National Council for Library and Information Services Bill; Cultural Laws Second Amendment Bill: briefing

Arts and Culture

12 September 2000
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Meeting Summary

A summary of this committee meeting is not yet available.

Meeting report

12 September 2000

Documents Handed Out:
National Council for Library and Information Services Bill [B44-2000]
Cultural Laws Second Amendment Bill [B46-2000]

The Portfolio Committee views the National Council for Library and Information Services Bill as being important, but emphasised that it still needed a lot of additions insofar as its relevance to the South African scene.  A cause for concern was the broad and non-specific aims of the Council, which the Committee thought needed further deliberation.  A number of clauses of the Bill engendered discussion.

The Cultural Laws Second Amendment Bill amends the Cultural Institution Act of 1998 and the National Heritage Council Act of 1999.

National Council for Library and Information Services Bill
Ms Cilliers from the Department gave a brief background to the Bill.  She explained that the Constitution gives the framework for the provision of library and information services.  She said that the Bill states that a Council is to be established which will have an advisory role to the Minister of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology, and when it deals with matters affecting provinces, they will concur with the various provincial ministers.  She stated that the Council is to advise both the Minister of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology and to the Minister of Education.  She stated there was such an advisory council that had been established in 1967 but had later been abolished in 1982.  She further added that the Minister had appointed an Inter-ministerial working group in 1996 and among its recommendations, the working group proposed that an advisory council be established to assist the Minister in the area of Library and Information Services.  They further recommended that this council be a statutory body.

Clause by clause briefing:
Clause 1: Definition
No questions arose with regard to the definition of the Bill

Clause 2: Establishment of Council
No questions arose

Clause 3: Object of Council
Mr Cassim (IFP) suggested the following to be added to the objects of the Council:
- To receive suggestions, recommendations and proposals from the Department and civil organs
- To establish appropriate relationships with publishers and book sellers
- To develop regional and international relationships
- To develop a dynamic working relationship with academic institutions and professional bodies with a view to advancing the goals of the council
- To promote extensive library usage on the part of all South Africans and particularly on the part of those who were historically disadvantaged
- To develop synergy amongst all Information Service providers, including museums and private sector information agencies
- To utilise community centres as the focal point through which to develop library facilities

Clause 4: Functions of the Council
Ms Cilliers from the Department explained that there needed to be co-ordination of services to promote transformation.  She stated that relevant authorities, educational bodies and science councils will be consulted in providing information.  She stated that the Council would play an advocacy role.

The Chairperson suggested the following be added to the functions of the Council:
The Council must make an effort to promote South African literature

Mr Cassim suggested the following be added to the functions of the Council:
- The council must give attention to obtaining licences of international books so as to make their accessibility easier
- The council should encourage bequests and donations to libraries
- The council should develop a dynamic public/private sector interface, where it not only becomes a government arm, but addresses issues facing society
- The council should also act as an advice bureau to the general public
- The function of the council should not be purely advisory, but also consultative

Ms van Wyk (NNP) pointed out that South Africa had not signed the Florence Agreement of 1967, and this agreement alleviates the financial impact and accessibility of international books.

Ms Cilliers said that the point of departure in formulating the functions of the Council was to keep them broad, so as not to limit other bodies which could be important.

Mr Cassim (IFP) said it was preferable to prepare legislation in broad terms, but when recognises the sheer magnitude of the task of the Council it is essential to assign tasks to specific people so that responsibility is not shifted.

Clause 5: Composition of Council
Ms Cilliers stated the Inter-ministerial working group had suggested that the Council not be too big.

Ms Mtsweni (ANC) asked whether it was not possible for the Department to come up with a specific number of people to be appointed on to the Council

Ms Cilliers said that it was possible to put a maximum number on the Council members, but it was up to the Minister’s discretion as to the exact number of members to be appointed to the Council

Clause 6: Chairperson and vice-chairperson
No discussion arose from this

Clause 7: Nomination Procedure
Ms van Wyk (NNP) stated that newspaper circulation was very expensive and very few people access this information.  She stated the radio could be used as an alternative medium in notifying the public since the radio covers a wider scope of people.

Ms Mtsweni (ANC) asked if a new panel is appointed each time a new council is to be set up

Ms Cilliers answered that the Minister will appoint a panel each time a council has to be set up

The Chairperson suggested that the Portfolio Committee be given a more definitive and active role to play in the nomination process

Ms Cilliers said that she saw no problem with the Committee playing an active role in the formation of the panel

Clause 8: Criteria for membership of Council
Mr Cassim (IFP) suggested that students from universities, technikons and colleges be appointed to the board as the issue of information availability touches them closely and intimately

Clause 9: Tenure and vacation of office of members of Council
No discussion arose from this clause

Clause 10: Meetings of Council
Mr Dithebe (ANC) suggested that the council meet more than two times per year

Ms Cilliers said that “two” was the minimum number of times the council had to meet, but they could meet more than twice per year

Clause 11: Committees of Council
No discussion arose from this

Clause 12: Secretary and staff
No discussion arose from this

Clause 13: Finances
Mr Cassim (IFP) noted that this Bill would attract minimal budget, and therefore the Department had to make sure that it does not become a ‘paper tiger’ but that it effects the necessary change

Clause 14: Annual report
Mr Cassim (IFP) suggested that the Council send a delegation of members to the Portfolio Committee to present the annual report before the budgetary process

Ms van Wyk (NNP) suggested that all statutory councils under the auspices of the Department should table reports to the Portfolio Committee

The Chairperson stated that the Bill had great potential for South Africa entering the 21st century.  He said that the culture of reading in South Africa was extremely poor and the bill could do a lot to sensitise people, especially young children about reading.  He further added that one of the most important functions of libraries is to be a source of research.  He asked how the Council would promote research among the eight predominantly Black universities who have very little research going on.

Ms van Wyk (NNP) asked if parties could make written submissions to the Department on input regarding the bill.

The Chairperson asked if it was possible to consider the collaboration between the Pan South African Language Board and the Council since they both promote languages.

Ms van Wyk (NNP) stated that a weak link in the library system was province administration.  She said that in some provinces where the library system was never fully developed, information service and progress is being stalled.  She asked where in this bill would this problem be addressed.

Ms Tshivhase (ANC) said that the disability facilities in libraries are not really provided.  She asked if the Council would be able to address this issue.

Ms Ghandi (ANC) noted that the Department of Provincial and Local Government had not been consulted in the consultation process, and this Department plays a major role in libraries

The Library Information Association of South Africa representative, Ms Thise, was asked to comment on the differences between the Council and the Association.

Ms Thise said that their objectives were very similar, but said that the Council would enforce legislation and policy, which was the major problem surrounding libraries.  She added that because of their expertise in the field, the Association should have official representation in the Council.

Cultural Laws Second Amendment Bill
Mr Beukes from the Department of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology explained that this Bill amends two pieces of legislation, the Cultural Institution Act of 1998 and the National Heritage Council Act of 1999.

Clause 1: Amendment of section 3 of Act 119 of 1998
The word “a” is substituted for “an”

Clause 2: Amendment of section 4 of Act 119 of 1998
The section, which reads “without prior approval of the Minister”, is omitted

The section “ the Minister may in a particular case or in general, and on such conditions as he or she may determine, exempt a declared institution from the requirement referred to in paragraph [a] ” is inserted.

Mr Beukes explained that this insertion arose in the case of the Pretoria Zoo where permission had to be obtained from the Minister each time an animal had to be transferred or sold.

Clause 3: Amendment of section 5 of Act 119 of 1998
The following subsections to be inserted:
“the director of a declared institution serves ex officio and has no voting powers”

“the chief executive officer of a flagship institution serves ex officio and has no voting powers”

“the Minister, with the concurrence of  the Minister of Finance, must determine criteria for payment of the allowances and reimbursement of the expenses contemplated in paragraph (a)

Clause 4: Amendment of section 7 of Act 119 of 1998
“elected” is omitted and “appointed” is inserted

Clause 5: Substitution of section 9 of Act 11 of 1999 [Allowances and reimbursement of expenses in respect members of council and committees]
Due to time constraints, there was no discussion. The meeting was adjourned.    


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