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Science and Innovation: Is the adjustment budget an early funeral toll for this system in South Africa?

The Department of Science and Innovation is one that performs exceedingly well in the South African context. Through various entities, it maintains South Africa's position in the international ecosystem of science and innovation.

It means that people are empowered through cooperation, infrastructure and financing to make a contribution. The key contribution that the Department has made to handling the current crisis caused by the pandemic only heightens the irony of the fact that its budget has been slashed with 10% due to this very same crisis.

Science and innovation depend on people. Laboratories and other infrastructure are only as valuable as the people who use them.

 

 

Long before the lockdown, entities in this Department warned that its human resources are in high demand internationally and that they are finding it hard to remain competitive to retain these people. The current cutbacks will certainly not help the situation seeing as it entails salary cuts.

The dedication of South Africa's scientists to their country and the continent is evident in the fact that they are still here. They are free to choose where they want to work in the world; and they chose here. They are Africans, whether they are black, coloured, white or Indian. They want to work here, but the question is for how long will they still be able to?

Post-graduate students and the transformation-driven acceleration of career trajectories in the scientific and academic fields are funded by the National Research Foundation (NRF). The funding for this foundation was reduced with nearly R97 million, which will have a detrimental effect on transformation.

In the FF Plus's view, this reality exposes the most significant blind spot of the revolutionary approach. According to the approach, the destruction of the old dispensation is good because then a new, better dispensation of equality can be established.

In practice, however, such destruction only creates an opportunity for those who were previously advantaged to recover easier and faster and then the gap between them and the previously disadvantaged is widened. Thus, the inequality becomes greater and not less and that is what we are currently seeing.

The SKA radio astronomy project is one of the greatest science projects in the world's history. And although it attracted large investments to South Africa, the FF Plus is still of the opinion that not enough of the investments was channelled to the Northern Cape towns of Williston and Carnarvon.

 

The work is performed elsewhere in South Africa, while the apparatus is merely erected in the Northern Cape. The technicians responsible for the specialised maintenance of the system do not reside permanently in these towns.

 

Only if the Vaal University for Technology's campus in Upington is turned into a complete university for technology with Afrikaans as one of the mediums of instruction, will the poorest of the poor in the Northern Cape truly be able to benefit from the SKA project.

The FF Plus fears that this adjustment budget will later be remembered as an early funeral toll for first-class science and innovation in South Africa.

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