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More election promises for South African science

With South Africa’s general election just a month away, we comb through more manifestos to see what political parties promise for science and research.

Four political parties contesting the May elections in South Africa have published their manifestos, and they contain a smattering of promises that pertain to science. They are the latest parties to do so—several other parties, including the large ones like the African National Congress, the Economic Freedom Fighters, and the Democratic Alliance, already published theirs earlier this year.

There is little science in the National Freedom Party’s manifesto, despite the fact that it is led by South Africa’s absentee deputy science minister, Zanele Magwaza-Msibi. She is still on the government books despite being almost wholly absent from Department of Science and Technology activities since her appointment. The party also features Nhlanhla Khubisa, a professor and prominent member of the science portfolio committee in parliament.

The NFP manifesto merely states that universities must be encouraged through incentives to be “research active”, and that such incentives should focus on historically disadvantaged institutions. The party also wants government to help universities set up exchange programmes with partners from abroad. The party supports transformation of staff at universities and “Africanisation and decolonisation processes”.

African Democratic Change, formerly led by Makhosi Khoza, says it will ensure “adequate funding” for higher education and greater emphasis on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The party says it will protect workers from the fourth industrial revolution by promoting technology which doesn’t affect jobs and by retraining those affected.

The Azanian People’s Organisation has more science policies than many of the other parties contesting the election. Azapo says it will “mainstream science, technology and innovation in its national development agenda”. It recommends the realignment of science and innovation systems to respond to the problems facing black people in the country. Azapo says its science system would focus on inequality, poverty, joblessness, the fourth industrial revolution and nanotechnology. It promises financial support for “academically excellent” students and researchers to train locally and internationally.

African Covenant, a religious party, says it will support and fund research that produces new knowledge with outcomes that improve the lives of South African citizens.

Research Africa has sent detailed questions on science policy to all major political parties ahead of the election. So far only GOOD has responded.