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South Africa’s HE and science budgets to remain separate—for now

Image: Wesley Nitsckie [CC BY-SA 2.0] via Flickr

South Africa’s new Department for Higher Education, Science and Technology will be a department divided with separate budget lines for universities and science, a senior official has said.

The DHEST will be “two departments with one minister”, Phil Mjwara, who retains his position as director-general for science and technology, told Research Africa. “There will be two director-generals, two budgets, two separate votes, but one minister,” he said on 10 June. However, he added that long-term there is less certainty about what will happen within the department.

President Cyril Ramaphosa announced his intention to merge the Department of Science and Technology with the Department of Higher Education and Training on 29 May. It was one of a number of mergers announced by Ramaphosa after the general election as part of a drive to cut the size of his cabinet to reduce costs.

Blade Nzimandeis the minister for the new department with Buti Manamela as his deputy. The previous science minister, Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, was shifted to tourism, while her former deputy, Zanele Magwaza-Msibi is no longer part of the executive.

Many civil servants from the old DST to whom Research Africa has spoken expressed concern about what the merger will mean to them. The DST’s headquarters are on a campus just outside Pretoria, while the DHET is located in the centre of the city.

In addition, some researchers and science policy commentators have expressed a worry that the merger will lead to university issues overshadowing science policy in government discussions. But others say it is an opportunity for the government to streamline its policymaking on research and innovation.

Nzimande is rumoured to be looking forward to taking the reins of science and technology. He is reportedly less excited about returning to the higher education portfolio, where he clashed with students during the Fees Must Fall protests during which he was higher education minister.