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Exclusive: South Africa to advertise more top science jobs

Image: Alachua Country [CC BY 2.0], via Flickr

NRF leadership could be first of many vacancies as government departments shift focus to innovation

South Africa will re-advertise all the high-level leadership contracts at its science, innovation and higher education entities when their current terms run out, Research Professional News can reveal. 

The news comes after the National Research Foundation released an advert last month for a new chief executive officer, thereby signalling it was not re-appointing the current incumbent Molapo Qhobela for a second term. 

On 10 September, a spokesman for higher education, science and innovation minister Blade Nzimande said the decision was part of a push to refocus on innovation, as well as a response to the ‘changing nature’ of higher education.

At a meeting with the NRF board on 15 May 2020, Nzimande emphasised that changing the country’s Department of Science and Technology’s name to the Department of Science and Innovation indicated a “paradigm shift”, the spokesman said.

"Thus, it was necessary to discuss a number of interrelated issues, including the role of the NRF given the current systemic changes and requirements," he said.

"In view of these new developments, the minister decided that all positions for which the terms of office were expiring should be advertised. This decision applied across the board at the Departments of Higher Education and Training and Science and Innovation, and entities reporting under these portfolios," he added.   

Entities reporting to the DSI include, among others, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, the Human Sciences Research Council, the National Advisory Council on Innovation and the South African National Space Agency. 

The NRF’s current chief executive officer Molapo Qhobela will end his five-year term at the end of December. The NRF Act allows for leaders to be re-appointed for a maximum of one extra five-year term. An amendment to the NRF Act came into force on 22 January 2020. It stipulates that the NRF board must consult the minister before appointing a CEO.