members, guests in the gallery, I am pleased to have this opportunity to present the 2015-2016 budget and programme plans of the Department of Science and Technology.
Much of the work of the national system of innovation involves medium- to long-term horizons. This is why we say our work will shape the future. Our budget for 2015-16 increases modestly to R7,4 billion. Although we are working closely with colleagues in Treasury to map out a process for ensuring we reach the ANC and, now, government manifesto target of 1,5% of GDP by 2019, I remain concerned that inadequate resources for research and innovation will deny us the opportunity to realise the full potential of the difference science and innovation can make in a society.
We fully accept the restraints government has placed on public expenditure, but we assert that investment in research and innovation can and will lead to greater prosperity, more jobs and more entrepreneurs. I hope to show today that science and innovation are driving forces for future growth.
The results of several of our programmes show clearly that the support we have received has placed us in an excellent position to respond to South Africa’s triple challenges of unemployment, inequality and poverty. I would like to introduce some of our guests in the gallery who confirm this. They represent for us hundreds who have benefited from technology and innovation support through the Department of Science and Technology. We have an ambition to convert these hundreds to thousands and then to millions.
I welcome Mr Whiskey Kgabo who supplies mangoes to the Nkowankowa Demonstration Centre in Limpopo, and Ms Suzan Malangana who wrote me a letter in which she thanked government for supporting the centre that has enabled her to build a home and to pay the school fees of her children.
The Department of Science and Technology repositioned the Nkowankowa Demonstration Centre over the last two years so that it can support small mango producers in the Tzaneen area to supply mangoes at fair-trade prices – mangoes that can be used to produce higher-value products such as dried fruit and juice. Links have been established with the University of Limpopo, which provides agricultural support services that help to increase yields and the quality of mangoes. In fact, I was told by one of those who work in the centre that recently a huge amount of mangoes sent overseas was all rated of top-rate quality, and none of the mangoes were sent back. We congratulate them on that. [Applause.] The Nkowankowa Centre is now registered as a formal legal entity known as Wolfsbergs Fruit Processors. We will be using the experience gained with the centre to feed into the broader government programme aimed at establishing agro-processing hubs.
I also welcome in the gallery Jacobus Viljoen, Thululeni Dube, Tshifhiwa Maano and Stephanus Viljoen who run the Iluba project. It generates an annual turnover of more than R10 million and employs over 75 people. I wonder if they could stand up. [Applause.] The Iluba project – now a growing business - uses technology developed by the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University to embalm roses to enable them to last for up to two years. These flowers are now exported to Europe, the Far East, the Middle East and North America. They tell me that when hon members travel in the near future they will see one of their stores located at the various airports that they will traverse. This is the work we are doing.
Also in the gallery is a team of young people from mLab Southern Africa, consisting of a team made up of young people from Angola, South Africa and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. They have developed an application for an online anti-xenophobia campaign. The mobile application is named #WeAreAfrica. They have shown that innovation, science and technology can assist society in dealing with socioeconomic challenges ... [Applause.] ... #WeAreAfrica is a driving force for the future. Where are you, young men? [Applause.] They were telling me about all the apps. [Applause.]
I would also like to welcome nine of the brightest young scientists in the country. Selected from the Eskom Expo for Young Scientists, they will be representing South Africa at international science events in London and Belgium in July this year. Where is that group of young people? [Applause.]
The Freedom Charter ... [Interjections.]
Siyaqhuba. Ewe. [We are moving forward. Yes.]
The Freedom Charter calls on us to open the doors of learning and culture, to expand access to knowledge and to let all the talents of our nation bloom. We are, as the Department of Science and Technology, opening doors by firmly supporting the National Development Plan, NDP, and the ambitious objectives it has set out for a South Africa of the future. We are a driving force for the future.
As we mark and celebrate 60 years of the Freedom Charter ...
... re kopa batho ba naga ya rona gore ba dirisane le rona gore re age saense le thekenoloji mo Aforika Borwa, ba dire le rona rotlhe ba ba dirang mo mafapheng a, go dira bokamoso jwa Aforika Borwa e nne bokamoso jo bontle jwa tiriso ya saense le thekenoloji go dira gore botshelo jwa rona e nne botshelo jo bontle thata. [Legofi.] (Translation of Setswana paragraph follows.)
[... we are pleading with the people of our country to work hand in hand with us in developing science and technology in South Africa. We are also asking for the support of those who are working in these departments so that, together, we can ensure that South Africans have a bright future using science and technology to enhance our lives.][Applause.]]
Angiphinde ngibhekise ezinganeni zethu ngithi, siyabacela bonke besezikoleni, emakolishi nasemanyuvesi ukuba bafunde izibalo nezesayensi. Sifuna intsha ezosebenza ezweni laseNingizimu Afrika, ilenze libe yizwe elikwazi ukusebenzisa ulwazi ukwakha izwe. [Ihlombe.] (Translation of isiZulu paragraph follows.)
[To our children, I say that we plead with all of them to study mathematics and science at school, college and university. We want our youth to work in South Africa and make it a country that uses its knowledge in order to build our country. [Applause.]]
I believe that science and innovation catalyse future growth and new jobs, but there are a number of actions we need to take. First, we must add greater value to raw materials using innovation and technology. This will create new firms and help build entirely new industries. Second, we must keep pace with global trends and capitalise on them to identify new economic opportunities. In the past decade, ICTs, additive manufacturing, and the secondary resources economy are areas in which we have made some progress.
Some of our programmes are exploring these three shifts. We will succeed with some and create future enterprises. We will fail with a few for a range of reasons, but what South Africa must do is learn to take risks and not be afraid to fail.
Hon members, our two technology programmes for technology innovation and socioeconomic innovation partnerships have been allocated R2,8 billion for the year ahead. We have a balanced portfolio of several high-potential new-industry development initiatives that support the diversification I have referred to. In the 2015-16 financial year, we will invest a further R77 million in the following key initiatives that we have been supporting for a few years: in the third phase of the Fluorochemical Expansion Initiative; in the fourth phase of the titanium industry development programme; and in the Fibre Composites Research, Development and Innovation programme to enhance export competitiveness and import substitution in 10 companies in the boat-building, aerospace and industrial composites subsectors.
We will also invest in eight ICT-based companies that have already emerged as a result of investments we have made and through the use of research, development and innovation in ICTs. We will also be investing in the development of the Aeroswift, a next-generation additive-manufacturing platform, which will lead to the supply of five newly qualified titanium metal aerospace parts for the global aerospace market. All of these initiatives create new jobs and new enterprises.
Siyaqhuba. [Ihlombe.] [We are moving forward. [Applause.]]
We will also continue to assist existing economic sectors to ensure they use research and innovation to become globally competitive. Our public-private partnership with industry and other stakeholders has resulted in an agreement to create nine sector innovation funds.
The priority sectors include citrus, sugar, postharvest, forestry, boat-building, aquaculture, wine, minerals processing and paper manufacturing. We provided seed funding initially of R16 million in the 2014-15 financial year. We will grow this to R51,6 million in the 2015-16 financial year.
We are also advancing our work in our Technology Localisation Programme, which we began in 2011. It supports local companies in taking advantage of public procurement programmes by strengthening their technological capabilities. We have assisted over 140 manufacturing companies thus far. New jobs have been created, and 20 companies have secured new contracts with state-owned enterprises. What we are trying to do is ensure that companies are able to participate in large procurement bids and are not limited to forever being micro or small companies. We are allowing for growth so that companies really are sustainable and play a major role in our economy through technology development and innovation.
In this year, an additional R95,6 million is available for benchmarking and customised technology assistance packages. A new mechanism is being developed and introduced, namely the Sector-Wide Technology Assistance programme, which will be launched with the opening of a national simulation network this July at the Vaal University of Technology.
As hon members know, often our companies cannot develop the ability to execute large commercial projects because they don’t have access to high-technology equipment. So the simulation centre will support them in providing access to the refined tools that they need to do advanced contracting and for industry participation.
We are also making great progress in the fields of health innovation and the bio-economy through partnerships with industry in the pharmaceutical sector and the agricultural sector. For example, through our work in indigenous knowledge, we have registered seven patents, supported 20 PhDs and 39 master’s students, and trained 198 community workers in technology transfer and skills development. [Applause.]
We have established two agribusinesses and signed intellectual property agreements with L’Oréal, Nestlé, Kalahari, Nativa, Afrlex and several other companies. This year, we will launch three more enterprises in agro-processing and commercialisation. These will be in Mamelodi in Gauteng, Tooseng in Limpopo, and Hammanskraal in the North West.
I am also very pleased to report on the work of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, which has shown how focused science and technology interventions can support small, medium and micro enterprises, SMMEs. For example, six biotechnology SMMEs have been given access to world-class biomanufacturing facilities and research expertise since the launch of the Biomanufacturing Industry Development Centre in October 2013. Since the centre was opened, 26 permanent jobs and 56 temporary jobs have been created and more than 80 individuals have received training. The centre is aiming to have created 180 permanent and 85 temporary jobs by September 2016.
These initiatives create a brighter future for communities by supporting growth and by providing income and skills training and access to technology. Each of our programmes includes support for postgraduate training at a range of universities in our country.
In most instances, funding for technology innovation is channelled through one of our other agencies, the Technology Innovation Agency, Tia, which receives R385 million in 2015-16. Chief executive officer, I know it is not enough, but that is what you get this year. I also know you have made a lot of money recently in dollar, so the R385 million is just to help you along.
The Technology Innovation Agency has implemented a successful turnaround strategy, and now has a new chief executive officer, Mr Barlow Manilal. In other instances, what we do is support commercial activities through mission-oriented research and development funding programmes and industry support initiatives, for example in programmes such as our Hydrogen South Africa strategy, the space-science programmes and the earth observation initiatives led by our SA National Space Agency, Sansa.
In June 2015, we will see the graduation of the third cohort of the Department of Science and Technology’s Technology Top 100 industry interns. This programme was started in 2012 as a three-year pilot with the specific aim of providing a first-workplace opportunity for unemployed science, engineering and technology graduates in technology-based companies affiliated with the Technology Top 100 business awards programme and the related networks. We have a very significant internship programme and support over 1 400 interns annually in each of our science institutions.
One of the areas that, of course, we have to pay great attention to is ensuring that we protect our intellectual capital. We are working hard at this. We are supported with this protection by the National Intellectual Property Management Office, Nipmo. It plays an important role in all our higher education institutions and science councils, providing the funds to employ a number of professionals within the offices of technology transfer established at these institutions. The National Intellectual Property Management Office tells me that it is actively monitoring over 800 different pieces of intellectual property created since August 2010, which are being managed, utilised and commercialised by our higher education institutions and science councils.
We are working very hard to encourage our universities to become more adept at using new knowledge to create spin-off companies in order to support our growth targets. In fact, we are wondering which city with universities will become the first Boston-type city in South Africa. The support offered by Tia and Nipmo is very important in this regard. I was very pleased to learn recently that Prof Lesley Scott of the University of the Witwatersrand won the Special Prize for Social Impact Innovation at the Innovation Prize for Africa awards held last week in Morocco and that this innovation will lead to the creation of the first Wits University spin-off company in over five years. [Applause.] So, our universities must do more to create spin-off companies.
Achieving our ambitions depends on us having a large number of competent, skilled knowledge workers and researchers committed to innovation, generating new knowledge that can in future be translated into new enterprises and products. We also want researchers to lead our research agencies and science faculties.
We are working very hard to develop this in our human capital development initiatives. We are seeing positive progress. I believe our recently completed human capital development strategy will help us respond to the ambitious targets of the National Development Plan. We have allocated R4,2 billion to our research, development and support programme for the 2015-16 financial year.
We have three flagship initiatives that are directed at addressing our gender and race equity initiatives in order to ensure that we build the necessary skills to address the challenges and opportunities I have outlined towards creating a knowledge-intensive society.
The first initiative is the Thuthuka programme that provides funding to emerging researchers to work on PhDs, postdoctoral initiatives, and to achieve National Research Foundation, NRF, rating. It has equity targets of 80% black and 60% female grant holders. The programme’s cumulative investment in the past 14 years has been R242 million, and a call for further awards will be going out soon.
The second initiative is the Centres of Excellence programme. The majority of the centres are located in our research-intensive universities. We intend to investigate the possibility of establishing centres at some of our historically disadvantaged institutions. The cumulative investment in the centres since 2004 is R538 million. In the 2015-16 financial year, R127 million has been set aside to support our Centres of Excellence.
The Centre for the Aids Programme of Research in South Africa, Caprisa, is our 15th and newest centre of excellence. Since its creation in 2002 at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, the R120-million-a-year research unit has undertaken pioneering research into HIV that has shaped global responses to the epidemic. Their international collaboration has built a bridge between researchers here and researchers in other parts of the world. They ensure that we are not simply a consumer of health technology but that we play a key role in developing innovative solutions to our country’s and Africa’s health priorities. As the recipient of our investment of R50 million over the next five years, we expect a great deal from this centre of excellence.
The third initiative is the SA Research Chairs Initiative, the SARChI, the jewel in our crown, in which we invest R470 million in the 2015-16 financial year. This is aimed at increasing research capacity by funding postgraduate students and emerging researchers. The investment in the programme between 2006 and 2012 amounted to R870 million from government and an additional R1,7 billion leveraged from our industry partners. Currently, we have 150 occupied chairs. They have trained 406 doctoral students - 42% female and 67% black - mentored 140 postdoctoral fellows, produced 1 568 peer-reviewed articles, 37 books and 197 book chapters in diverse fields – very exciting. [Applause.]
We have two new Research Chairs development programmes that we want to share with you.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRPERSON (Mr M R Mdakane): Hon Minister, I am sorry. I just request our invited guests not to participate in the debate by clapping their hands. You are most welcome, but do not participate in the debate, please. You can retake the floor, hon Minister.
The MINISTER OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY: Thank you, Chairperson. I hope you are going to give me more time. [Laughter.]
The first development is an agreement that we will establish 20 new chairs for women researchers only. During the 2014-15 financial year, I approved the award of these 20 new SARChI chairs, this time reserved for female South African citizens and permanent residents in South Africa. [Applause.] We did this to address the fact that only 35 of the 150 current chair holders are women, and we wanted to ensure that more women lead science institutions. [Applause.]
The second interesting development is a country-bilateral SARChI programme. The first country-bilateral will be with Switzerland with a research chair in environmental health that will launch in June. The second is with the United Kingdom with a call for three chairs, which is currently under way. Our agreement with the UK is that the person selected must be based in a UK institution and be able to spend 50% of his or her time in both countries for the duration of the chair’s term. The third country-bilateral chair is currently under negotiation with Germany, and we will announce it once we have concluded our discussions.
Our aim is to attract more South African and African students into postgraduate research degrees and ultimately into research or academic careers. We will expand all our programmes to increase access – especially to international opportunities – for our young postgraduate candidates, especially PhD students. In the past year, we have had over 1 500 young people who are doctoral candidates spending time overseas, and we want to see this programme expanding.
In 2015, we are going to provide support to South African PhD students to study abroad. We are going to create and have established a dedicated programme, which will have a modest number of 50 grants awarded this financial year. Our intention is to significantly grow this programme to ensure all candidates have international exposure and opportunity.
We also want to attract doctoral and postdoctoral candidates to South Africa. What we are doing is looking for those who have recently completed their programmes. Our intention is to have them spend time in South Africa to further their research careers and to assist with undergraduate training at our universities, particularly in the critical areas in which we lack capacity at the moment.
We, of course, have attempted to ensure that we look at all dimensions of human resource development. We have increased support, I’m pleased to say, for what we call the next generation: the young researchers and the emerging researchers - those with some experience. Funding for them has been growing positively. However, our funding for the established researchers has lagged behind somewhat and only increased by around 22% in the last few years.
The established researchers are a very important group because they supervise, instruct and mentor the majority of the next generation and the emerging researchers. They produce the bulk of the knowledge and innovation outputs of our country. So, we must ensure that they have adequate funding. From this financial year, we will make an additional R100 million available to increase the aggregate value of the grants for established researchers. I am sure that if our researchers in the gallery could clap, Chairperson, they would have done so, but anyway. [Laughter.]
In addition, we will intensify our efforts to raise awareness of science and technology to encourage more young people to choose mathematics and science as subjects at secondary level and to choose careers in the sciences and engineering. We have developed the Mzansi for Science communication strategy. This will assist us in reaching more and more young people. Of course, one of the things we have to invest in is increased international collaborations. We, like many countries with ambitions to improve research development and innovation, invest a great deal in building international science partnerships. We have worked at expanding our diverse portfolio of international partnerships in science, technology and innovation.
I wish to highlight just two such initiatives, which I believe will be driving forces for South Africa’s future growth. The first is the second phase of the European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership programme that was launched in Cape Town in December last year. Over the past few years, the first phase has contributed immensely to accelerating the development of new interventions to fight HIV/Aids, malaria and tuberculosis, and to enhance the research capabilities of Africa.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRPERSON (Mr M R Mdakane): Please conclude, hon Minister.
The MINISTER OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY: The second phase is a public-public partnership with 13 European and 13 African countries involved. The budget is €1,9 billion.
My second international example is the Square Kilometre Array, SKA.
We are doing extremely well with the programme. We are well on track with building the MeerKAT. We will have 32 dishes ready in 2016, and the MeerKAT will be up and finalised in 2017. [Applause.] This year we make R687 million available for the SKA project. The team working on the design for SKA Phase 1 has set the budget at €650 million for this phase, which will begin to be built in South Africa in 2018. We are very excited about a range of work on big data, which is being done by many of our institutions.
I must conclude by thanking director-general Dr Phil Mjwara, the deputy director-generals who work so hard, the entire department and our entities for the wonderful support they give to this agenda I have outlined for hon members. It is absolutely empowering to work with such a wonderful and talented team as we do. Thanks as well go to our colleagues in the portfolio committee – all the hon members have been very supportive when we have had the opportunity to meet and deliberate. We thank them for their support.
We wish Prof Albert van Jaarsveld well in his new role as Vice-Chancellor of the University of KwaZulu-Natal. We thank Dr Olive Shisana for the contribution she has made to our science and research system. She is leaving a robust Human Sciences Research Council, HSRC, and we thank her for giving us her immense knowledge and talent to build our science system. [Applause.]
My thanks also go to the Ministry, my advisers and all hon members. Finally, I thank my wonderful family – my daughters up there. Thank you very much. [Applause.]
Dr M B GOQWANA
The MINISTER OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
Dr M B GOQWANA: Chairperson, hon Minister Naledi Pandor, Ministers and Deputy Ministers that are here, members of the Portfolio Committee on Science and Technology – I usually make the mistake of saying “Portfolio Committee on Health, Science and Technology” – Members of Parliament, the board members of entities, the chief executive officers of entities present, ladies and gentlemen, it is the mandate of the Portfolio Committee on Science and Technology to exercise oversight over the Department of Science and Technology.
Over the past 10 months, we have met with the department several times, visited some entities and witnessed some scientific research being undertaken in certain universities. We have met with our communities to assess the impact of some of the projects undertaken by the Department of Science and Technology. We have also met with the Auditor-General on several occasions to assess the performance of the department.
As a committee, most of us feel the department is on the right track even though there are challenges. For instance, the department cannot lament about South Africa being a developing country. They have to compete globally and benchmark their achievements against both the developing and developed countries. The department is crucial to our priority of transforming the skills capacity in our country, growing and diversifying our economy. Hence, there is an urgent need for the authority to give them adequate resources to compete comfortably and favourably. They need more financial resources if they are to transform South Africa from a net importer of technology to a net exporter of technology. This will mean that we have the capacity to retain the skills we develop as well as attract the expertise that we need.
This transformation and dynamism will result from innovation created and scientific research conducted by our human capital. We know of countries that have no minerals, oil or good agriculture, but their innovations have contributed to healthy economies. Before 1994, South Africa had less than 25% of the population studying science. The rest of the population was not given opportunities to do so. In fact, the latter were told that science was not for them.
The challenge is to expand the net to encourage and enable more people to study science and to consider careers in research so that they have skills to improve our economy through innovation. This year, we are celebrating the Freedom Charter, with specific emphasis on bettering the lives of our people. In celebrating the Freedom Charter, I want to reflect on how far the Department of Science and Technology has come. I will try and show how science innovation and technology resonate with the ANC strategy.
Last year, I said the belief that science is difficult is a myth. Science and technology, as a concept, is about why and how. Those are the only two questions that you need to ask, and you are already in the field of science if you ask those questions. Is it about thinking out of the box to come up with ideas that can be turned into products and services and improving on existing innovations.
My grandmother would scarcely believe, if she were to wake up now, that it takes one hour to travel from Cingco village to Johannesburg when it used to take her three days to get there. [Applause.] This is as a result of science. [Applause.] So, too, Mr Vorster ... I am saying Mr Vorster, but I should have said Mr Verwoerd ...
... kodwa ndiyamazi uza kuziluma kudala kuthethwa ngaye ... [... but he will bite himself because we’ve been talking about him for a long time ...]
... who said the science was only for the privileged few, would be astounded to know that South Africa is currently one of the leaders in astronomy and that experts from all over the world are flocking here to come and do their research in South Africa. Mr Vorster would also be astounded by the expertise of African scientists and researchers. I am talking about people like Prof Loyiso Nongxa who, I think, is present, Prof Salim Karim, Prof William Makgoba, Prof Bongani Mayosi, and Prof Koleka Mlisana who are all leading scientists. There is a song that says, “Nants’ indod’ emnyama Vorster” [Watch out, Vorster. Here comes the black man.]. That song is being realised. [Applause.]
The existence of this expertise, as well as the efforts to enhance and grow these skills, is the work of the ANC. The ANC has ensured that science and technology innovation drives transformation. Long before 1912, people were asking themselves why skin colour affected people’s prosperity. Answers to such questions were known but could not be documented, and raising these concerns only made the situation worse for those who drew attention to the matters. Hence it was the ANC who, in transcending mental slavery, came up with the Freedom Charter – the same Freedom Charter that we are celebrating this year.
As we all know, matters became worse. Political organisations were banned, people were jailed or killed, and others had to flee the country because they were asking the question, “Why?” ANC artists even composed songs asking “Senzeni na?” Those songs were asking why. I will not sing this song for, if I continue singing it, I will be ruled out of order. It would be ruled unparliamentary if I were to continue. [Interjections.]
It wasn’t until 1996 when the Department of Science and Technology —then under the Department of Arts and Culture – came into being that we saw a breakthrough. The hows and whys of the ANC were now being addressed. The ANC government changed a directorate into the fully fledged, functional department that you see now. It is through this Department of Science and Technology and its innovation-enabling environment that it seeks to create that the ANC-led government will transform this country and its economy. The ANC-led transformation will benefit South Africa and all who live in it. It will not discriminate based on skin colour.
There is clearly documented evidence that the department has, in its 17 years of existence, transformed South Africa and its people. One very important example of this is that under the ANC-led government, life expectancy has increased. It is something that we all know. All you need to do to be convinced is follow the work of the department and its entities. Look at the innovations developed, the research done and the human capital developed. The fact that they compete in the global arena despite being inadequately resourced is commendable.
As mentioned earlier, challenges remain. However, in the Department of Science and Technology, the ANC-led government is blessed with a leadership team that is achievement orientated, proactive and committed to the transformation of this country and human capital, leadership that does not run at the sight of challenges.
Up to now, our oversight of the department has shown it to have a long, strong internal locus of control. The Department of Science and Technology team believes their own ability to control the outcome of their efforts is relatively decisive in determining South Africa’s fate. These are people who acknowledge and are realistic about their own efforts and related results and generally do not ascribe outcomes to factors beyond their control.
The research has proven that successful ... We are confident that the Department of Science and Technology will continue to promote the creativity needed for South Africa to become an innovation-driven state.
Chairperson, allow me to speak as an individual, whilst I mean ”us” and “we”.
Do not despise me because of my skin colour when my brain has the same white and grey matter as yours. Do not despise me because of my rural or urban background for it is not my origins that activate my thinking; it is my white and grey matter and my attitude. [Applause.] Do not despise me because of my gender; I did not choose it. Instead, judge me on the grey matter of my brain. Do not despise me for my humility for it is my guiding principle – that I am what I am because of others. Arrogance will lead me astray. Do not try and fit me into a box because I might not fit. [Interjections.]
Mr G R DAVIS: Chairperson, on a point of order. His time has expired.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRPERSON (Mr M R Mdakane): Hon Member, your time has expired.
Dr M B GOQWANA: Do not try and change me.
Mr G R DAVIS: House Chairperson, on a point of order: His time has expired. [Interjections.]
An HON MEMBER: Hon member, you are not the presiding officer!
Dr M B GOQWANA: Do not try and change me to what you want me to be. Accept me as I am. I am an African born from the hinterland of the African continent. [Applause.]
The TEMPORARY CHAIRPERSON (Mr M R Mdakane): Hon Member, your time has expired. Thank you.
Mr G R DAVIS: Chairperson, may I please address you on a point of order?
The TEMPORARY CHAIRPERSON (Mr M R Mdakane): Yes hon member, what is your point of order?
Mr G R DAVIS: Hon Chairperson, on a point of order: We were very gracious in letting you give Minister Pandor more time. Now you gave the second ANC speaker an extra minute. I hope that you will be very generous to the DA members regarding time when they are speaking.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRPERSON (Mr M R Mdakane): No, just hold on.
An HON MEMBER: You’re supposed to be chairing!
The TEMPORARY CHAIRPERSON (Mr M R Mdakane): It is only the members of staff here that take care of time. [Interjections.]
When they raise their board, I know exactly what they mean. [Interjections.]
An HON MEMBER: What do you do?
The TEMPORARY CHAIRPERSON (Mr M R Mdakane): No, let us not cause a scene for no reason. [Interjections.] There are timekeepers. You can take care of your time. It is correct, but the real people who take care of all of us here are the staff members. If we can just respect that, it will be better. [Interjections.]
An HON MEMBER: I wonder if they will give the DA extra minutes.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRPERSON (Mr M R Mdakane): Absolutely! We have been taking care of the DA all along.
An HON MEMBER: You don’t give us extra time.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRPERSON (Mr M R Mdakane): Hon Lotriet, take the podium.
An HON MEMBER: No, you don’t! [Interjections.]
The TEMPORARY CHAIRPERSON (Mr M R Mdakane): I always give you time! [Interjections.]
Dr A LOTRIET
The TEMPORARY CHAIRPERSON (Mr M R Mdakane)
Dr A LOTRIET: Chairperson, the biggest problem our country faces is poor economic growth and unemployment, and, as the Minister alluded, reference is made throughout the NDP to the importance of science and technology and specifically innovation as key drivers of economic growth and job creation.
Although the Minister has given an overview of all the successes – and I have to commend the department and its entities for the excellent work done – the question remains: Are we really on track to achieve the objectives of the NDP? Well, let’s start by looking at the most obvious and immediate requirement, namely funds. The budget for the 2015-16 financial year is R7,4 billion. Admittedly, and I suppose with great gratitude from the science and technology community, it’s an increase of R1 billion from last year.
However, we need to put this into perspective in the context of what this department has to deliver, especially with reference to the key role it has to play in economic growth. The budget constitutes merely 5,5% of the national Budget. It is in no way sufficient for what it has to do and reflects no evidence of the importance of the department and of the role it has to play.
Minister, I don’t think we can wait until 2019 for assistance from Treasury. The limited funds were also the theme throughout the different entities’ presentations to the committee. It is encouraging that these entities had, in fact, made some adjustments, yet the question remains whether these adjustments, especially when it entails a reduction in staff, are not going to impact negatively on research and innovation capacity.
What also became evident during their presentations was the funding model for research councils. For example, they indicated that they had to compete with private institutions and universities for research projects in order to generate income to sustain their programmes. Therefore, the sustainability of programmes was determined by how many research tenders the councils could acquire.
In many other countries, research councils are fully funded. The danger is that, because councils are partially funded and continually need to seek external funding, it opens them up to influence on the research agenda and not researching what this country needs, whereas the risk would be restricted if these councils were better funded. Clearly the funding model for research has to be revisited.
One of the ways of increasing funds available for research and development is through the tax incentive scheme. In the budget debate last year, I referred to how far we are behind in terms of the percentage of GDP we spend on research and development, as well as the critical importance of private-sector investment in research and development. It is appreciated that there is such a scheme, but it is far from ideal. The turnaround time is far too long. In a presentation by KPMG to Parliament, it was indicated that sometimes applicants even have to wait as long as 18 months before they get a rejection letter, and then it doesn’t contain any detail of why it was rejected. I do acknowledge that the department is trying to deal with the backlog and to improve the process. It is still hoped that it will achieve the 90-day turnaround target as soon as possible.
Another concern raised was the threshold against which applications are adjudicated. I accept that we want to set the bar very high, but perhaps we need to make it more accessible given the dire need for access to funds by new entrepreneurs and innovators.
Another concern is that unlike other sections of the tax legislation, there is no objection and appeal process built into section 11D of the Income Tax Act. This basically means that the only recourse for applicants is to take the decision on appeal to the High Court. From the figures in the Department of Science and Technology’s report to Parliament on the performance of this incentive scheme, it seems that in the region of 50% of applications are turned down. Surely Minister, there has to be a more affordable and accessible mechanism for unsuccessful applicants to appeal a decision.
Besides the critical need for funding, we also have to look at human capital development which is just as important. The report released last week by the National Advisory Council on Innovation, NACI. in which the state of the national system of innovation is assessed, is some guideline as to where we stand on this.
For innovation to be successful and to increase, you have to focus on research and development, and for this you need researchers. The number of researchers per 1 000 people employed is on average 7,7 in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries, whereas in South Africa we have 1,5 researchers per 1 000 employed. Clearly, we are still far from the level we should be at.
It is easy to say let’s just get some more people into research, but to do that we need to have a source from which we can get these future researchers, and here is where the picture starts to become very, very concerning. We need enough learners who pass matric with mathematics and physical science with at least 60% to meet the future demand for researchers. However, according to the NACI report, only 7,6% and 5,5% of learners passed mathematics and physical science respectively with more than 60%. Unfortunately, this is also a decrease from 2013.
I do realise that this is not the Minister’s department, but the reality is that even with the best intentions and plans, the Department of Science and Technology will not be able to build sufficient research and innovation capacity whilst this sorry state in basic education is not fixed. This should be a matter of national urgency, not only because learners are ill equipped to get jobs but because they will not be able to create the jobs we so desperately need.
Another factor that I believe does impact negatively on the state of innovation in the country is the fact that research, development and innovation are spread over a number of departments. In this regard, we can look at Environmental Affairs, Communications, Telecommunications and Postal Services, Higher Education and Training, Energy, Mineral Resources and, specifically, Trade and Industry. This does have the danger of research and innovation being duplicated, with less efficient use of funds that could be better spent by using available and existing resources.
It’s a matter of concern that the Technology and Human Resources for Industry Programme, Thrip, will be administered by the Department of Trade and Industry in future. This programme focuses on research and belongs with the Department of Science and Technology.
Minister, perhaps it is time to look at streamlining and refocusing the innovation agenda. The DA does in fact understand the critical role science and technology has to play, and in terms of our vision of freedom, fairness and opportunity, our innovation policy places innovation at the centre of economic growth and job creation with the requisite funding. This is the only way we can provide a bright and sustainable future for generations to come. Thank you. [Applause.]
The TEMPORARY CHAIRPERSON (Mr M R Mdakane)
Dr A LOTRIET
The TEMPORARY CHAIRPERSON (Mr M R Mdakane): Hon members, let us allow members to be heard please. [Interjections.]
Ms E N LOUW: Hon Chair, the EFF rejects the Science and Technology budget ... [Interjections.] ... on the basis of three self-contradictory and confused elements in the department and the ANC-led government as a whole.
Firstly, there is a lack of adequate funding for both the department and its entities; secondly, research and development is not linked to the needs of rural and township communities; and thirdly, there are the incoherent and poorly co-ordinated industrial policies.
If South Africa is to increase its global competition, it is vital to increase funding investment in research and development. A mere 5,5% budget growth over the medium term is not an indication of a government that is committed to science, technology and innovation, all of which support South Africa’s developmental needs.
The department’s budget of R7,4 billion, of which 93% is transferred to research institutions, is just not sufficient – even more so because the majority of these research institutions’ budget increases are well below inflation, with many at between 3% and 4% average growth over the medium term.
The existing policies, both at industrial level and with regard to the national research and developmental strategy, continue to fail dismally, yet South Africa consumes more than R100 billion in ICT-related products, the majority of which are imports made from our local minerals. Mineral resources are at the beginning of the ICT supply chain, yet your department, including the rest of the ANC-led government, continues to use multinational corporations to ship all the minerals. [Interjections.]
Voorsitter, in Afrikaans sê hulle dat leë blikke die meeste geraas maak, en dit is hoe dit lyk. [Chairperson, in Afrikaans, they say that empty vessels make the most noise, and it seems that this is the case.]
We even fail to support and protect infant ICT industries at research and consumption levels. Seemahale Telecoms, in a very competitive industry, produced its first affordable android smartphone – in our own backyard in Boksburg. If, today, we were to ask whether any of us has that make of phone, none of us would.
South African industries are not benefiting precisely because of the department’s inability to position itself with broader ICT emerging and new industries. When one listens to the Ministers of Economic Development, Communications, and Science and Technology, it’s as if they are not part of the same Cabinet.
Access to mobile services continues to grow, but broadband access remains very low in comparison to other lower middle income countries. [Interjections.] Hon Chair, it’s clear that she doesn’t know what I mean, which is why she will make a noise. This is even more so for ... [Interjections.]
The TEMPORARY CHAIRPERSON (Mr M R Mdakane): Hon member, let us allow her to speak. We want to hear her.
Ms E N LOUW: I talk over your head. That is why you won’t know. [Interjections.]
Even more so for township and rural areas, access to ICT continues to be based on racial lines and mostly remains a privilege of previously advantaged communities.
This is why the EFF rejects the budget. The department and its entities are underfunded. If you are serious about Science and Technology, you cannot do it with this low budget. You will make a noise because you don’t know; you don’t sit in the committees. We sit in these committees. These entities report to us. That is why you are making a lot of noise. [Interjections.]
The TEMPORARY CHAIRPERSON (Mr M R Mdakane): Thank you, hon member. Hon Hlengwa. [Interjections.]
An HON MEMBER: It’s on you! They are your children! They are your children! You are their fathers! [Interjections.]
The TEMPORARY CHAIRPERSON (Mr M R Mdakane): Hon members, we want to hear hon Hlengwa. [Interjections.]
Mr M HLENGWA
The TEMPORARY CHAIRPERSON (Mr M R Mdakane)
Mr M HLENGWA: Chairperson and hon Minister, I want to say that the IFP supports your Budget Vote, albeit that we have quite a number of concerns which we believe must be addressed in order to make sure that this department actually fulfils its mandate. On that note, hon Minister, we also want to wish your deputy a speedy recovery so that you may have an extra pair of hands to assist you in fulfilling your task.
Having said that, I want to say the department is top heavy in its own operations. Everything is high level – the universities, institutions, academies and so on. All those institutions are going to find themselves under stress if we do not have a credible and working environment at grassroots level which is going to feed into those. Here I specifically refer to secondary education.
The previously disadvantaged communities are presently disadvantaged, as they find themselves without laboratories. Those learners see a laboratory for the first time when they walk into an institution of higher learning. Then we want expect that they would be able to compete on equal footing with those who come from previously and presently advantaged communities.
Hon Minister, the SKA is one of the successes of the department and South Africa. We support it, but it must not become another 2010 World Cup kind of phenomenon, where it does not have economic spin offs for the surrounding communities of the Karoo. It should have a positive impact on the people of South Africa, not just those in the field of science and technology.
There must be a better working relationship between this department and Basic Education to ensure that schools become a breeding ground to enable and capacitate those who want to venture into science and technology with the necessary skills, knowledge and expertise.
It should not be that, in international surveys, South Africa continually is ranked at the very bottom in terms of maths and science levels. That by itself tells us there is a problem. Therefore, we must be able to contextualise the issue of science and technology and not be hasty in trying to be an international player when conditions at home are not conducive to that. Let us get science and technology right first in schools here at home.
The teachers themselves are not passing the exams that are set for learners. That on its own is a major indictment on the education system in its totality.
I also want to deal with the issue ... you know, Verwoerd was a bad man and, perhaps, “bad” is an understatement. [Interjections.] His attributes and his policies were of the worst kind. Having said that, as a black government, let us not adopt the Verwoerdian thinking style when we are not rolling out maths and science in schools as we should be. Let us learn from the mistakes of that horrible man and correct them in 2015, moving forward. [Interjections.]
We must adopt a people-centred approach to this which speaks to the ordinary man on the street, meaning that we should build communal laboratories in townships and rural areas where learners and those interested in science can congregate. Let us entrench science and technology and its operations at a grassroots level so that it may speak may resonate with the ordinary man on the street.
So, whilst we support the Budget Vote, we cannot support it as a top heavy operation; it must be grassroots based. I thank you. [Applause.]
Mr M D KEKANA
Mr M HLENGWA
Mr M D KEKANA: Chairperson, hon Minister Naledi Pandor, hon Deputy Minister in absentia, hon members, comrades, ladies and gentlemen, the ANC supports the budget. [Applause.] On this occasion, I behalf of the ANC in the Budget Vote debate for Science and Technology.
The ANC’s 53rd conference in Mangaung—
... resolved to promote and support the development of new ICT research and development plans and strengthen existing strategies and policies to foster robust, well co-ordinated institutional arrangements that need the development of indigenous world class technology innovation in ICT through a directed national ICT research development and innovation programme.
It also resolved to increase the number of master’s and PhD students in enrolling and graduating in ICT.
Over the past few years, South Africa has been graduating between 14 and 35 PhDs per year in ICT-related fields. The starting point should be to increase the current ICT PhD production ten- to fifteenfold per year in order to enable the critical mass of advanced ICT human capital.
The National Development Plan envisages that by 2030, South Africa will produce more than 100 doctoral degrees per million of the population and that 75% of our academics will have doctoral degrees. Currently, South Africa produces approximately 35 doctoral graduates per million of the population and only 39% of academics have doctoral degrees.
This affirms the vision of the Freedom Charter that the doors of learning shall be opened. The department, having assessed the current science, technology, and innovation, STI, skills pipe, implements programmes along two broad focus areas. The first is to enhance the STI researcher and postgraduate skills pipeline. The second focuses on schools and comprises science awareness and capturing STI talent.
Over the past five years, government has supported at least 34 030 postgraduate students and increased its financial investment from R194 million to R541 million during this period.
In terms of black representation, significant improvements have been made over the past six years. In terms of women, the targeted proportional representation is close to being reached at master’s and doctoral levels. It must be noted that due to budget constraints, the NRF only supports approximately 11% of all postgraduates in the system.
The freedom Charter envisages that the right of all people of Africa to independent self-governance shall be recognised and shall be the basis of close co-operation. In terms of African partnership, the NRF hosted the first Africa stakeholder research management workshop that brought together research funding managers and administrators, grant co-ordinators, directors of research-oriented committees and associations and representatives of ministries of science and technology or equivalent from 10 African nations including Angola, Botswana, Egypt, Tunisia, Zambia, Kenya, Namibia, Mozambique and Tanzania. The intent of this annual event is to foster close collaboration and analyse high-quality joint research and also to strengthen all participant organisations’ ability to support high level science.
The ministers from the SKA African partner countries also committed themselves to participating effectively in the Joint Africa-EU Strategy and Africa-European Radio Astronomy Platform programmes and activities.
The SKA African Very Long Baseline Interferometry Network partner countries are Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zambia – and, this time, no xenophobia.
In conclusion, I have learned that Sithandiwe Mazibuko, working at the Diabetes Discovery Platform department of the SA Medical Research Council in Cape Town, has been selected as one of 10 candidates out of 121 applicants worldwide to do groundbreaking work at the esteemed Helmholtz Zentrum München facility in Germany. [Applause.] She was the only one selected from Africa. She will be studying compounds in rooibos to determine if it can enhance insulin resistance to treat type 2 diabetes.
The ANC walks the talk. I thank you. [Applause.]
Prof N M KHUBISA
Mr M D KEKANA
Prof N M KHUBISA: Chairperson, hon Minister, Deputy Minister in absentia, Ministers and Deputy Ministers present, members and distinguished guests, the NFP supports this budget. [Applause.]
Having said that, the NFP ... [Interjections.] ... you are not surprised? [Interjections.] Alright, but wait for the surprise, though. The NFP believes that science and technology innovation has a critical role to play in job creation, poverty alleviation and economic growth. The vision of increased wellbeing and prosperity through science, technology and innovation is very appropriate when one considers the demands for new grounds that our country has to break by investing in more initiatives, programmes and projects that will ensure that we get more scientists, technicians and innovators.
We need more graduates, specifically master’s and doctoral graduates, in various critical areas of science, technology and innovation. That is why the NFP believes that more money has to be injected into this department. The budget is relatively small, and it operates through entities and agencies. Both the generation of knowledge and the use of it to increase efficiency, to enhance industrialisation, to grow the economy, and to bridge the gap of inequalities are important.
The NFP believes that the Department of Science and Technology’s relationship with the Department of Basic Education and Department of Higher Education and Training is crucial. The love of science and technology should be instilled in learners early in their school careers. Learners, especially in rural areas and townships, have to be exposed to critical science and technology innovations.
One cannot overemphasise the attraction of well-qualified science educators in rural areas or in rural schools. Learners have to be exposed to computers and other innovations in the early stages of their school career. Having said that, the World Bank estimates that seven of the 10 largest economies of the world by 2020 would be in Asia, namely China, Japan, India, Thailand, Indonesia, South Korea and Taiwan. A few decades ago, these countries were known to have poor policies, low discipline and no advancement, and now, with the introduction of science and technology in an effective manner, they have made a massive impact in development across the globe.
Of course, as I have already mentioned, the R7,48 billion budget allocated to the department is relatively small. We are aware that the department has appealed for an increase in funding consistently, but, of course, the current financial crisis does not allow for that. Inadequate funding means slower technological and scientific innovation, which in turn leads to slower growth. This vicious circle could cost us dearly. Having said that, South Africa is currently faced with a water crisis, and science, innovation and technology can play a great role in ensuring that we arrest the water shortage that we have. However, the NFP has no qualms. We support the budget, as I said earlier. Thank you. [Applause.]
Mr N J J van R KOORNHOF
Prof N M KHUBISA
Mr N J J van R KOORNHOF: Madam Chairperson, the National Development Plan was released with the major task of addressing South Africa’s challenges of poverty and inequality. Health, science and economic development are interdependent. To deal with poverty and inequality, you have to focus on the prevention and social factors of health. For that, you need a Department of Science and Technology.
The Freedom Charter was a very forward thinking document to put an onus on the state to provide for preventative health schemes. To achieve a healthy life, the duty cannot only be on the state. There must be individual responsibility, but the state must be empowered, especially to assist the poor to take responsibility for their own health.
We know we are one of the most unequal societies in the world, and therefore the role of scientists to assist the state in running a preventative health scheme is important. That is exactly why the Department of Science and Technology, through its various entities, has embarked on such programmes. More specifically, the SA Medical Research Council, through the Strategic Health Innovation Partnership, SHIP, embarked on the largest malaria drug discovery project in Africa – perhaps making a dent in treating this killer disease in Africa.
Further new projects to develop a rapid diagnosis test for tuberculosis in poor settings are at advanced stages, hopefully to beat this terrible disease in our poor communities. The development of a clinical, applicable diagnostic test-kit for breast cancer can provide valuable savings for health budgets in future and change the quality of life of those individuals suffering. This is all possible because of science.
We all know that diabetes is a killer disease. The global death rate was doubled in the last 20 years. It should not happen. Three hundred and forty seven million people suffer from it worldwide. More than 80% of them live in low and middle income countries. Type 2 diabetes comprises 90% of all cases. So, preventing 2 diabetes becomes vital to save lives. Early detection requires us to develop a tool to diagnose diabetes at a very early stage before irreversible tissue damage occurs.
Once again, SHIP is providing the funding to develop an early onset of diabetes diagnostic test, potentially a world-first invention for us. This will allow a patient to change his or her lifestyle before diabetes develops.
The Department of Science and Technology is a “good news” department. Under the guidance of the hon Minister, this department is making us proud. It is an uplifting exercise to interact with them and their entities. It is good for the soul of a nation to invest in science and technology. Sometimes people challenge government’s logic to invest in science if they have other challenges. I do differ. Science is about real transformation if you invest correctly. Without science and technology, there is no hope. Without knowledge, no nation can prosper and beat poverty.
Science is about life, about self-pride, about creating better self-esteem. Minister, that’s why I am concerned that we do not have enough black professors at our universities. My concern is that South African-born professors only make up 14% of staff at 22 universities. In fact, they say, we only have around 30 black female professors at 22 universities and not one at the University of Cape Town. This is a concern and, if we want role models at our universities for our young people, we should rectify that. [Applause.]
I am being told there is a vast pool of black lecturers from which we can select. Maybe they don’t believe in themselves or the universities do not assist them. Maybe it is time to ask the National Research Foundation to investigate this and report back to you.
The department is also playing its part in solving challenges our energy system is faced with. They do play a role to support and develop low and carbon-free technologies that can be commercialised and rolled out.
The Department of Science and Technology is working on a broad energy storage roadmap, which will consider selected energy storage technologies applicable to our energy sector. Maybe the Department of Science and Technology should consider inviting Elon Musk, a South African-born entrepreneur, to share his knowledge of the recently launched Tesla battery system called the Powerwall, a home battery that charges by using electricity and solar panels and then powers one’s home at night. It can change the lives of all South Africans.
This morning, I bumped into Cliff Stewart of Batco – one of the entities – at the University of the Western Cape, and he says that, this year, he will beat Elon Musk with his battery. Maybe this is a partnership that we could pursue.
Science is also about the stars, about space, the unknown and the universe. We ask whether there is any life out there. Astronomers from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics claim that there are 17 billion earth-like habitable planets in our Milky Way, but astronomers at the University of Auckland now claim that there are actually 100 billion, increasing the chances of life fivefold. In the universe, there are 500 million galaxies like our Milky Way. Now imagine the chances of life.
The astronomers hope to use a new microlensing technique with a huge suite of telescopes located, inter alia, in Carnarvon to confirm whether there are in fact 100 billion earth-like habitable planets in our Milky Way. Can we get to these planets, or can they get to us? [Laughter.] The nearest habitable planet is called Tau Ceti e, 11,9 light years away. The fastest spacecraft ever, the Helios 2, travelled at 70 kilometres per second. At that speed, it will take 51 000 years to reach Tau Ceti e ... [Applause.] They say now that New Horizons, on its way to Pluto, is apparently travelling even faster. So, yes, we need better science and technology to travel faster.
The ANC will support this. Minister, go out and find us more money and find all those entities that are under the auspices of other departments. Get them and put them under your department – all the best. [Applause.]
Ms D CARTER
Mr N J J van R KOORNHOF
Ms D CARTER: Chairperson, innovation in science and technology – the drivers of progress – has always resulted in social upheaval and cost people their jobs. During the Industrial Revolution, artisan weavers were replaced by mechanical looms.
Over the past three decades, the digital revolution has impacted on mid-skilled jobs that underpinned middle class life. Typists, ticket agents, bank tellers and many production line jobs have been lost, just like the weavers were during the Industrial Revolution. One hundred years ago, one in every three Americans was employed on a farm. Today, less than 2% of them produce food.
At the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, much of the rewards of increased productivity went disproportionately to capital and only later did labour reap the rewards. The pattern is the same today. The prosperity unleashed by the digital revolution has gone overwhelmingly to the owners of capital and the most highly skilled workers. Over the last 30 years, labour’s share of output has shrunk globally. The share of income accruing to the top 1% has risen from 9% in 1970 to 22% today. Today, in the rich world, the unemployment rate is alarmingly high.
In 2000, 65% of Americans worked. Now it stands at 59%, and it seems likely that this technological wave – perhaps we should call it a tsunami – has just begun. From driverless cars to clever household gadgets, innovations that already exist could destroy jobs that have, to date, been untouched, and it is soon to happen in our country too.
Up until now, the jobs most vulnerable to the revolution in science and technology have been those vulnerable to machines: routine, repetitive jobs. However, with the exponential rise in processing power and digitised information, computers are increasingly able to perform complicated tasks more cheaply and more efficiently than people. The services sector may be at even more of a risk.
Today, computers can detect intruders through a closed-circuit camera system more reliably than a human being can. By comparing the reams of financial or biometric data, computers can diagnose fraud and illness more accurately than any number of accountants or doctors.
Academics at Oxford University suggest that 47% of today’s jobs could be automated in the next 20 years. If this study is correct, the social effects will be dire. Many of the jobs at risk are lower down the skills ladder. We will see rising unemployment and rising inequality.
Minister, the question here is the following: What practical steps have the department and Cabinet taken to prepare South Africa and her people for this technological tsunami? One way government can help us through this dislocation is through education – a changed education system, an education system that will foster our creativity to set us apart from computers.
Cope believes that we must do more to attract learners to mathematics and science. Hon Minister, Cope also urges you and the department to hold discussions with the public broadcaster and the Department of Basic Education as well as Higher Education and Training to have a free weekly science broadcast that can be watched by all South Africans, not only on pay television as is the case now.
The department has its 10-year innovation plan which aims to make science and technology a driving force in enhancing productivity, economic growth and socioeconomic development. In which way, where and to what extent did the department’s intervention enhance productivity or create new jobs? How did its efforts or support propel economic growth? [Time expired.] Thank you so much.
Ms J F TERBLANCHE
Ms D CARTER
Ms J F TERBLANCHE: Chairperson, the Department of Science and Technology and its seven public entities have, over the past year, set an excellent example for other departments, as evidenced in its audit outcomes reported by the Auditor-General. However, the Auditor-General reported on a number of findings arising from the audit which need to be addressed to improve the overall audit outcomes of the department and its public entities.
Both the Africa Institute of South Africa in the HSRC and the Department of Science and Technology recorded instances of noncompliance as material adjustments were made to the annual financial statements. A number of noncompliance findings in respect to supply chain management were identified by the Auditor-General at the Department of Science and Technology, the Africa Institute of South Africa in the HSRC and the National Research Foundation. The findings included the following: uncompetitive or unfair procurement processes; contracts and quotations that were awarded to suppliers whose tax matters had not been declared by the SA Revenue Service to be in order; irregular expenditure that had been incurred as a result of the contravention of supply chain management legislation; and inadequate controls over supply chain management.
The Auditor-General reported that the above findings were caused by a lack of proper review and monitoring by management to ensure compliance with supply chain management policies, procedures and legislation. This noncompliance appears to be the major contributor to the reported irregular expenditure of more than R100 million incurred. This includes irregular expenditure incurred by the Department of Science and Technology of R32 million; irregular expenditure incurred by the Council for Africa Institute of South Africa of R588 000; irregular expenditure incurred by the Human Sciences Research Council of R76 000; and irregular expenditure incurred by the National Research Foundation of R15 million.
It is a serious concern, as any deficiency in the supply chain management system appears to be the entry point for tenderpreneurs and the subsequent rapid increase of questionable procurement practices. In addition, material misstatements of tangible assets, intangible assets and commitments were identified by the auditors in the submitted financial statements and were subsequently corrected, resulting in the financial statements receiving an unqualified audit opinion. A similar Auditor-General finding was recorded in the case of the financial statements of the Africa Institute of South Africa in the HSRC.
It is of concern that the Auditor-General reported that the Department of Science and Technology’s management did not regularly review monthly and interim reporting in terms of best practice to ensure compliance with supply chain management and human resource management. A number of findings regarding supply chain management issues were identified, which indicated that there was a lack of oversight responsibility, thus resulting in noncompliance of supply chain management policies and procedures in the awarding of tenders and quotations. An issue regarding verification processes on new appointments was raised on human resource management. I am however convinced that the department and its entities will address the issues identified by the Auditor-General and that repeated similar findings will not appear in the next Auditor-General report.
With regard to the SKA and big data, I am of the opinion that we will not have the necessary capacity to analyse the data generated by the SKA. Our universities are not producing enough data analysts with appropriate qualifications to analyse the data that will be generated eventually. This will result in us having to send the data to other countries and foreign analysts to be interpreted and processed. We need to invest in South Africans, put them first, and equip them with the necessary skills to perform this task. I thank you. [Applause.]
Mr C C MATHALE
Ms J F TERBLANCHE
Mr C C MATHALE: Chairperson, hon Minister, chairperson and members of the committee, hon members of the House, the manner in which some of our colleagues commented on the budget is quite interesting. Others effectively said that they don’t support the budget without presenting substantive arguments as to the reasons why. From some of the reasons presented, one could deduce that it is more about objecting because they are the opposition. [Laughter.] [Interjections.]
Ge le rometšwe gore le be ba lekoko la kganetšo, mošomo wa lena ke go ganetša ... [You are members of the opposition party. Therefore, you are expected to object ...]
... even if what is on the table is very clear. I think it is time that colleagues understand what we are dealing with, as well as the mandate that we have been given by the electorate in terms of what we need to do. We should understand that the budget is nothing but an instrument that must be used to serve our people, including those who voted for the opposition. [Applause.]
As we dip our banner in honour of Mme Ruth Mompati, we should commit that indeed it is true that a better life for all is possible through science and technology. The Department of Science and Technology, through Operation Phakisa, has committed to contribute in unlocking the ocean economy by taking the lead in several initiatives such as the implementation of initiatives geared towards marine protected areas discovery research. This will provide imperative knowledge that is required to enable development of marine spatial plans and ensure that economic benefits derived from the ocean do not compromise the ocean.
The National Research Foundation has already made a call for proposals for research exploration that would be funded for through the African Coelacanth Ecosystem Programme. Within the oil and gas sector, the department is in the process of establishing a South African marine research and exploration forum that will culminate in partnerships with the oil and gas industry towards exploiting the broader research opportunities presented by off-shore oil and gas exploration activities.
The department is also committed to optimally use the current support instruments and redesign them to accommodate the Operation Phakisa commitments. This will enhance various capacities such as marine remote sensing, ocean exploration, big data handling, ocean floor exploration, marine biotechnology and marine aquaculture.
Furthermore, the department has committed to present existing Operation Phakisa aquaculture projects to support Operation Phakisa job projects by focusing on the optimisation of the existing production system. The department has also committed to establish earth observation technology capacity in the extended continental shelf area.
Through partnerships with other departments including Environmental Affairs, we can expand the African Coelacanth Ecosystem Programme to create platforms for dedicated ocean research investigations that also have the potential to unlock broader knowledge of the Indian Ocean, Atlantic Ocean as well the Southern Ocean. In partnership with the NRF, we will be able to conduct a dedicated research cruise that will explore more potential in the Southern Ocean.
Climate change forms part of the integral part of the Global Change Grand Challenge, GCGC, which is one of the five focus areas of the department’s 10-year innovation plan. In the national climate change response policy, there is strong reference to the Global Change Grand Challenge National Research Plan and the South African Risk and Vulnerability Atlas as instruments that can support the national response to climate change and the implementation of policy in general.
The National Development Plan has emphasised the importance of science, technology and innovation in transitioning the country to a low-carbon economy and society. The objective of the GCGC is to support the country’s transition to a knowledge economy by developing a portfolio of niche high-potential science, technology and innovation capabilities for sustainable development and the greening of society and the economy. This objective encompasses the vision of the department’s 10-year innovation plan.
The 10-year innovation plan’s vision is aimed at driving South Africa’s transformation towards a knowledge-based economy in which the production and dissemination of knowledge lead to economic benefits and enrichment of all fields of human endeavour.
Through the promotion of internationally competitive research, training activities and outputs, this budget must also enable the department to achieve its objective of strategically developing science in a manner that gives our country a competitive advantage. Therefore, it makes no sense for us not to prepare ourselves to compete internationally – as some of our colleagues here suggest we should do.
Our strategic objective must not only support transition to knowledge economy but also allow the department to respond and contribute to some of the national objectives and imperatives, especially sustainable development and green economy ambitions.
The fact that the department managed to finalise the implementation framework outlining key areas of focus that would be pursued for the duration of the 10-year innovation plan - and it is now six years into the implementation of the GCGC – is a great success worth celebrating.
One of the three main focus components of the GCGC is improving the scientific understanding of global change. This is a knowledge-generation thrust, with a strong human capital development component. To do this, a 10-year Global Change Grand Challenge National Research Plan was finalised in 2010, and research in various research thematic areas is continuing.
A number of research activities are being undertaken, resulting in over 150 scientific and technical papers being published or accepted for publications, to date at an average of 50 publications a year. Over 200 postgraduate students were provided funding for academic studies in various earth systems science fields every year. To date, almost 350 postgraduates have received full or partial funding through various programmes and initiatives supported by the department.
A new integrated programme, the fundamental biodiversity knowledge and information programme, was conceptualised and finalised recently. A high-level three-year strategic plan for the programme has been integrated successfully into the research portfolio of work, and its implementation is managed by the NRF. The department has created a platform for the global change community to engage and share information in this area of work. This is through biennial conferences that alternate with high-level publications dedicated to global change science. The global change-related knowledge and innovation products are generated through various programmes and initiatives that receive funding from our ANC-led government. Three global-change-related research chairs have been established as part of generating new knowledge and developing human capital in the earth systems science domain: resilience innovation, energy and climate change policy, and social learning.
Another main component of focus for GCGC is bridging the science policy-practice divide. A risk and vulnerability atlas initiative was initiated in 2009 to facilitate the science-policy interface and aid decision-making processes at various levels. The atlas looks at the environmental risks and vulnerabilities to key economic sectors and society, with special emphasis on risk and vulnerability identification and analysis. We are encouraged to learn that the department continues to fund the development and implementation of the atlas as a national decision support tool for the benefit of the sectors and the country as a whole.
The technology localisation programme will assist in supporting and increasing local production that will ultimately improve the throughput of artisans in the country. The Technology Station Programme plays a pivotal role in directly supporting small and medium enterprises to access technological infrastructure and specialised skills. Furthermore, our universities of technology are continuing to improve their curricula to provide teaching that is directly related to industry problems.
The support for foundry technology that was launched in 2010 is on the right path, with the first phase of the foundry’s master’s programme being completed, and we are certain that the second phase will produce additional positive results. The establishment of a dedicated unit to focus on the implementation of the Technology Localisation Implementation Unit, hosted by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, is a firm affirmation of our commitment to the cause of making science and technology one of the major driving forces of our economic growth.
The ANC stands to support the budget. [Applause.]
The MINISTER OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
Mr C C MATHALE
The MINISTER OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY: Chairperson, I should have joined everybody in extending condolences on the loss of Mme Ruth Mompati, a great comrade, a stalwart, a veteran of our movement, and a great leader who made a contribution to our country. If I had been allowed to finish my speech, I also would have said that I certainly miss Deputy Minister kaMagwaza-Msibi, and I wish her strength and a speedy return to her work. [Applause.]
I wish to thank all members for participating in this debate. Let me say that I listened with interest to how difficult it is to be negative about science and technology because we are doing really well. So, you can see the creativity that goes into the contribution of the perennial pessimists whose assignment has been to come and cause despair and anguish in our country by seeing nothing positive and being unable to acknowledge where we are making advances.
In Science and Technology, we are doing very, very well. [Interjections.] As I said, we work with talented people, with people who are making a contribution to our country and whose work is excellent. [Interjections.] So, indeed we are positive; we are proud. We will recognise excellence, and we will talk about success. We will do so recognising that there are areas that we must still address. I think several hon members pointed that out, including the hon Louw from the EFF. I agree with her – we don’t have enough funding. We need to have more funding but, where there is positive progress, we must have the courage to say that there is positive progress and that we recognise it. We should not allow ourselves to be defined as perennial pessimists.
The rejection of a budget is a most amazing thing in a country, in a parliament. I don’t whether you saying the established researchers must not get bigger grants because when you say you reject the budget, that is what it means. It means we should not have a budget. You are saying our candidates for PhDs must not receive funding; you are saying our entities should not be funded because you did not say “I reject this or that aspect”. You said you reject the budget. It is a very peculiar form of rejecting. Perennial pessimism is very problematic.
However, I want to say that I do agree with the hon member with respect to the matter of the budget. I believe it is something we are working on to see whether government can improve funding. I do think we should have more funding streams; we should have improved allocation through national government, and I am pleased that government, led by the ANC, has regarded science, technology and innovation as important and established a fully-fledged department – remember, we are new – to ensure that we retain, sustain and strengthen our entities and build new responsive entities as we develop our science and innovation agenda. So, I believe we have made some progress and that indeed we will grow from strength to strength.
Now, I was intrigued with the members to our left expressing concern over the maths and science pipeline because when Mr Sparks spoke about Verwoerd at their conference, they laughed. They did not say, “We object, Mr Sparks. Do not say those things at our conference.” You were evil; Verwoerd was evil. You cannot make ... there was huge laughter, and we were watching on television. Shocking! [Interjections.]
So, I am afraid that we merely regard standing here and talking about the pipeline as a bit of a pretence that you were regarded ...
The TEMPORARY CHAIRPERSON (Ms X S Tom): Hon members, order! Please allow us to hear the Minister!
The MINISTER OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY: Let us say that we are aware that the members who attend the committee are fully aware that we are spending over R70 million on our youth-into-science strategy, that we have created and fund more than 30 science centres, that we have a national science week attended by young people, that we have the Women in Science Awards which have awards for emerging researchers, young researchers and established researchers, that we fund Olympiads for young people in our country, and that we have a very vibrant talent development programme at Wits University both for teacher development and the development of young people. They know that we have agreements with the Department of Basic Education and that we work on a number of joint initiatives, especially the exciting pilot that we have in schools in Cofimvaba and which we will be expanding from June this year.
We have an excellent relationship with the Department of Higher Education and Training, particularly in developing the new academic core in our universities as well as generally throughout the higher education system. Those who do read our annual reports are also aware that we have established a centre of excellence in mathematics as well as a second centre in maths education just to advance our work in this important area of improving the pipeline. [Applause.]
I am also fully alert to the concerns that were mentioned by the hon Lotriet. I think she is right that we must improve in a number of areas, and we are working hard to address those. [Interjections.] We are concerned - I think you should learn to keep quiet and listen. You are an extremely impolite, irritating member, and I suggest that you just listen for a minute. [Interjections.]
We are addressing the tax incentive scheme and the inadequacies that we have identified, and we certainly will make sure ... [Interjections.]
The TEMPORARY CHAIRPERSON (Ms X S Tom): Order, hon members! Please listen!
The DEPUTY CHIEF WHIP OF THE MAJORITY PARTY: Chairperson, may I address you?
The MINISTER OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY: Well, I am afraid the Chief Whip of the DA is an example of the kind of way in which we should not be leaders.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRPERSON (Ms X S Tom): Just hold on, hon Minister. Hon member?
The DEPUTY CHIEF WHIP OF THE MAJORITY PARTY: Hon Chairperson, we cannot have the Chief Whip of the DA shouting at the Minister while responding. He is the Chief Whip, for that matter. How are his members going to behave if he behaves like that? Hon Chief Whip, no!
The TEMPORARY CHAIRPERSON (Ms X S Tom): Hon member, can you please take your seat? Thank you very much. Hon members, can we please ... Is that a point of order?
The CHIEF WHIP OF THE OPPOSITION: Chairperson, I would like to know if that is a valid point of order.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRPERSON (Ms X S Tom): No, hon member it is not a point of order, but I am appealing ... hon members, I am appealing to you to give the Minister a chance to respond and not abuse points of order. Let us allow the Minister to respond in order to finish the session. Thank you. [Interjections.]
The MINISTER OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY: The hon member is embarrassed that he did not stand up and challenge the gentleman who said Verwoerd was a wonderful man. [Interjections.] So, of course, he would be very angry because he did not stand up. We are embarrassed to have you as the Chief Whip of the largest opposition party. You are indeed an embarrassment. [Applause.] [Interjections.]
However, we continue by saying we are addressing inadequacies in the administration of the tax incentive scheme and, of course, in a number of measures to improve its administration. So, I think we will see improvement. With respect to the management letter from the Auditor–General, we have addressed the supply chain management unit in the department. We have changed it substantially, including the personnel, and have put measures in place to ensure that we don’t have such a future reference in our audit report. Thank you very much, Chairperson.
The Committee rose at 15:53.
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