I am sure most of you will remember the recent strange episode in South African astronomy, with SAAO Phil Charles being suspended for … err… well, it was never really clear exactly what he was suspended for. He endured a several day hearing behind closed doors and was publicly cleared. Except that the layer above SAAO, the NRF, said “well, anyway, we still reckon there’s issues, see”. But then the layer above them, the Ministry, said “I think you’ll find we all agree Professor Charles was cleared of all charges”. See my last update.
Now it seems madness is breaking out again. On January 26th SABC reported a partial eclipse, with nice warm quotes from Phil and the Science Minister about how important astronomy is for inspiring youth. However the day before, SABC reported NRF officials as stating darkly that financial irregularities in the running of SALT were being investigated at the request of the parliamentary Science and Technology Committee. Apparently the committee has “received a detailed report” from the NRF.
Now it gets really weird. Yesterday morning (June 29th) a member of that committee (the shadow minister for science) was reported as saying “eh wot pardon ? No such investigation, no such report”.
A little birdie tells me that today there will be a press release from NRF explaining all.