Address by the Minister of Science and Technology, Mrs Naledi Pandor, MP, on the occasion of the debate of State of the Nation Address
15 Feb 2012Speaker,
“There is a tide in the affairs of men which, when taken leads to fortune. Omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and miseries. On such a full sea are we now afloat. And we must take the current when it serves or lose our ventures”. Julius Caesar.
The State of the Nation Address by the President clearly outlines a set of important projects and programmes that are designed to make a critical difference to our success rates in responding to job creation, skills development and poverty eradication.
The contributions to the debate yesterday (from the ANC and some in the opposition?) pointed to the complex set of demands and mandates confronting government, this Parliament and the people of South Africa.
The debate confirmed a ‘truism’ stated more than once by the President in his speech – it is only through working together that we will achieve our ambitions.
The problems of South Africa are not for this government alone, they require each one of us to share this resolve to do more and do it better. They require ambition, commitment, rational thought and a full of grasp of the nature of the tasks that confront us.
The challenges are as tough as those the ANC faced under apartheid but they are not as easy to respond to. We need a return to the intellectual tradition of the ANC – an organisation that has always been able to draw on the lessons of history and craft appropriate responses.
An organisation that could speak with honesty, clarity of vision and thought, an intimate and shared understanding of the plight of the marginalised and dispossessed masses, an organisation able to inspire millions, indefatigable in its ability to respond.
The ANC has a respected tradition of mature rational thinking. This is why its early leaders believed appeal to fairness via petitioning was possible in its formative years; this was followed by recognition that active mass mobilisation had to be entrenched as part of popular political activism, followed by national campaigns that gave rise to national instruments such as the African Claims and an inclusive national Freedom Charter.
The crafting of the Strategy and Tactics document and its consistent renewal, the development of a newspaper by the first ANC President, a vocational training college and educational establishments such as Ohlange, Lovedale, Healdtown Adams College all bear testimony to the importance the ANC has always given to intellectual thoughtfulness, planning and ‘contextual’ innovation. You could hear yesterday that many Hon. colleagues in the opposition have not been beneficiaries of this tradition. The Hon. McGluwa and others fail to read the synthesis of our policy instruments, Freedom Charter into Bill of Rights, RDP into NGP from GEAR and IPAP all united and unifying.
The intractable problems and challenges of today require such innovation and responsiveness. We cannot rely on the old ways we need to devise new responses; we need to think, to plan differently, to be rational rather than polemic, to be wary of slogans undefined concepts and unsubstantiated vision statements; we need Honourable Speaker and Members to use knowledge to advance our goals.
Today, all nations of the world are confronted by the question – how do we use the opportunities embedded in knowledge to develop a thriving knowledge economy that enhances our natural attributes and offers sustainable responses to our development challenges ? The OECD in its Towards Green Growth policy document replies as follows: “While dealing with immediate problems such as high unemployment, inflationary pressures or fiscal deficits, we have to look to the future and devise new ways of ensuring that the growth and progress we have to come to take for granted are assured in the years to come”.
A return to business as usual would indeed be unwise and ultimately unsustainable…we have to find new ways of producing and consuming what we mean by progress and how we measure it. We have to make sure to take our citizens with us on this journey, in particular to prepare the people with right skills to reap the employment benefits from structural change. No business as usual, Mr President.
I believe some Honourable members were so intent on seeking out inadequacy they missed out on the new knowledge economy opportunities you tabled for South Africa. You reflected the ability to discern and grasp opportunity signaled by Brutus in the famous Julius Caesar when he said: “we must take the current when it serves or lose our ventures”.
Mr President in announcing South Africa’s commitment to building world class astronomy infrastructure such as MeerKAT and SKA – you indicate the President his government and the ANC are seizing the current.
When your cabinet agrees that South Africa can use its fluoro-chemical wealth to enter the field of manufacturing API’s for a new pharmaceutical programme in South Africa – you grab the current. Our recent announcement that cabinet will support a R1,6 billion South African Swiss venture to build a factory that will produce active pharmaceutical ingredients here in South Africa and thus substantially reduce the cost of antiretrovirals (ARVs) and ultimately TB and malaria medication is a major step forward for innovation and Science in our country. It will kick-start our quest to become one of the top emerging economies in the global pharmaceutical industry.
Speaker, Mr President these developments create the knowledge infrastructure and research opportunities for our researchers, cell biologists, MScs, PhDs, to generate responsive and innovative solutions to our development challenges and hence, real work, and sustainable growth for our growing number of knowledge workers. You continue the ANC tradition of being ready for all eventualities. Emerging markets and Africa are the new frontier for knowledge industries we must seize the moment.
Information and communications (ICT) technologies offer immense development opportunities for our society. Quality educators could be available at the touch of a switch. A full curriculum package can go home with a learner each day.
ICTs also offer enterprise opportunity for village-based solar-powered internet cafes. We have these opportunities and millions could benefit if each of us took on these national obligations just as millions joined the call to defy so today must they join the call to build and develop.
When your cabinet supports the development of titanium beneficiation and invests millions in creating plants to produce titanium powder using novel technologies you move South Africa from extraction and marginalisation to value addition, innovation and sustainable development.
The massive infrastructure plans you referred to Mr President, and our strategies for enhancing the quality of education and health are a small part of a large set of endeavours you and your government are implementing. It is only a person who is intent on dishonestly pretending that nothing is being done who will accuse you of merely planning with no action. Those who are honest know that change is happening everyday in a wide range of sectors.
Those who read, research, study context as ANC cadres have always done have access to all these initiatives, however, Mr President as you well know there are none so blind as those who will not see.
Mr President you have called on all of us to do more for the success and growth of South Africa. All of us not just the ANC. Here are some facts which illustrate the importance of your appeal to us all. South African companies spend over R18 billion a year on overseas licences, royalties and access to global technologies – we need to reduce this by developing our own in-house technological capabilities.
Your government has already acted in this regard by creating TIA. NIPMO and various tax incentives for innovation in industry.
We tend to fear our own products and abilities – we need to stop being afraid of our potential for excellence if we are to really prosper.
We have a range of policies that will advance innovation and the development of a knowledge economy while also ensuring that we create an inclusive, labour absorbing and efficient economy as elaborated in the NGP and IPAP which are complementary strategies and not opposites.
There is no doubt that this government is taking up the opportunities presented by the “full tide” of the transition to a knowledge based economy with a massive commitment to infrastructure investment, economic diversification, growth, skills development and dedicated attention to our socio-economic challenges The opposition must join us in this programme for the future or forever regret its inability to respond to the demands of our times.
Issued by: Department of Science and Technology
15 Feb 2012
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