Science and Technology Minister, Naledi Pandor expressed her disappointment over the delay in awarding the Square Kilometer Array (SKA) bid that could be worth EUR1.5 billion (R15.4 billion).
In a statement issued on Wednesday, Pandor: “I am disappointed at the delay. I hope that the SKA organisation will make a decision in the first half of 2012 and that the decision will reflect the best scientific outcome.”
Democratic Alliance science and technology spokesperson Junita Kloppers-Lourens echoed Pandor’s views saying: “We believe we have an excellent site at which exciting science will be done; we in Africa are ready to host the SKA.”
SA is leading Africa’s bid to host the SKA radio telescope. Australia is leading an Australian/New Zealand bid.
The SKA will consist of about 3,000 dish-shaped antennae spread over a wide area.
If Africa wins the bid, the core of the telescope will be constructed in the Karoo region of the Northern Cape, with outlying telescope stations throughout SA, and in Namibia, Botswana, Ghana, Mozambique, Zambia, Kenya, Madagascar and Mauritius.
Six years on from the initiation of the project, it is expected that the announcement of the preferred bidder for the SKA will be made on Wednesday.
However, the announcement will in all likelihood be delayed in the wake of a communique from the board of directors that the meeting that started on Tuesday would be “the start of a process of discussion and negotiation between the members”.
The SKA aims to answer five unsolved scientific questions, including a verification of whether Einstein’s theory of relativity is empirically verifiable and how the first black holes and stars were formed.
“The latent socio-economic benefit of the SKA project cannot be overstated. Aside from the R23 billion capital investment, the attraction of skills and the creation of subsidiary industries will provide a boost of confidence that is both necessary and warranted,” Kloppers-Lourens said.