Nelson Mandela Museum audit outcomes and turnaround strategy

Arts and Culture

19 February 2014
Chairperson: Acting Chairperson: Ms L Moss (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee elected an Acting Chairperson, who stressed the importance of the Nelson Mandela Museum (the Museum), which had come to present on its audit outcomes and turnaround strategy. It was noted that a new Council had taken office from 1 November 2013. The Museum’s main objective was to provide for a better understanding of the Nelson Mandela legacy, and the last year posed challenges due to the need to change from honouring a living legend to an icon who had recently passed away. The Museum had three sites, the Bhunga building (as yet incomplete), the Qunu site (also known as the Nelson Mandela Youth and Heritage site, where refurbishments were needed) and the Mvezo site, where Nelson Mandela was born, but where there had been misunderstandings around the land ownership and use of Lotteries funding. However, other exhibitions were also ongoing, including those in honour of Chief Albert Luthuli and Mrs Rosa Parks. Specific days commemorated included 11 February, the day of his release, 18 July, as commissioned by UNESCO, and youth camps for international and local youth were held in Qunu three times a year. Travelling exhibitions had visited other provinces. In the last year, the Museum had participated in a conference on archives, had held a Youth Arts Incubator Workshop in Qunu, distributed educational material and managed to produce eight newsletters. It had achieved 47% of targets. The new Council was intending to do new strategic planning to renew the vision and reposition the Museum in the light of Mr Mandela’s death. The Museum was funded by government, and also generated own funding, but did not have sufficient to run all projects that it wanted. 47% of budget went to human resources. In 2012/13 the Museum had received a qualified audit report, which had resulted in changes in the financial unit and disciplinary action, following its zero-tolerance approach to breaches of the Public Finance Management Act. The Auditor-General was working with the Museum to help it get its financial affairs in order. It had received sets from the makers of the Long Walk to Freedom film, which it would use in new exhibitions.  

Members asked if they could be provided with copies of the book Long Walk to Freedom, but the Museum explained that it was part of the fundraising strategy and only one could be provided for free. They asked about plans to extend youth camps and offerings in all provinces, urged it to ensure that the legacy of Mr Mandela was carried forward, and asked what it meant by empowering “local communities and beyond”. A number of questions were asked about how it would address the audit problems, and several Members had to ask questions as to whether there was a Chief Financial Officer, before getting a response that the previous one was suspended and the replacement person was on a training course. Members urged that this post, like others, must be filled with competent staff to ensure that the Museum was able to perform. They asked for the organogram, asked about relationships with other Departments, particularly the Department of Public Works in relation to the buildings, and Department of Basic Education. They encouraged the Museum to ensure that not only foreigners, but also all local children, became aware of Mr Mandela and his significance. They asked about the new strategies to address risk, the disciplinary actions taken, the plans to improve the audit outcomes, and how exactly it was uplifting communities, with concrete examples, and its partnerships with other museums and heritage sites. Members urged the Museum to make sure that the right people were appointed, suggested a partnership with the Nelson Mandela Foundation, and a full report on the land ownership and issues at Mvezo to be given to the next Committee.  

Meeting report

Election of Acting Chairperson and opening remarks
Committee Members unanimously agreed that Ms L Moss (ANC) act as Chairperson, as the Chairperson was not well

The Acting Chairperson noted that an apology had been given for the Director General of the Department of Arts and Culture (DAC or the Department) but said that it was imperative for him to attend Portfolio Committee meetings to hear, and answer on, the short comings and challenges of entities, and his absence from meetings was not acceptable. Furthermore, the Committee needed to hear how the DAC had assisted the Nelson Mandela Museum, since the death of Mr Mandela to hep it build a proper commemoration of the nation’s icon, and to bolster and uphold the dignity of Mr Mandela and the Museum.

The Acting Chairperson asked about the presentation document, and it was explained by the Department of Arts and Culture (DAC or the Department) that a new document, issued late on the previous day, should replace the one circulated to Members earlier.

Nelson Mandela Museum audit outcomes and strategy briefing
Mr Bayanda Nyengule, Chief Executive Officer, Nelson Mandela Museum, gave a broad summary of activities in the previous year. The Nelson Mandela Museum (the Museum) was established in 2000, the period 2007-2010 was marked as a the growth and institutional development phase. The period between 2011 and 2013 was referred to as the “recapitalisations phase” which saw the refurbishment of the Bhunga site building that was to host the administration offices for the Museum. However it was behind on completion. During this phase also the Museum had been dealing with “a living legend” but when former President Mandela died at the end of 2013, this posed significant challenges, since the Museum was now dealing with the posthumous legacy of an icon. The Museum aimed to represent and interpret the life story and value of Nelson Mandela as a product and champion of democracy and freedom. There was also a need to promote the Museum as a centre for cultural life in the forefront of the restoration of ubuntu as a pioneering philosophy, and a force for the transformation of South African society. It must also promote sustainable community development and self upliftment through partnership with local communities and beyond.

The Nelson Mandela Museum has three sites: the Bhunga building, the Qunu site (also known as the Nelson Mandela Youth and Heritage site) and the Mvezo site, where Nelson Mandela was born. The main objective of the Museum was to provide a much better understanding of the legacy of Nelson Mandela. Currently an exhibition for the conservation of Nelson Mandela and Luthuli was going on throughout the different parts of South Africa. Equally the “Dear Mr Mandela, Dear Mrs Parks” children’s exhibition was also going on in different parts of the country.

There was commemoration of 11 February as the day on which Nelson Mandela was released from prison, and it was on the same day that the Nelson Mandela Museum was commissioned. Another programme which the Museum ran was the Mandela day of 18 July, as commissioned by UNESCO. At the Qunu site, international youth camps were held once every year, as well as two local youth camps. These were not confined only to locals, but all youth throughout Africa who had been invited to attend. The Museum was also offering moving exhibitions, some of which had been carried out in Mpumalanga, Northern Cape, Western Cape and Eastern Cape. He said the Qunu site was a very beautiful out of this world place which the members of the committee ought to visit.

Ms L Moss (ANC) agreed, telling him that the Committee had visited the Qunu site, which she termed as a ‘‘place of marvel’’, also visiting Mr Mandela himself in August 2011.  

Mr Nyengule noted that the Qunu refurbishment project had not yet taken place, due to technical challenges faced by the Museum. The Museum had now struck a deal and things should be happening soon.

As far as the Mvezo site was concerned, being the place where Nelson Mandela was born, there was currently no close working relationship with this heritage site, because of misunderstandings over R8 million of the National Lotteries Board funding. The new Council decided to embark on revival of relations and extensive engagements with Chief Zwelivelile.

The Museum had participated in a conference on archives in late 2012, in partnership with the Universities of Bloemfontein and Western Cape. A  Youth Arts Incubator workshop was held in Qunu, giving participating youth many skills in arts, and exhibiting some of the pieces that they had developed. The Museum distributed educational materials to schools, exceeding its target of 50 schools by delivering to 51 schools.  It had a target for the production of four newsletters in the international youth camps, but managed to produce eight. Overall, in 2012/2013, the Museum had  achieved 47% of its performance targets.

The Museum’s new Council took on leadership from 1 November 2013, which would hold a strategic planning session by March 2014, which would specifically take the renewal of the vision into account, and the Museum’s repositioning since Madiba’s passing. Government funding for the Museum had seen steady growth from the year 2000 to date. The Museum had also managed to generate more funds on its own through its different projects. For example, Qunu had an accommodation and conference facility which produced additional income for the Museum, although this could not be used in July when the site was hosting the youth camps. He noted that 47%of the budget was spent on human resources. For the financial year 2012/2013, the Museum received a qualified report from the Auditor-General, and the Executive Authority appointed a new accounting authority Council. The Museum was also still benefiting from the gifts of the Long Walk to Freedom film, for the film makers had donated its set structures to the Museum, which were presently being shipped and would be used in setting new exhibits for remembrance. The leadership of the Museum had engaged in a fundraising drive to add more structures to the Museum, such as a reproduction of the court that sentenced Nelson Mandela in Pretoria, his prison cell at Robben Island, the reception area at the Robben Island prison and lastly the Mandela house in Vilala Street. This would create a life time experience for people visiting.

Ms T Nwamitwa-Shilubana (ANC) asked whether the delegation from the Museum could bring a few copies of the book Long Walk to Freedom for the Committee.

Mr Nyengule said that the Museum did hold copies of the book Long Walk to Freedom but sold it as part of the fundraising strategy. He offered to provide one copy for free to the Committee, but said that further copies would have to be paid for, at a cost of R260.

Ms Nwamitwa-Shilubana wondered if there was a plan to extend the youth camps to all the provinces of South Africa, since Nelson Mandela had been an icon to the whole country. She asked what challenges the institution had faced, which were apparently now being addressed with the help of the strategic partners. She commended the disciplinary actions taken by the institution where necessary, and asked if they had arisen out of matters identified during the audit.

Ms F Mushwana (ANC) thanked the delegation for the very good presentation. She commented that her copy of the document, handed out today, had some pages missing, and pointed out that she had been the first to arrive, so it was not a question of hurried copying.

Mr P Ntshiqela (COPE) thanked the delegation for the documents, but requested that in future the presentations must be paginated.

Mr Nyengule apologised for any inconvenience caused by the presentations.

Ms Mushwana agreed that it would not be easy for the Museum to ensure that it could instil full understanding of the importance of Nelson Mandela for South Africa, and that he lived with every South African and was respected by adults and children alike in their own homes, but it was vital that the Museum must uphold and take forward the icon both internationally and to all provinces.

Mr L Khoarai (ANC) asked what the Museum was doing to ensure its targets were met.

Ms L Moss (ANC) reminded the Committee that when the Committee first met with the Museum, it had sent the delegation back to get its presentation up to scratch.

Mr Ntshiqela requested an organogram which showed the operations structure. He asked what, in terms of the mission statement, was meant by promoting sustainable development and self upliftment through partnership with local communities “and ‘beyond’’. He wondered whether there was practical involvement of the community in Museum programmes, and how was it being done. He asked what it entailed to exhibit Nelson Mandela, and other leaders like Chief Luthuli, in the programmes and wondered about the relationship between this Museum and the Luthuli Museum.

Mr N van den Berg (DA) was pleased to know that this Museum would offer all South Africans a chance to experience the greatness of Madiba; when he was growing up, as a young Afrikaner, there was nowhere that he could do this. He urged the Museum to market itself well, and encourage people to make an effort to visit, as everything there was worthwhile, according to what he had heard from Europeans, Asians and Chinese visitors to the country. He wanted to encourage Afrikaners also to go to the heritage sites of the black leaders, and see that they were not “monsters” as had been portrayed by the apartheid government. There was a great need for all the heritage sites to encourage local visits. He believed that it was necessary to have skilled guides, to support the high stature of the Museum. Commenting on the finances, he encouraged the administration to reduce its costs, so that more was put to the development of the institution.

Mr D Mavunda (ANC) asked how many people were elected to the new Council of the Museum, who they were, and what their responsibilities were. He wondered why no definite date was given for the completion of the Bhunga upgrade project. He wanted to know what strategies and controlling measures were put in place to deal with the problem of mismanagement. There was need for more explanation on the issue of a risk management champion being elected.

The Acting Chairperson said she had observed the present organisation for the past three years, and had noted, firstly, that there had not been the right people with the right skills to manage the organisation in the right positions – for instance in the finance division, although it had been receiving substantial funding for development of the Museum. The Department of Arts and Culture had not assisted the Museum in relation to capacity. She stressed that the Director General or Deputy Director General from the Department should be present at these meetings to answer questions like this. The Department should respect Portfolio Committee meetings, and ensure that proper responses were given; Members did not merely attend these meetings but had to play a distinct oversight role and have their questions answered. In relation to the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) she stressed that this was over-arching, and anyone not spending government funds correctly should be brought to book. She wondered why there was no Chief Financial Officer at the Museum, to deal directly with the finances and answer to any financial questions. She said that this Committee needed to meet with the Department of Public Works, in relation to a number of structures that were dragging behind because of lack of approvals or proper monitoring on the part of that Department. She wondered also why there were apparently no Memorandums of Understanding entered into, particularly in regard to the Department of Tourism and Department of Basic Education, not merely on paper but active in practice, to teach the younger generation in particular about Nelson Mandela.

Mr Nyengule said that the Museum had a strategy to go all provinces in South Africa, but was held back by lack of finances. However a new strategy had been adopted by the new Council to cover the whole of South Africa, through different mediums like ICT so as to ensure a wide spread of the knowledge of South African heritage.

He noted that the institution did have a budget with regard to the Qunu upgrade, but its main constraint lay with engineering and this had even forced the Museum to approach the Department of Public Works for solutions, and it had helped with the tender issuance and advertisement. However, in the project evaluation, that department had not been helpful. Some of the tendering companies even reported the Museum to their governing bodies which led to the cancellation of the tenders. A move was made to get new management for the Qunu project and Coega had offered to assist with the project at no extra cost.

Mr Nyengule said that there had been a lot of disciplinary action arising from the non-enforcement of the control systems within the institution. This process had been going on for many consecutive years and finding the solution for previous irregularities was work in progress. A new organogram for the institution was being prepared, hopefully to take effect from March 2014, which should align the Museum to be able to operate properly.

Ms Nozuko Yokwana, Chairperson of the Museum Council, expanded on this and said that the Museum had been hampered by lack of skills. A new strategy was formulated, after an assessment to indicate what type of organisational structure was needed, for proper operations. This should address the problems now highlighted by the Committee and other entities. People would have clear job descriptions and know their roles. There would also be quarterly reviews, with mandatory reports to Council to let it know about organisational performance. Most of the employees of the Museum were at or near the end of their contracts, and before these would be renewed, an assessment would be made as to whether they had performed properly. As new Chairperson, she acknowledged that there was much work to be done. She wanted to see results in the first year, because by that time the Council should be able to know where to take the institution, have a proper strategic plan in place and know how it would be effected, including meetings with sub-committees to curb organisational inefficiencies.

Mr Nyengule noted that the Museum was both a local museum in the different sites, but also a national museum, hence by “local communities and beyond” had meant to imply that the Museum’s work should run throughout South Africa. As part of its attempts to assist with community upliftment, the Museum had trained community members in tour guiding, including fifteen trained in July/August 2013. Relevant stakeholders like DAC were then called in to mentor these individuals in the establishment of a co-operative. The museum also had an in-house leather works project.

The Acting Chairperson commented on the Museum’s national outreach and urged the Museum to state in terms and illustrate how it had also developed the community. She noted that when travelling to the funeral of Nelson Mandela, she had had to sleep at the airport, because there was inadequate accommodation for everyone coming to attend the ceremony. She acknowledged the new Council appointments, and their fresh take, and hoped that they would succeed in turning matters around, saying that Qunu had much potential for future growth.

Mr Nyengule told Members that there were partnerships with other museums and other heritage sites such as Robben Island, the Luthuli Museum (where the museums had agreed on a joint marketing strategy) because all these places played an active role in the life of Nelson Mandela. There was also a partnership with the Department of Basic Education, for the study of the history of the heritage sites. The Museum was also planning on having multimedia screens on the main roads to the heritage site venues, for advertisement purposes.

Mr Nyengule noted that the disciplinary procedures had arisen out of the new policy of zero tolerance for mismanagement of funds, and the Museum had now embarked on a process of reviewing all its policies, in order to bridge any gaps. He said that the Museum did now have a chain of capacity. However, it did face challenges in the recruitment and appointment of managers who were not properly skilled in the past.

The Acting Chairperson asked whether there was any kind of co-operation with the Department of Tourism.

Ms Yokwana responded that the Museum had good working relations with the Department of Tourism, which had offered assistance, especially during the funeral of the late Nelson Mandela, in printing works and also in giving talks about the event. Furthermore the institution had identified five large airlines with whom it wished to advertise on South African heritage and the Mandela story. A risk management plan had been put in place, in terms of which staff members were identifying the risks affecting their units and looking at internal controls, including separation of delegation of duties, which should address some of the problems in the past. The Auditor-General was wiling to meet and give guidance on the audit issues affecting the Museum.

Dr H Van Schalkwyk (DA) asked how the Museum was operating without a Chief Financial Officer. She asked who the main management staff were, their positions, and what they were doing, noting her concern also47% of the budget  funds was spent on human resources. She also wanted to know the outcome and resolution on the damages caused to a hired car by one of the Museum’s staff.

Mr Mavunda asked for clearer presentations, with fewer technical terms. He asked why there had been extension of time with the completion of the Bhunga site. He said that there should be co-operation with the Department of Public Works to limit delays with such projects. He asked what mechanisms were used to address the irregularities picked up by the Auditor-General, and what had happened to the staff who failed to comply with the PFMA obligations.

Ms Mushwana (ANC) asked what exactly was meant by programming.

The Acting Chairperson emphasised again the need for the Museum to have a Chief Financial Officer, pointing out that it received a lot of funding, including government funding, and this had to properly accounted for, and supply chain matters properly handled. She wondered about the relationship between the Nelson Mandela Museum and the Nelson Mandela Foundation and wanted to be assured that there was no duplication of functions between the two. She asked who owned the Mvezo building, and said that media reports about the matter had become tiresome.

Ms Yokwana said that although the Museum had had a Chief Financial Officer, he had been suspended pending an investigation. The person appointed could not be with the delegation as he was attending a training programme. The Museum was trying to move from manual to computer systems, and was receiving help from the DAC on the matter.

The Acting Chairperson said that the Committee should not have had to extract this information from the Museum; it should have informed the Committee that the office existed.

Mr Nyengule said a supply chain manager had been appointed by the Museum and had drafted policies to streamline the operations of this unit, which would be put to the Council for their approval, then implemented. The Museum did not have any active contact with the Nelson Mandela Foundation, and this was partially due to the appointment of a new Chief Executive Officer for the Foundation. He noted that, in regard to Mvezo, there had been a misunderstanding with regard to the R8 million from the National Lotteries, and the main problem was in relation to ownership; the Chief maintained that he owned the land. An agreement had been reached to try to stabilise relationships.

The Acting Chairperson interjected to ask who owned the land at Mvezo.

Mr Nyengule said that he was not sure.

The Acting Chairperson, in her concluding remarks, said that the Chief Financial Officer questions had been frustrating and getting the right person on board was urgent. She suggested that a partnership ideally should be formed with the Nelson Mandela Foundation. She wanted a full report on Mvezo to be brought to the next Committee.

The meeting was adjourned.


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