Programme Director;

Dr Specioza Kazibwe Wandira, former Deputy President of Uganda;

Ms Lindiwe Maseko, Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Science and Technology;

Ms Ellen Prins, Chairperson of the Select Committee on Communications and Public Enterprises;

Ms Joyce Pekane, Chairperson of the Gauteng Portfolio Committee on Sports, Arts, Culture and Recreation;

Ms Ntsiki Mokhotho, Tshwane MMC for Community and Social Development Services;

Representatives of our science councils;

Our partners at North-West University;

Distinguished guests;

Ladies and gentlemen:

 

I would like to welcome you all to the second international conference on indigenous knowledge systems. I would also like to thank the DST team together with our co-hosts, the University of the North-West, for putting together this important conference for us to explore all issues on IKS.

 

The theme for the 2018 International Conference explores "Protecting indigenous knowledge towards socio-economic development". Not so long ago it would have sounded bizarre for anyone to suggest that indigenous knowledge needed protection, let alone that it could be used for socio-economic development.

 

This is because knowledge produced by indigenous communities was, for the longest of time, regarded as no knowledge at all. The process of developing knowledge by indigenous communities was regarded as illegitimate and invalid and, therefore, whatever knowledge was organised and accumulated using this process was looked at with suspicion. Consequently, it was not accorded any status in improving quality of life and creating a liveable environment and world.

 

Actually, indigenous people were mocked and regarded as inferior, with no ability to have or need to preserve their knowledge systems. This is one of the areas which, if you explore it, you will see the extent of damage the apartheid government did to the majority of the people of this country.

 

Somebody said that whatever our wishes, our inclinations or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence. In spite of denigration and demonisation, the facts and evidence of indigenous knowledge systems have endured over time. Despite the damage done, we are here today looking at what is it that we can do to improve this area of work. For me, what is most important is to ensure that we don't do what the apartheid government did and leave indigenous communities out while discussing them and their heritage.

 

The German scientist Max Planck is reported to have said that a new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.

 

I would like to believe that the adoption and acceptance of indigenous knowledge systems into the larger scientific enterprise was the result of convincing its opponents and making them see the light rather than the death of its opponents. Much progress has been made, but challenges remain. In fact, it is for this reason that today, in South Africa and across the world, university campuses are now looking at the decolonisation of knowledge.

 

The call for decolonisation seeks to make a submission that the validation of knowledge is not so much its place of origin as it is its capacity to advance human life and civilisation, and that human ingenuity invariably responds to the immediate needs of specific communities.

 

Thus, the decolonisation of knowledge does not consist of denying other knowledge. Instead, it demands that we make the knowledge enterprise inclusive and sincere in the sense that it must acknowledge that it is open to both challenge and improvement from all corners of the globe, and therefore is not and cannot possibly be the final state of knowing.

 

The work that we are doing with indigenous knowledge systems will go long way towards the decolonisation of knowledge.

 

Today's theme emphasises the pivotal role that protecting indigenous knowledge (IK) from exploitation can play in creating a prosperous socio-economic environment for indigenous communities, rooted in the rich cultural heritage that IK encompasses. This protection will ensure that the socio-economic benefits arising from the use of communal indigenous knowledge resources will flow back into the local communities who are the generators and custodians of this knowledge.

 

The Department of Science and Technology has prioritised four essential strategic drivers in the area of IKS so that it can be translated into a socio-economic asset for the development of communities.

 

The Protection, Promotion, Development and Management of Indigenous Knowledge Bill has been passed by Parliament, and it now awaits only the President's signature to become law. The Bill is the first strategic driver. The primary objective of the IK Bill is to facilitate the protection of IK, and the restoration and recognition of IK relating to, and owned by, the indigenous communities of South Africa. The Bill will provide South Africa and the region an opportunity to protect its IK and cultural heritage.

 

The second strategic priority, as well as an important provision in the IK Bill, is the development of a registration system (section 16 of the Bill) for the collection, recording, documenting, storage, management and dissemination of indigenous knowledge systems in communities across all nine of our provinces. The fulfilment of this objective is well under way, as the National Recordal System initiative now has a footprint in all nine provinces.

 

The third strategic focus has been the development of a regulatory policy framework for the accreditation and certification of IK holders and practitioners. This marks a substantial step towards ensuring that IK holders and practitioners' skills, experience, learning and practices are legally recognised. Processes are under way to make this a reality.

 

The fourth strategic driver is the Bachelor of Indigenous Knowledge Systems (BIKS) degree, which is offered both at North-West University in Mafikeng and the University of Venda. The first cohort of 25 BIKS students graduated last year at North-West University, while the first cohort at Univen (46 students) graduated this year. Human capital development is very important for the success of this programme.

 

The value of interfacing and mainstreaming IK within the national system of innovation will directly improve the quality of life of communities through wealth creation initiatives. The DST has established the Indigenous Knowledge-Based Bioinnovation Programme which has six platforms –

  • African natural medicines (herbal medicines);
  • IK-based cosmeceuticals (for health and beauty);
  • IK-based nutraceuticals (for nutrition and food security);
  • IK-based health infusions (beverages and teas);
  • IK-based technology transfer and incubation; and
  • IK-based commercialisation (including branding and marketing).

 

These platforms are managed through the Ubuntu-based bioinnovation and governance model, which promotes inclusivity, openness, transparency and collective decision making. Partners include IK-holder organisations, community-based organisations, government departments, universities, science councils, non-governmental organisations, and the private sector as equal partners.

 

Through its technology transfer and commercialisation platforms, the DST is currently facilitating the translation of research, development and innovation-based products to small, medium and micro-enterprises. To date, the DST has supported over 30 SMMEs, cooperatives and individual entrepreneurs. Three Moringa-growing communities are involved in agroprocessing aspects of the project in Hammanskraal (Phedisanang Technologies), Tooseng (Sedikong MoNutri) and Makonde (the Makonde Indigenous Fruit Processing Association). The Innovation Hub has provided incubation status for the extraction of Moringa ingredients by a new SMME, co-owned by knowledge holders and scientists, named Green Ex. The DST supports 10 SMMEs working on South African health infusions, such as Honeybush, from the North West, Eastern Cape, Limpopo and Western Cape. There are four African natural medicine SMMEs, and four cosmeceutical entrepreneurs supported in North West, Mpumalanga, Gauteng, the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal.

 

Land has been acquired from various tribal authorities and municipalities. Seed orchards, nurseries, plantations and pre-processing plants are being established in these provinces. IK holders have been trained in bioprocessing, agricultural practices, financial management, marketing and commercialisation.

 

Business cases and business plans for marketing and commercialisation have been developed for those with commercial products. Negotiations have been initiated with the Departments of Trade and Industry, Rural Development, Environmental Affairs, and Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, for commercial upscaling and marketing. The model employed by the DST seeks to directly empower knowledge holders, entrepreneurs and communities. It is our conviction that this is the best way to reverse poverty and restore dignity to our people.

 

We believe that, with all the mechanisms we have put in place, indigenous knowledge will make a huge impact on socio-economic development in our communities.

 

Programme Director, allow me, before I take my seat, to pay tribute to a soldier that has fallen. It is important for us to understand who this soldier was in order for us to pick up her spear. We, as a nation, received the shocking and sad news on Saturday of the passing of Minister Edna Molewa, Minister of Environmental Affairs. As colleagues we can't explain the sense of loss or pain we feel currently; our comfort is in understanding that she lived her life to the fullest and left us a rich legacy.  She was our leader, a freedom fighter, a unionist, a fighter for social justice, an environmentalist, a gender activist, a colleague, a mother to many of us. She contributed to the academic discourse through her regular thought-provoking articles, which, as she was a teacher by profession, should not be a surprise.

 

I know colleagues in the environmental sector will attest to her hard work in driving negotiations during the COP17 meeting hosted here in our country. She led negotiations so diligently that participants from across the globe celebrated the breakthrough achieved during that conference under her stewardship. I know colleagues who worked under her on Operation Phakisa Oceans Economy will also have a lot to say about how she was able to drive this programme, and we have seen the remarkable achievements in bringing government and private sector to work together. Similarly, colleagues at Sefako Makgatho University will attest to the strength and passion for education of their Chancellor, Minister Edna Molewa. More than anything she was a human being who knew how to guide, advise, comfort and, where necessary, call to order. That, ladies and gentlemen, was the soldier who died with her boots on, Minister Edna Bomo Molewa. May her beautiful soul rest in peace.

 

I thank you.