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Speech of Acting Premier at the re-launch of SALT in Sutherland


TIME : 11H30

Programme Director
Honourable MEC’S
NRF Chief Executive, Dr Van Jaarsveld
Dr Mitchel Ishmail
Distinguished Guests
Ladies and Gentlemen

Good morning and welcome to you all and a special welcome to our visitors. The Northern Cape Province and the South African Government are truly proud to have been able to make our contribution towards the development and establishment of major scientific instruments such as the South African Large Telescope (SALT) and lately the Karoo Array Telescope (KAT 7). Through these two astronomy instruments, we will be able to contribute towards the general body of scientific knowledge.

We are aware that SALT is an Optical telescope and the KAT7 (MeerKAT) which is a radio telescope, provides a unique opportunity together with other telescope in the Northern Cape, of establishing the Province as the astronomy hub in the Southern Hemisphere. We are also aware of the unique conditions that make the Northern Cape ideal for the development of astronomy instruments. These include our clear night skies and radio quietness. These conditions present an exciting opportunity for students of multi-wave length astronomy with the technologies employed in both SALT and the MeerKAT 7 telescopes.

Our country has over the years built up excellence in a number of fields, but this particular one has to do with our understanding of the earth and has led to cutting-edge research into astronomy. we

This project in our view is very important and critical for the people of our country and Africa as a whole and has indeed captured the imagination of our people more than the study of deep time. This includes the origins of life, the world of dinosaurs as well as the evolution of humankind.

Our country and our Province in particular has become the center of world developments and attraction in science and engineering.

We are committed to once more use this world renowned project to share our research with the rest of Africa and the world to forge unity in promoting a new awareness of life in the past for the intellectual enrichment and empowerment of all Africans and the people of the world.

This project will give the current generation and the next generations an opportunity to look back more than a million years into space and will exert a global fascination throughout our country, Africa and the world. It will also afford the opportunity to find answers to questions that we have battled with for many years as it relates to ; How big is the earth? How old is the earth? How many things does it contain?

This launch becomes important in that it provides all of us with more renewed hope that Africa’s dream is near and within reach. We are therefore here today, to celebrate the development of an instrument that will take astronomy throughout the length and breadth of Africa and the world.

What excites me more about this project is the fact that unlike our competitor, everything about our bid is developed here at home and by our home-grown engineers in collaboration with international institutions. This is ground-breaking if you consider how Africa is perceived outside. So, it is a project that is being built by the people of our country and it will serve both SA and the rest of the international community ( any astronomer in the world will be able to propose fir time on MeerKAT and, if their science is deemed worthwhile to be given time, they will be awarded time to observe with MeerKAT).

Through the collateral benefit of SALT and Human Capital Development programme, we as a province have great expectations, namely the development of scientific interests in the Northern Cape, particularly in and around Sutherland through the involvement of the scientists and project engineers.

We are also hoping that the project will spark the necessary interest from among our learners and contribute towards excellence in science and better performance among our Dinaledi schools, which are schools focusing mainly in science and technology.

As government, we are happy that communities around which the project is undertaken, has embraced the project completely because it gives them hope for the future. As a result of this, we are hoping that the project will contribute towards the down-turn in the poverty levels in the region.

The nation is also looking with keen interest the outcome of the Square Kilometer Array bid that we are currently contesting with Australia. The final decision will be in 2012 around February/March.

What is more exciting is also the fact that our government has committed itself to see this project through. This commitment is critical and once more shows our resolve to invest in Astronomy. We have invested in three major complex science project namely; Southern African Large Telescope (SALT), Karoo Array Telescope( MeerkAT), and the bid to host the Square Kilometer Array( SKA).

Our country chose to invest heavily in Science and Astronomy because of its role in development and the benefits that it will bring not only within South Africa, but across the Continent.

By providing this kind of high technology service to the world community, it brings our country into the mainstream of international research.

The SKA will be a truly international project and, when South Africa wins the bid, it will become the technological hub of the most powerful radio telescope in the world.

Our view as government is that this mega-science project have the potential to seed or boost technological learning, capability development, economic and social benefits, as well as stimulate market gains.

It will help us address some of the more fundamental questions in contemporary physics and astronomy; including the nature of the first stars in the Universe, the cosmic history of the Universe, the nature of Dark Matter and Dark Energy, theories of gravity and black holes and the origin of cosmic magnetism.

Beyond the internationally agreed SKA key science projects, several benefits in terms of capacity and capability enhancement, as well as direct economic and indirect societal impacts are expected.

We are also aware that as MeerKAT is being built, the world is watching South Africa to determine if it has the potential to successfully host the SKA. This potential will in the main be measured in our management expertise, engineering expertise, software expertise, operations and maintenance expertise. All of this will bring benefit to South Africa and the African continent in several ways.

Programme director, as a country we are proud of the work that has been done with both our SALT and KAT 7 telescopes. We are also aware of the Astronomy Geographic Advantage Act 26 of 2007 which seeks to protect the prestine astronomy conditions and would do all that is necessary to ensure compliance.

South Africa is ready, Africa is ready. This is our time, this is Africa’s time

I thank you

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