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16 September 2014
   
 
 
 
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Distinguished guests,
Members of the media,
Ladies and gentlemen.

Three days after the commemoration of the youth day, the day that changed the political landscape in this country for ever, we are gathered on a hill in the centre of the Country to make another historic step that would change the astronomy forever in the sub-sahara.

What started as ‘a pie in the sky’ is fast becoming a historical event of international stature. Some four or so years ago, the Free State University approached the department for partnership in upgrading the Boyden Observatory on the outskirts of the town.

Looking broader than just astronomy, the department proposed that the old Lamont-Hussey Observatory, also known as the “Sterrewag Theatre, at the Naval Hill will make a better proposition. This was to give credence to our dream of this region becoming a hub for eco and astro-tourism.

Following on the footsteps of Carnarvon in the Karoo where the core of the largest telescope in the world, the SKA, is being built, Bloemfontein, particularly Naval Hill is to become the home of the first digital planetarium in Sub-Sahara Africa.

Today that dream is fast becoming a reality. We are taking delivery of the dome which will become the integral part of this development. We believe that with the assistance of our tertiary institutions like the University of the Free State and the Central University of Technology, we have far more than a fair chance to leverage the Knowledge economy to create a smart society.

The activities we are engaging so vigorously in, will undoubtedly take a step further branding Bloemfontein as an ‘astro-tourism’ destination. This will be greatly enhanced by the establishment of a multi-purpose planetarium facility at the Naval Hilll.

The planetarium will be an important ‘edutainment’ facility with plans for the proposed multi-purpose centre that will include office space for provincial government to run programmes and conservation on the environment, as well as a heritage museum and a Science and Sculpture Garden. Based within the existing game-reserve, the centre will be a formidable resource for communication on the environment and the natural sciences. 

This facility will enable scholars, students and tourists to “fly” through the universe, “visit” planets, experiencing the creation of universe, “diving” into the deepest secrets of the ocean, exploring the creation of mankind, “entering” the brain or molecular structures of materials, etc. The planetarium is also suitable for detailed and exciting ‘journeys’ through the human body, for example.

The complex will also be suitable for launches of new products (eg new cars) as it is central in South Africa and easy to access from the airport on a national scale but also local events. Existing planetarium shows are available from organisations like National Geographic on a variety of different subjects, ranging from astronomy through medicine, geology, geography and many other disciplines. The planetarium will be an important ‘edutainment’ facility—the first planetarium in Africa south of the Sahara that will be updated to use modern digital technology.

Today is an exceptional and great day for every Free Stater. This is a history in the making as we reach yet another important milestone towards the establishment of an international facility in Bloemfontein.  More tourists coming to Bloemfontein will lead to job creation, economic development and proper recognition from local, national and international communities.

The arrival of this dome today, an outcome of two years of meticulous discussions, between the University of the Free State, Mangaung Metro, The National Department of Science and Technology and the Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs is a living proof of successful Intergovernmental Relations. No single organisation would have made this plan a reality on its own.

Ladies and gentlemen, a master plan consisting of three main phases is envisaged for the development of Naval Hill. Bloemfontein is already famous for its roses, so the First phase will embark on the development of Naval Hill and rebranding Bloemfontein as the City of Stars and Roses, by highlighting our wonderful night sky. Bloemfontein can indeed become a hub for eco and astro-tourism. Bloemfontein is located next to the N1.

It is ideally suited as a halfway point between Johannesburg and Cape Town with many tourists passing through the city. The promotion of astro-tourism can provide a breakthrough for the city to become an Astro-Tourism destination combined with existing facilities in the city.

Naval Hill can already lay claim to having the only game reserve in the world that is surrounded by a city. The Naval Hill Dome Theatre will be ideally positioned to promote both tourism and science education in the region as Bloemfontein is already recognised as the educational hub in the Free State offering top primary and tertiary educational institutions ie. UFS, CUT, National Museum, schools etc...

Programme director, the estimated capital investment required to establish the Naval Hill Dome Theatre is approximately R17 million of which DETEA has already contributed R6 million for the upgrade of the Lamont-Hussey Observatory on Naval Hill and the purchase of the dome we are receiving today. 

The National Department of Science & Technology contributed a further R6 million to the cost with the rest of the money being made possible through the generosity of the friends of the Naval Hill Planetarium who have seen the wisdom of having this facility here on the Naval Hill.

The theatre itself is a versatile venue which can be used for concerts, state-of-the-art presentations, theatre productions, as well as meetings, conferences and exhibitions. The auditorium will seat 80 adults or 120 children.

In Phase Two of the proposed development, DETEA envisages the development of a state of the art eco-park recreational area to complement the planetarium. This objective is to offer a full day of fun and educational filled “edutainment” to citizens and visitors to the city.

This may include the introduction of other animal species by DETEA to the existing nature reserve, supportive management and the possible establishment of an environmental awareness centre at the site. DETEA already completed a Conservation Management Plan for the Franklin Private Nature Reserve (Naval Hill).

Phase Three envisages the development and the establishment of an international hotel & convention centre including an office park, which in turn will generate significant revenue for MMM through rates and taxes.

Ladies and gentlemen as I said earlier, this project is an embodiment of collaboration and synergy among state institutions for the benefit of broader population of South Africa.

In brief it entails:

  • Mangaung Metropolitan Municipality  for the availing of land and services;
  • Free State Provincial Government through DETEA (Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs) for economic and tourism, and environmental friendly development,
  • University of the Free State for concept development and operational management of the planetarium,
  • Department of Science and Technology for science and technological development
  • Private Sector for investments and support.

Our plan is to ensure that the Naval Hill Dome Theatre will be operational by the last quarter of 2013. During this period, Mangaung will host thousands of visitors due to high profile sport, political and cultural events, for example the MACUFE and Vry arts festivals, several sport tournaments, etc. Projects of this scale have the potential of enormous collateral benefits for tourism and education and job creation.

South Africa, which already hosts world class astronomical facilities like the South African Large Telescope (SALT) and the MeerKAT radio telescope, is likely to become one of the frontline astronomical countries in the world. Already the International Astronomical Union has located their Office of Astronomy for Development (OAD) to South Africa. We are can’t miss this opportunity by failing to see a bigger picture, driven by narrow self-interest at the expense of the Province and of course the country.

Bomme le Bontate jwalo ka ha ke ile ka tjho nakong ya puo ya ditekanyetso tsa lefapha lena kwana Mmamahabane. “Setsokotsane sa leqhubu la moya wa tshepo se se se fihlile. Bohloko ba tlala bona re a bo tseba. Tlohong ba heso, le tle ka pele sebaka se sa le teng. Tlohong re ahe moruo wa naha ya rona. Jwale ke nako ya kotulo”.

Thank you!

Edited by: Creamer Media Reporter
 
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