The MeerKAT radio telescope, a major component of the Square Kilometre Array (SKA), has been added to the list of South Africa’s National Key Points (NKPs) to protect what is currently an investment of over R3 billion.
This was disclosed in the National Assembly this week by Science and Technology Minister, Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, when she introduced the Department of Science and Technology budget vote.
She pointed out that a major milestone was reached with completion of the 64 dish MeerKAT radio telescope at a cost of R3,2 billion ” exactly the cost predicted in 2007/08″.
MeerKAT has been declared an NKP to protect this investment, the Minister said.
There has been debate about new legislation to replace the apartheid era National Key Points Act with a Critical Infrastructure Protection Act, currently still a bill. Indications are the existing legislation remains in force until such time as the infrastructure protection bill is signed into law.
Kubayi-Ngubane said expenditure on the SKA project to date has been R4,4 billion. This includes MeerKAT expenditure, land acquisition, resurfacing of 80km of road to the site, construction of 110km of powerlines and the MeerKAT data centre, as well as the precursor Karoo Array Telescope and human capital development for the wider SKA project.
Her department has a budget of R7,70 billion which she said would be used to address transformation through key research, development and support initiatives.