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South African Minister of Science and Technology Naledi Pandor visits the SKA Global Headquarters

SKA Global Headquarters, Monday 22 May 2017 – The South African Minister of Science and Technology, Naledi Pandor, visited the SKA Global Headquarters at Jodrell Bank last Thursday to be briefed on the current state of the international Square Kilometre Array project.

Minister Pandor

South African Minister of Science and Technology Naledi Pandor, with SKA Director-General Prof. Philip Diamond (left) and SKA Chairman of the Board of Directors Prof. Giovanni Bignami (right) at the international SKA Headquarters.

The Minister was received by SKA Director-General Professor Philip Diamond and Chairman of the SKA Board of Directors Professor Giovanni Bignami, along with senior members of the SKA leadership team. During this time she was briefed on the current state of the project, including the ongoing negotiations towards establishing the SKA as an intergovernmental organisation and the design activities happening around the world. She also had the opportunity to see first-hand the on-going construction work for the expansion of the SKA Global headquarters

This was Minister Pandor’s first visit to the SKA Headquarters and she commented how impressed she was by the level of work taking place, with the SKA gaining substantial momentum in all aspects of the project. The minister also took the opportunity to confirm that the SKA features highly on the national agenda of the South African government and that the project enjoys strong and continuous support.

“South Africa is extremely proud to be one of the host countries for the SKA telescope and to have contributed to bring the project to its current level”, said Minister Pandor. “The SKA is a flagship project in South Africa and visiting the SKA headquarters gives me a profound sense of what we are collectively aiming to achieve with our international partners: something unique scientifically, technologically, but also politically, building bridges across borders. Seeing this vision gradually coming to fruition and being carried with such enthusiasm and professionalism by the SKA Organisation D-G and his staff here at Jodrell Bank as well as other partners globally is really positive for the project.”

Minister Pandor’s visit followed the recent announcement of the Budget Vote of the SA Department of Science and Technology in Parliament, and also the release of the latest MeerKAT images from the current 32 antenna array. In her Budget Vote speech, the Minister announced that the Research Development and Support Programme will transfer R693 million to the National Research Foundation to ensure the completion of MeerKAT as a key priority for 2017/18, paving the way for the future SKA, construction for which is expected to start shortly after.

“It was an honour to host Minister Pandor here at the HQ and brief her first hand on the steady progress and breadth of activities in the SKA around the world”, said Prof. Philip Diamond. “Minister Pandor has always been a strong supporter of the project, both in South Africa and internationally, and we know we can count on her to keep pushing the SKA on the global scene.”

As part of her visit to the headquarters, the Minister also took the time to meet South African staff within the SKA office. She discussed with them the roles the staff had within the project and what it was like to work at the HQ of one of the most world’s most ambitious science facilities. The Minister commented on how proud she was to see such a large representation of South Africans here at the global headquarters, raising the flag for their country.