Amendments to Research, Science and Technology Act possible

24 Mar 2014 19:00pm
WINDHOEK, 24 MAR (NAMPA) – The Research, Science and Technology Act can be amended if crucial amendments are required, the chairperson of the National Commission on Research, Science and Technology (NCRST) André du Pisani says.
He was speaking at the opening of a two-day national consultative workshop on the development of the national research, science, technology, and innovation programme (NRSTIP) in Windhoek on Monday. The programme will address challenges and opportunities in the national innovation system by devising appropriate interventions for an enabling framework in policy areas, human resources and institutional framework.
“There is a public outcry about the Act and researchers have raised their concerns. There will be follow-up meetings to deal with these concerns and if the Act needs to be amended, we will do it,” Du Pisani said.
The Research, Science and Technology Act No 23 of 2004 has caused widespread protest amongst the public and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) over the past few years as there are concerns that the Act and the regulations are aimed at controlling and limiting research and enquiries.
The co-ordinator of the Gender Research and Advocacy Project at the Legal Assistance Centre (LAC), Dianne Hubbard told Nampa on Monday the LAC intends to take Government to court over the proposed research regulation of the Ministry of Education, which it considers as unconstitutional.
“We have already prepared all the documents. We have also tried over the past two years to resolve the issue with the ministry,” she noted.
Hubbard stated that court action is the last option, and the LAC would welcome a decision by the NCRST to amend the Act.
This issue, according to Hubbard, needs to be dealt with urgently if the ministry is in the process of finalising the programme.
The Namibia Non-governmental Organisations Forum (Nangof), backed by the Institute for Public Policy Research and the LAC, issued a joint statement earlier this month containing their concerns about the NCSRT.
Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) claim the unlawful regulations place unacceptable restrictions on academic freedom enshrined in the Namibian Constitution, limits creative thinking, creates uncertainty around research carried out by NGOs, researchers, and institutions of higher learning, and introduces far-reaching restrictions.
However, Du Pisani pledged that the commission will be “extraordinarily transparent and is not in the business to waste public resources. We will work strategically.”
In terms of Section 18 of the Act, the NCRST must prepare a national programme for research, science and technology once every three years. A draft programme has been developed with the broader context of Vision 2030 goals of Namibia to become a “prosperous and industrialised Namibia, developed by her human resources, enjoying peace, harmony and political stability”.