South African science organisations have been told to do nothing that could be construed as a political comment about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The likes of the National Research Foundation and the South African Radio Astronomy Observatory received that instruction in writing, reports Research Professional News.
The department of science and innovation says nothing has changed in terms of scientific cooperation with Russia since it launched its attack.
Scientists at South Africa’s government research organisations have been told to say and do nothing that could be considered a political statement around Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
On 1 March, a senior official at the department of science and innovation put that instruction in writing, specialist publication Research Professional News reported on Thursday.
Organisations including the National Research Foundation and the South African Radio Astronomy Observatory, as well as those at the department, "should not engage in any action of any kind, which could be construed as a political commentary or political reaction to the developments in Ukraine" in an email, it said.
The department refused to comment on the email, referring "this matter" to the department of international relations and cooperation.
That department initially called for Russia to withdraw is troops from Ukraine, before its minister later retreated to the position adopted by President Cyril Ramaphosa and the ANC, that diplomacy is the only answer to the war.
On Wednesday, South Africa abstained from a United Nations vote in which 141 other countries condemned the invasion.
A scientist at an affected government research entity told Research Professional News journalist Linda Nordling that such organisations had previously been warned against political statements, but never in such a specific fashion.
Russia this week stressed its role in the fight against apartheid on the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations with South Africa.
The government said Russia’s invasion held no implications for cooperation on science and research.
Several European countries have cut scientific ties with Russia, but the decision to do so has not been unanimous even within the European Union.
In 2021, scientific cooperation arranged via BRICS featured more than 100 events intended to bring everyone from astronomers to health researchers together.