Pandor to launch the South African National Space Agency


Minister of Science and Technology Naledi Pandor will officially launch the South African National Space Agency (SANSA) and the country’s National Space Strategy tomorrow. Both were meant to have been launched at the Africa Aerospace and Defence 2010 show in Cape Town in September. That event was postponed at short notice with no explanation.

The Department of Science and Technology says in a statement the strategy provides a framework for the coordination of all space related activities in South Africa. Its key focus areas are in environmental and resource management, health, safety and security, and innovation and economic growth. “All these elements have the potential to impact on a wide range of national priorities, including industrial development, natural resource management, poverty reduction and rural development,” the statement says.

SANSA will be the instrument which implements the strategy, the department adds. Established through the National Space Agency Act signed into law early last year by then-President Kgalema Motlanthe, the agency will coordinate and integrate national space science and technology programmes and “conduct long term planning for the implementation of space related activities in South Africa for the benefit all citizens.” Its mandate is to promote the peaceful use of space, foster research in space science and communications navigation, and promote international co-operation in space-related activities.

Cabinet in June announced SANSA’s inaugural board, saying they would serve with effect June 1 2010 until May 31 2014. The appointments came about seven months after the DST in consultation with the National Assembly’s Portfolio Committee on Science and Technology finalised a shortlist of candidates.

Chairman Maurice Magugumela is from the National Nuclear Regulator. Other government representatives are Dr Robert Scholes from the CSIR; Rosey Sekese, Deputy Director General (DDG) for ICT infrastructure at the Department of Communications, and Brenda Titi, a DDG at the Department of Agriculture, Captain Mpho Mamashela of the Air Traffic Navigation Service (an agency of the Department of Transport) and Rhodes University physicist Dr Lee-Anne McKinnell.

Not given the Cabinet nod are short-listees Nomfuneko Majaja, Head of 2010 Operations at SA Airways; Francois Anderson of the CSIR and Bennett Kwanele Siziba, the latter a counter-intelligence, weapons of mass destruction counter-proliferation expert with the National Intelligence Agency and Magalies Water CEO Jacqueline Simangele Sekgobela.

Civil society representatives include EDI Holdings executive manager Leeandran Annamalai, Vincent Gore, Business Connexion’s Joy-Marie Lawrence (an expert on space and satellite law), Tsheko Ratseheko and Sage Wise MD Louisa Mogudi. Not on the board is EVI Capital Partners CEO Zola Fihlani, Potlaki Maine, consultant Themba Buthelezi, financial consultant Carla Sharp and retired engineering professor Gideon de Wet.

In answer to a Parliamentary question in September, the DST said the board held its first meeting on July 15. The DST added security screening “and other clearances of shortlisted candidates, and consultation process with Cabinet about the appointment of the SANSA Board delayed the announcement of the SANSA board members.” It added the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) conducts the security screening on its behalf. “After approval of the shortlist by the National Assembly on November 5, 2009, the Minister of Science and Technology embarked on a process of informing Cabinet about the appointment of the SANSA Board before an official appointment or announcement was made. A public announcement of the SANSA Board will be made on September 22 … during [AAD] where SANSA will be officially launched.” This is now expected tomorrow.

SANSA will also sign an inter-agency cooperative agreement with the Algerian Space Agency ( ASAL) on space science and technology as well as Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) with the National Institute for Space Research ( Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais – INPE) of Brazil and China Centre for Resources Satellite Data and Application ( CRESDA) for the reception and distribution of the China-Brazil Earth Resources Satellite (CRERS-3) data within South African and SADC region.

SANSA will operate alongside a 15-strong South African Council for Space Affairs (SACSA), appointed by Minister of Trade and Industry Rob Davies in October. SACSA is mandated to take care of the country’s space-related interests and to comply with international agreements, conventions and treaties. Davies made the appointments under the Space Affairs Act 84 of 1993, spokesman Sidwell Moloantoa Medupe said in a statement.

SACSA is chaired by Dr Peter Martinez of the National Research Foundation’s South African Astronomical Observatory. The department’s Nomfuneko Majaja was appointed its vice-chairwoman. The body will advise Davies on all space and space-related activities in the country, as well as implement South Africa’s National Space Policy “through the creation of a supportive regulatory and international business environment for the South African industry.”

Its activities will include legal, policy, scientific, technical and advocacy matters relating to space activities, Davies’ office says, adding South Africa is one of a small number of countries that has adopted national space legislation governing space activities. “Although the basic legal framework is in place, some gaps remain. One of these gaps is in the area of regulating and supporting commercial space activities,” the Ministerial office says.

The other members of the council are Kim Victor Gorringe from the Commercial Aviation Authority of South Africa [sic]; Advocate Patrick Phethole, an advocate of the High Court; Dr Sandile Malinga of the National Research Foundation; Pontsho Maruping from the Mine Health Council and formerly Chief Director Frontier Programmes at the DST taskedwith overseeing te SumbandilaSat project; Valerie Matlou from the Department of International Relations and Cooperation; and Andiswa Mlisa, who is a director of Earth Sciences consultancy Umvoto.

Council members also include Wabile Motswasele from the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research; Valanathan Munsami from the DST; SunSpace business development director Ron Olivier; Linden Petzer from the Department of Communications; Hennie Rheeder from an unspecified Sector Education and Training Authority; Jo-Ansie Van Wyk from the University of South Africa; Themba Tenza from the Department of Transport.

Pic: The International Space Station