Deputy Science and Technology Minister Zanele kaMagwaza-Msibi has hailed the calibre of the people working at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and the importance of their work. She was speaking at the recent 2014 CSIR Excellence Awards ceremony. She highlighted that she was “in the company of some of the country’s best minds, to celebrate you [the award nominees], to celebrate the work you are doing, to celebrate your excellence”. She described the awards nominees as “those who wouldn’t take no for an answer”. She noted: “Recognition of our efforts drives us to do better. These awards are designed also to inspire and encourage all other officials to always do your [sic] best.”
“We need outstanding achievement and performance, consistently,” she affirmed. She pointed out that, although much progress had been made, the country still faced serious socioeconomic problems. It was necessary to make a real impact on people’s lives, including those of the poor and marginalised.
As a public entity, the CSIR needed to look at the impact of its work on the poor and marginalised. KaMagwaza-Msibi challenged the science council to use its expertise to guide the country’s decision-makers on how to address the country’s development problems. She pointed out that science and technology made the difference between countries which achieved socioeconomic development and those which did not.
She cited the fact that the CSIR employs some 2 500 people, making it the biggest employer within the Department of Science and Technology. She made a point of also congratulating the efforts of all CSIR staff, for, without all their work, there would be no celebration of excellence. “Congratulations to the CSIR for creating an environment in which our scientists can thrive.” The success of any institution, she noted, depended on its “human capital”.
In his address at the awards function, CSIR president and CEO Dr Sibusiso Sibisi cited the theme of this year’s awards: ‘Celebrating the people behind the ideas that work’. He noted that, when people talk about the CSIR, they often talk about science and technology. But, “[a]ll of that is underpinned by people”.
He referred to the vision of the future of the country contained in the National Development Plan. “We are not going to attain that vision of the world we’d like to have unless we have the people to do so. The one, clear, undisputed prerequisite is people.”
The awards were divided into some 15 categories – some for individuals, some for teams and some for both. Categories for individuals were the Master’s Studentship Award (awarded to Zubeida Dawood), the Doctoral Studentship Award (Dr Vincent Ojijo), the Emerging Researcher Award (Gugu Hlengiwe Mhlongo), the Established Researcher Award (Dr Paul Nordengen), the Career Achievement Award (two winners: Dr RajeshAnandjiwala and Professor Andrew Forbes), the Emerging Leader Award (Kimal Hiralall), the Leadership Award (Professor Suprakas Sinha Ray) and the CEO’s Award (Dr Kenneth Ozoemena).
The team award categories were the Collaboration Award and the Outstanding Contribution by a Team Award. The Collaboration Award was won by the CSIR team, which developed the National Health Population Registration System for the National Department of Health. This team was led by Dr Rachel Chikwamba and was composed of 44 researchers from four CSIR units (CSIR Meraka Institute, CSIR Modelling and Digital Science, CSIR Defence, Peace, Safety and Security and CSIR Built Environment). The Outstanding Contribution by a Team Award went to the Laser Resonator Team (led by Professor Andrew Forbes and comprising Dr Igor Litvin, Sandile Ngcobo, Liesl Burger and Darryl Naidoo).
The categories for either individuals or teams were the Innovation Award (presented to the 13-member Broadband for All project team), the Technical Support Excellence Award (won by Mark Holloway), the Professional Support Excellence Award (Hennie Bezuidenhout), the Human Capital Development Award (Professor Suprakas Sinha Ray) and the Outstanding Impact Award (the Rail Transducer production team, comprising Johan Lehmann, Brenda Bradley, Jill Baker, Mike Bedisia, Jan Mdule, Joseph Sekiba and Kenneth Lakala).