During a heated public participation meeting, Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor assured the community of Carnarvon that the benefits of the Square Kilometre Array radio telescope (SKA) project would be felt for generations to come.
This followed concerns expressed by residents over the fact that not everyone in the community had gained employment through the project.
Pandor said the nearly
500 bursaries and grants, ranging from artisans to postgraduate students and postdoctoral fellows, would pave the way for opportunities in the future.
“For the next 10 to 12 years, the building of and support services to MeerKAT and the SKA itself will create jobs. Following that, the running and maintenance of the SKA will create jobs for the next 50 years,” she said.
She said that while it was not possible to give all of the older community members jobs, the generation receiving educational benefits through bursaries and training programmes had the potential to improve living standards for the next generation.
Northern Cape Premier Sylvia Lucas said: “The SKA is a scientific project. There will always be opportunities but it won’t be able to accommodate everyone.
“Let us work together. SKA belongs to the whole world and if you go overseas this small town will be known as the town that put this project on the map.”
Lucas said that while SKA would not always bring things that could be seen or touched, it would bring the pride of being in charge of research that would impact the world.
Community members Lilian Andreas and Gert Neels both took turns to say they were proud beneficiaries of the SKA project as both were subcontracted to be part of building various infrastructure.
An assembler at the MeerKAT site, 26-year-old Bradley Marero, said: “Since I have been working here, I have learnt so much.
“The opportunity has provided me with stability I never had before.
“As a father I can provide for my child with this job.”
The SKA Organisation brought together some of the world’s finest scientists, engineers and policymakers and more than 100 companies
and research institutions across 20 countries in the design and development of the telescope.