Ministerial & Departmental briefings: Department of Arts & Culture Strategic Plan & Budget 2009/12

Arts and Culture

11 June 2009
Chairperson: Rev. T S Farisani
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Meeting Summary

The Minister, Deputy Minister and Department of Arts and Culture met to brief the Committee on the ongoing work. The full Strategic Plan would be made available on 15 June, but in the meantime a description of the mandate, vision and work of the various units was detailed. The Minister assured the Committee of her full support, and said she would build on the firm foundations laid by her predecessor.

The Department pointed out that arts and culture were not mere entertainment value, but had a vital role in nation building. They promoted knowledge, education, history, patriotism and both tangible and intangible national heritage. There was consensus on the need to promote knowledge, understanding and love of the national anthem. The Department discussed in some depth the importance of community public libraries, which needed to be promoted both in the urban and remote rural areas. The importance of the National Library for the Blind was discussed. The insufficient development of African languages, and the decline or closure or decline of university African language departments was deplored. The past had shown that South Africa would be capable of developing a language and the same tools should be used for African languages. Further aspects that would be promoted included heritage promotion, the digitisation of records, which would also make images available to schools in digital form, documenting the social history of the host cities and suburbs of the 2010 World Cup, and the importance of the archives. Upcoming legislation included the Cultural Laws Amendment Bill, and the accountability issues of the Pan South Africa Languages Board must be addressed.

Members asked questions about the funding for Freedom Park, the fact that some library allocations had not been used, why most African languages were not developed to an adequate standard, and the plan to have flags in every school. Members expressed their concern that there had been an audit disclaimer in the past financial year, and the Minister committed the Department to achieve a clean audit in the current financial year. Members also expressed their concerns over what they saw as the “crisis situation” at Robben Island but were assured by the Minister that the matter was in hand, that a caretaker situation was in place, and that it would be inappropriate to resort to handing the facility over to the Provincial Government, as some people had suggested. Members also were unhappy that many young people were not speaking their mother tongue, and that this would lead to decline of the languages, as also that many people did not know the National Anthem, and said that more should be done to promote it and the Department of Education’s campaign. Cooperation with local government was questioned. Members raised the issue of overseas visitors buying local crafts, then re-selling them at vast profit in their own countries, and asked what would be done to address this, as also what would be done to repossess stolen artifacts. Members also asked about the progress of legislation and said that the Report on cultural and linguistic relations must be pursued. The current status of the Language Research Development Centres was questioned. The Chairperson said that he would like to hear more about the relationship with the Department of Sport, rural development, and how corruption would be addressed.  

Meeting report

Chairperson's Introductory Remarks
The Chairperson welcomed the Minister, Deputy Minister, Director-General and team from the Department of Arts and Culture. He noted his commitment to the Committee’s work and assured that that his door was open to anyone from any political party or institution. He and the Committee and he would do everything in their power to assist the Minister in developing legislation and in the area of oversight. Participation of the people was vital at all times. The Committee respected the separation of powers.

Ministerial briefing on Department of Arts and Culture (DAC) work
Hon Lulu Xingwana, Minister of Arts and Culture, thanked the Chairperson for his remarks and said that his input would be of critical importance. She noted that the Department of Arts and Culture (DAC or Department) had a mission to develop, preserve and promote South African culture to ensure social cohesion and nation building, and she hoped that all Members would work together to achieve this important goal. She hoped that all would be sure of their commitment to preserve the nation's heritage for future generations. She expressed her gratitude for the firm foundation established by her predecessor and his deputy

Department of Arts and Culture Strategic Plan and Budget 2009-2012 briefing
Mr Themba Wakashe, Director-General, Department of Arts and Culture briefly outlined the main essentials of the budget vote and Strategic Plan of the Department, noting that the full strategic plan would be available on Monday 15 June, and the Budget Vote would be debated on Friday 19 June. 

Arts and Culture were not mere entertainment, but would, on the contrary, ensure social cohesion and nation building. The aims and role of the Department of Arts and Culture were largely misunderstood. The Department of Arts and Culture did not have the money to pay for artists, but it must also be recognised that artists could not perform for free, as they had to earn their living. Because of a public expectation of an entitlement to free entertainment, some artists did not feel appreciated. However, it was this government that had opened up performance or display opportunities for them. 

The Department's achievements over the last five years spoke in many cases for themselves. 2008-2009 had seen the completion of the draft policy on intangible national heritage. This was heritage that did not manifest itself in bricks and mortar but in music, poetry and so forth. Tangible heritage included monuments.

The Department had undertaken an audit of human resources, to address ageing skills and the need to attract new talent, in order to plan properly for a human resources strategy.

The Department had completed the first stage of Freedom Park and had the Park declared as a cultural institution from 01 April 2009. Since 2005 the  Department of Arts and Culture had been working on the preservation of world heritage sites.  The President, in his State of the Nation address, had indicated that the geographical renaming must be speeded up, and the Department would be returning to the Committee to outline how it would be handling that sensitive issue. It had been working hard to achieve delivery in the archives and libraries sector. At an international level, the Department of Arts and Culture had managed to complete the Timbuktu library project. Restoration work was ongoing. The project was handed over in the current year to the government of Mali.

The Department had completed the project for the new building of the National Library of South Africa's Pretoria campus. The community libraries’ conditional grant was in process of being distributed, with books and equipment and the issue of skills being addressed. It had been working on a Library Transformation Charter, and  at the norms and standards for the governance of libraries. It had broadly examined the challenges within the library sector to ensure delivery on stated goals and ensure development of a culture of learning and reading, both of which were intrinsically linked to the elimination of poverty.

The Department had also designed parliamentary emblems and national symbols. It participated in Women’s Day. Mr Wakashe said that the documentation on the Strategic Plan would show a target to develop a comprehensive strategy to integrate gender issues and mainstream women's issues in its work, which would be done in co-operation with the new Ministry of Women's Affairs.

The Department had, importantly, a strategy for human language technologies to facilitate communication in South African languages, and in particular the nine previously marginalised languages. Members had in the past requested attention to this, particularly because there was a decline in students studying African languages at university. Some African language university departments had been closed. One of the reasons was that people had not really found or recognised economic value in learning African languages. One of the critical aims was to leverage information and communications technology (ICT) to assist these departments. The growth of Afrikaans as a language of business and the law in the past clearly illustrated South Africa's ability to develop its own languages and this would be applied to the African languages.

Mr Wakashe then moved to the second part of the presentation, dealing with the structure of the Department and outlined the function and role of the programmes. Risk management and oversight of entities was of critical important since over 60% of the budget went to public entities, such as  museums, theatres and such community assets. The National language services aimed to develop linguistic diversity and reverse the trend to a monolingual situation. They provided translation and editing for government departments, and also sought to develop indigenous literature. National co-operation in developing culture focused on cultural development, publishing, films and music, and theatre.  There was international co-operation. The Department also worked towards poverty alleviation via arts and culture. Much of the progress in the past five years had been in supporting crafts and job creation in the rural areas, and the Department would like to make further presentations on that.

Heritage promotion sought to identify and conserve cultural heritage for socio-economic development and social cohesion, and Mr Wakashe said that insufficient leverage had been given to this, particularly in relation to tourism. The two were linked. The Cradle of Humankind in Gauteng, Robben Island, Table Mountain, and the St Lucia Wetlands were examples. Heritage helped to create sustainable jobs. The linkages of history and tourism could be seen in a place such as Egypt, and the linkage with patriotism in places like China and Ghana.

There was a major aim to digitise most of the national records. This would also assist the educative value, as digitalization would help to make these collections available to every school and every corner of the country.

The Department of Arts and Culture had commissioned some work on documenting the social history of the host cities and suburbs of the 2010 World Cup, as they had all contributed to South Africa's identity today.

The last programme pertained to the National Archives, Records, Libraries, and Heraldic Services. Most people thought that archives were just a place for storing old documents. However the purpose of archives was to record the activities of Government and State, and were also critical in fighting corruption because a paper trail existed. It was very important to see the National Archives as an asset. The Department was reviewing the National Library for the Blind in Grahamstown, to strengthen the mandate in the region.

Upcoming legislation included the Cultural Laws Amendment Bill. Another issue was that the Department would need to examine areas of accountability of the Pan South African Languages Board.

The Chairperson asked Members to bear in mind that the Minister and Deputy Minister were also present, and suggested that questions could be asked both of the administration and political heads of the Department.

Ms J Tshivhase (ANC) asked why Freedom Park was apparently funded twice, as it had two line items in the Budget.

Mr Wakashe explained the reasons for two line budget items for Freedom Park. One was for capital works. The other was the operational budget of the institution.

Ms Tshivhase asked why some funds allocated to libraries were not utilised.

Ms D Van der Walt (DA) was also very concerned about the funding for libraries.
Mr Paul Mashatile,
Deputy Minister of Arts and Culture, admitted that not enough progress had been achieved with libraries in Limpopo province, even when funds had been available. He affirmed the Department of Arts and Culture's commitment to supporting libraries not only in the cities, but in the rural areas too.

Ms Tshivhase questioned why most African languages were not developed to an adequate standard.

Ms van der Walt pointed out that over the past five years the Arts and Culture Portfolio Committee had never received a single piece of legislation from the Department, although she realised that Department of Arts and Culture had work in progress.

Ms Van der Walt asked about the plan for a flag in every school.

The Minister referred to national flag month in April, which was freedom month.

Ms Van der Walt asked that the Committee be assured of receiving its quarterly reports from the Department of Arts and Culture, and to receive frequent updates on the Department's plans, in order to facilitate the Committee's oversight role. She asked the Minister for her support.

Ms van der Walt asked the Minister why the Department had moved backwards from an unqualified audit report in its first year to a disclaimer in the latest audit report for 2008-2009.

The Minister agreed with Ms van der Walt, and committed the Department to achieving a clean audit. She welcomed the Committee's monitoring. 

Ms van der Walt asked at length about what she described as the “emergency case”  of the Robben Island Museum. She felt that the Minister should agree that this was in crisis, and asked for an assurance from the Minister that this would be dealt with. She pointed out that the Museum belonged to all South Africans. She asked the Minister to assure the Committee that a new Board, appointed on the basis of merit, would be constituted. She was seriously concerned about the world heritage site status. She was also worried about the forensic audit on the institution, and said that she was not sure whether there were major problems that were not being disclosed; if so, it was extremely wrong for an oversight committee to be excluded from access to information that would assist it in its oversight. It had been suggested to her that if this Committee could not fix the problem, then the Provincial Government must be asked to intervene. Although she did not presently support that suggestion, she might move to support it if nothing else was done.  Ms van der Walt  was concerned about other iconic entities, in particular the Nelson Mandela Museum, and appealed to the Minister to ensure their survival.

The Minister responded that she deplored media excitement and sensationalism over Robben Island. She and the Deputy Minister had visited it the previous day and operations had been as normal. She affirmed that Robben Island was a national icon. The Western Cape Province must certainly not take over the Robben Island Museum. Those imprisoned there for their part in the freedom struggle had come from all provinces, so one province could never presume to take it over. There was no threat to its World Heritage site status. She was indeed very positive about the present and future prospects of the Island. There had been a disagreement in the Council, so some members had stepped down. As soon as possible, a new Council would be constituted, and a new permanent CEO appointed. In the meantime an small interim management team, including an interim Chief Executive Officer, Professor Bredekamp from Iziko, had been appointed. The Minister and Deputy Minister had met representatives of the workers.

The Deputy Minister agreed with the Minister, saying that there was no reason for Members to worry. He agreed that the situation had been sensationalized. Professor Bredekamp and his five-member team would take up appointment on Monday, 15 June 2009. He would welcome the Committee's visit to the Island.

The Minister said with regard to the forensic audit of the Robben Island Museum that there was an ongoing disciplinary hearing. However, it was not advisable at this stage to publicise this further.

The Chairperson said that the Committee was ready and willing to visit Robben Island. He noted, in response to the suggestion that the responsibility for Robben Island be given to the Provincial Government, that this would be divisive, and it was imperative to work towards realising a fully cohesive society. 

Ms M L Dunjwa (ANC) said that the role of the Department of Basic Education was integral to the role of the Department of Arts and Culture in promoting the development and use of the African languages. She gave the example of her own children and grandchildren who were reluctant to use their own languages. She asked if there was a monitoring mechanism on provincial use of funds allocated for the purpose of arts and culture, and about the closure of museums.

The Minister shared Ms Dunjwa's concern. There were very few teachers of African languages. Languages died not only because they were not studied, but also because they were not being spoken. Many of the younger generations were only speaking English.

Ms F Bikani (ANC) said that the Committee's oversight role must be specific, directed and prioritise when there were problems.

Mr P Ntshiqela (COPE) asked if there were certain institutions that were recognised to be the voice of the community. He asked what could be done by the Department to ensure that ensure that all members of the population knew the National Anthem, although he recognised the responsibility of the Department of Education in this regard.

The Minister described the campaign in association with the Department of Education to promote national symbols and teach children to sing the National Anthem with the appropriate dignity and respect, as it was a prayer for South Africa and the African continent. She exhorted the Members to join with the Department of Arts and Culture in the campaign.

The Chairperson said that once a budget had been approved, it must be used efficiently to address the problems identified. The Committee's evaluation was based on the use of the money that was allocated. He affirmed the Committee's commitment to do everything possible to support the Department in its quest for sufficient funding. However, it was a two way process. He noted that the audit declaimer related to the previous year, 2008-2009.

The Chairperson asked about the Department of Arts and Culture's view on co-operative government.

Mr Wakashe replied that the Department of Arts and Culture was working in co-operation with the South African Local Government Association.

The Minister said that it was an important question, in view of the role of the sector in the economic development of the country and in job creation. The support of local government was vital.

The Chairperson said the Committee had the right to know how the Department of Arts and Culture's allocation was used, and how it interacted with provincial committees to ensure cohesion.

Ms Tshivhase expressed dismay that overseas visitors could buy cheaply from local markets and would then resell their acquisitions at a vastly inflated price in their own countries. She asked about the Department of Arts and Culture's plan for establishing accessible market prices for local craftsmen and craftswomen.

The Department replied that local crafters required suitable warehousing facilities. R2 million of funding had been received for that purpose from the European Union. The Department had a partnership with the Sector Education and Training Authority (SETA) for developing marketing skills and business acumen.

The Chairperson said that the Department of Trade and Industry had a role to play. Similar to the sale of gemstones, the middlemen and those further down the line of distribution benefited rather than the producers themselves.

The Minister agreed with the Chairperson. The Department of Arts and Culture worked with the Department of Trade and Industry and the Department of Science and Technology in the protection of indigenous knowledge systems. She knew that indigenous art was exploited by British Airways and Air France, to the commercial benefit of the airlines and the middlemen, but without benefit to the artists. It had to be asked how much this art was worth.

The Chairperson asked about successes in provinces other than Limpopo.

Mr Wakashe reported on successes in establishing craft markets in the Western Cape.

The Chairperson said that it had been an interesting presentation but that the Committee would not be satisfied and impressed until it had heard coverage of every part of South Africa. He wanted all of South Africa to benefit.

The Minister affirmed that it would happen.

Ms van der Walt said that it was necessary to go back to the Kader Asmal Report on cultural and linguistic relations.

The Minister agreed. The Department of Arts and Culture supported social cohesion in religious groupings, but could not do it alone.

Ms van der Walt asked about the status of pending legislation, such as that relating to languages, noting that former Minister Pallo Jordan had referred it back to the Cabinet.

Mr Wakashe said that the Department had drafted the South African Language Practitioners Bill and it was now ready for consideration. The Department had been asked to do a redraft on the Languages Policy Bill, in consultation with the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development. He did not envisage a speedy conclusion.

The Chairperson said that he expected progress on legislation, as this was a major concern of the Committee.

Ms van der Walt asked about the Bill for transferring the Castle of the Cape of Good Hope to the Department of Arts and Culture.

The Minister said that the Department would pursue the matter.

Ms A Lotriet (DA) asked about the current status of the Language Research Development Centres (LRDCs).

Mr Wakashe said that the LRDCs were not permanent, but three year projects. Assessments had shown unfavorable outcomes. They needed to be reconfigured. He had worked with the Vice-Chancellors of all the universities, who had agreed to their winding up. Some of the work had been absorbed into the language departments of the universities.

Ms Tshivhase asked how the Department of Arts and Culture proposed to repossess stolen artifacts for the nation.

Mr Wakashe responded that every item of cultural property needed to be registered with an identification number and photograph. The Department had in place reasonable measures to do so.

Ms Tshivhase asked how the Department of Arts and Culture proposed to prevent the loss of rich historical resources when carriers of oral history died.

Mr Wakashe noted that more could be done.

Mr Wakashe spoke about the problem of alcohol and drug abuse among artists and entertainers, saying that this was not especially a South African phenomenon. He said that it was necessary to people to take responsibility for their own behaviour, since the State could not be everywhere.

The Minister added that some of the questions raised had been very fundamental. The Department had proposed establishing a unit with social workers, health professionals and counselors to assist artists. The Department was contributing to rural development, and to co-operative governance and traditional leadership.

The Chairperson noted that Members were of course citizens and in that capacity could do much; everyone could exert themselves ourselves to solve problems in their communities. He appreciated the Minister's acknowledgment of the successes of her predecessors. The Minister's commitment to build on the successes of the previous administration was a sound foundation for progress in the future. He noted that planning was vital as “failure to plan meant planning to fail”. He looked forward to the detailed strategic plan.

The Chairperson pointed out that little had been said about the Department of Arts and Culture's relationship with sport. Communication was important. He hoped to hear how the Minister was dealing with corruption, since every cent lost to corruption was a loss to the public. It was necessary to investigate, diagnose and treat problems, and thereafter to follow-up. He noted that the relationship with rural development and land reform was also important. Many traditional leaders, who were custodians of the public, unfortunately did not interact with each other as they should to promote cohesion.

The Chairperson agreed that the role of language development was critical. It was necessary to reach out to the poorest of the poor. The budget was an instrument to address the identified priorities of the government. He felt that artists should be promoted, particularly so that local artists, like artists from abroad, should earn what they deserved.

The Minister assured the Committee of her and her Deputy Minister’s cooperation.

The meeting was adjourned. 


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