South Africa: Legislation Amendment to Harmonise Science and Technology Operations

South African Space Agency SANSA

The South African Ministry of Science and Technology in November 2018 introduced the Science and Technology Laws Amendment Bill to the National Assembly. The Bill seeks to amend the Scientific Research Council Act of 1988, the Academy of Science of South Africa Act of 2001, the Human Sciences Research Council Act of 2008, the Technology Innovation Agency Act of 2008, and the South African National Space Agency Act of 2008, so as to harmonise the processes for the termination of the membership of Boards or Councils of the entities established by these Acts.

The Bill has since gained support from the National Assembly in February 2020, the National Council of Provinces in July 2020, and is now awaiting Presidential assent. If assented to by President Cyril Ramaphosa, the legislation will unify the operations of agencies under the space and tech ministry, to give a more holistic approach to their services. The Bill also gives more autonomy to some agencies, especially the South African Space Agency, by allowing it to conduct business outside the country with more ease than ever through several amendments to the National Space Agency Act, 2008.

According to the amendment: “47 The following section is hereby inserted in the South African National Space Agency Act, 2008, after section 5: ‘Performance of functions outside Republic 5A. (1) The Agency may, subject to legislation and other formal agreements regarding international cooperation and in order to achieve its objectives, perform any function in any territory outside the Republic. (2) This Act must, as far as it can be applied with the necessary changes, apply in connection with the performance by the Agency of its functions under subsection (1) as if the territory in which it so performs its functions were part of the Republic’’.

The amendment also touches on the now unified management system of the agency through the following introductions: “Clause 49 seeks to amend section 8 by providing for the Minister to consult with the Board before terminating the term of office of a member of the Board for any valid reason. It also provides for the resignation of the Board members to be made in writing to the Minister. Clause 50 seeks to amend section 10 by providing that a member of the Board or a member of a committee of the Board who is not in the full-time employ of the State must be paid remuneration and allowances as determined by the National Treasury”. 

“Clause 51 seeks to amend section 11 by clarifying the issue of the status of decisions of the Board that were adopted under certain circumstances. Clause 52 seeks to amend section 12 by providing that the members of the Board must disclose annually any interest that may compromise the performance of the functions of the Board. Clause 53 seeks to amend section 13 by providing for the chairperson of the Board to designate a chairperson for any of its committees. Clause 54 amends section 13A in the same way as described in clause 21 above. Clause 55 seeks to amend section 14 by providing for the Board to consult with the Minister before appointing the Chief Executive Officer of the Space Agency. It also provides for a limitation of the term of office of the Chief Executive Officer.” 

“Clause 56 seeks to amend section 15 by providing for the determination of the conditions of employment of the employees of the Space Agency by the Board. It also provides for the Chief Executive Officer of the Space Agency to second employees of the Space Agency and for the Board to determine the conditions of secondment of those employees. Clause 57 seeks to amend section 18 of the South African National Space Agency Act by providing for the delegation by the Board of its powers”.

“Clause 58 seeks to prohibit the liquidation of the Space Agency than in accordance with an Act of Parliament”, empowering the space agency to exist in perpetual succession, unless by an act of Parliament.