Department of Arts and Culture on status report of its archives programme & five-year strategic plan

Arts and Culture

04 November 2014
Chairperson: Ms X Tom (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee was told by the Content Advisor that a study of the Department of Arts and Culture (DAC) report on its archive programme had highlighted a number of shortfalls and weaknesses. These included record management, the Department of Home Affairs not transferring documents to the National Archive, the classification of national or provincial documents, difficulties in training and retaining staff, the migration from printed to digitalised information, the lack of an oral history strategy, and security to avoid the loss of documents. These issues required an infrastructural upgrade.

The Department had approved a digitisation project, but had not made any improvement. The National Archives remained hidden in the Department, and was not directly accountable. Parliament needed to look at the manner in which the National Archives was repositioned in the Department, as well as its budget. Since 2010, there had not been a national archivist. The post was advertised -- there was also a labour dispute -- but it was still not filled. There was also issue of the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA). When someone wanted a certain document from classified documents, using the Act, the archive had to go through many documents, and because of the lack of staff, there were huge backlogs.

The Chairperson said the Department must take the importance of archives seriously. The public needed to know about the process involved in archiving, so that private files and information were kept safe. The work done today was a heritage for the young people who would do the work in 30 years’ time.

Members criticised the DAC for sourcing South African national flags for its schools programme from China. They asked for clarity on the criteria used for the allocation of bursaries, and insisted that the Department should set measurable targets so that the Committee could monitor its progress.

In outlining its strategic plan, the Department described its role in the National Development Plan, and its key role in nation building and social cohesion. This included expanding opportunities, creating decent jobs and sustainable livelihoods, inclusive social and economic development, sustainable investment and growth and a capable developmental state. Some of the ‘pains’ experienced by artists included a lack of business skills and access to funding, which remained the key issue.

Due to time constraints, the Department will continue its presentation at next week’s meeting.

The Committee also discussed its oversight visit arrangements, and approved the minutes of its previous meeting.

Meeting report

Briefing by Content Advisor
Mr Mxolisi Dlamuka, Committee Content Advisor, introduced the briefing by focussing on the topic of “Archives in South Africa” and other key issues’. The presentation would look at the good work, as shown in their presentation on the archives, but would also look at what was missing from the DAC’s presentation.

He highlighted a number of key areas that were absent. These were:

* Record management. The Department is responsible for the appraisal and retention of the records of government bodies, and needs to develop a file plan, with a register and system, to include all departments. This is important, because after 20 years all documents need to be taken to the National Archives. There is an acute shortage of staff in the record management component; it is alleged only two staff are responsible for this. The AGSA has raised concern about it. The Record Management Act requires all departments to send their records to archives after 20 years. The President announced this requirement, but the Department of Justice is not complying with it. As a result, there are important high court judgments and documents that are still within the registry and have not moved to the National Archives. This means that researchers and the general public will have difficulty in obtaining them. Another risk is that because people are not trained as archivists, documents are bound to be lost, if they are not already lost.
* The Department of Home Affairs. He asked members to raise this issue as the Department does not transfer basic (not high security) documents about citizens. It does not transfer any documents to the archive.
* The classification of national or provincial documents. When a document is classified as national, a person needs to travel to the national archives to access the document. This is also difficult, because the Cape used to include the Eastern, Northern and Western Cape.
* Records management staff is a key issue. The National Archive used to run an unaccredited training workshop, but this no longer happens. As a result, it is losing staff.
* Powers and functions are also an issue.
* The issue of the “digital age.” Information is not printed, but rather sent via email. We are bound to lose a particular layer of history.
* There is no oral history strategy for South Africa. The information gets collected and then dumped.
* Lack of staffing and training. Candidates should have an interest and background in history, and not just be administrative. An archivist who understand history is great advantage
* The security of documents needs to be emphasised. In the process of digitisation, and as land claims happen, documents are going to disappear.

These issues require an infrastructural upgrade. The Department has approved a digitisation project, but has not made any improvement. The National Archives remains hidden in the Department, and is not directly accountable. Parliament needs to look at the manner in which the National Archives is repositioned in the Department, and the budget of the National Archives.

In addition, there is a huge vacancy rate within the National Archives. Since 2010, there has not been a national archivist. The post was advertised -- there was also a labour dispute -- but it is still not filled. There is also issue of the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA). When someone wants a certain document from classified documents, using the Act, the archive has to go through many documents, and because of the lack of staff, there are huge backlogs.

Ms V Mogotsi (ANC) thanked the Content Advisor for the insights into the importance of the National Archives and added that it was important to have information about the country. The brief had empowered the Committee to address the Department on its vacancies, the Home Affairs issue, its data collection and the risk management. The Oscar Pistorius case was the first digital case because of its international interest, but this must happen all the time.

Dr P Mulder (FF+) said he understood the importance of this matter, especially of private archives, and thanked the speaker. He asked if there was still a rule on how long documents were closed to the public.

Mr Dlamuka answered that documents were closed for 20 years after being generated. The challenge was that there were periods in history where not enough documents had been generated. For example, there is little documentation about the liberation movements, because of how it was managed and the nature of repression. Private archives were important, and Government must encourage individuals to donate their private archives. On the issue of court case documents, an appeal must be made to the Department of Justice to send their documents.

The Chairperson said the Department must take the importance of archives seriously. The public needed to know about this, and the process that leads to it, so that private files and information are kept safe. The work done today was a heritage for the young people who will do the work in 30 years’ time. It was important for the Department to wake up on this issue.

Adoption of Committee Minutes
The Chairperson asked the Members to look at the minutes of the previous meeting.

On page two, the word “of” was added to a sentence.

On page three, Mr G Grootboom (DA) stated that in the meeting, he had asked about the absence of Afrikaans and isiXhosa at the War Museum. It had not been noted in the minutes if the Department was going to give its policy on the languages. The Chairperson added it to the minutes.
On page four, the term “the Chairperson” was added.

The Committee had received a list of recipients of bursaries, as requested by Dr Mulder.

The Committee adopted the minutes, with amendments.

Committee Business:
The Chairperson stressed the importance of the Committee’s oversight trip. From a practical and cost effective point of view, Members should not sleep in Umtata, Bloemfontein or Pretoria, but rather sleep over in Gauteng as a base, and fly to the different cities in the morning. This would limit travel time, and they could try to get a connecting flight from Umtata to Bloemfontein. Members could then drive to Pretoria, which would also be more cost effective.

Ms Mogotsi said this was progressive, welcomed it.

Mr J Mahlangu (ANC) said it created a political issue when you do not stay in the provinces. It implied that Johannesburg is more important. Unannounced visits were also a good thing.

Mr T Makondo (ANC) asked if the agenda was feasible.

The Chairperson responded that it was -- that was why the Committee was not visiting all provinces, but just visiting the institutions that were in trouble.

Members needed to confirm their attendance by today.

Dr Mulder gave his apologies already – he would be at the United Nations.

The Members discussed an invitation to “A National Colloquium of 20 years of Democracy.” However, Members needed to be in Cape Town at that time.

DAC presentation discussion
The Chairperson thanked the Department for the information received by the Committee, based on the matters arising from the previous meeting, relating to the flags, art in school, and other issues.

She said that the Committee was doing its oversight mandate work to the best of its ability. They were willing to assist the Department wherever they needed, as they were public servants. She had a feeling the Department was not playing the game to the best of its ability. An example of this was the Persal issue. It was an urgent matter, and the Committee had gone there and made findings, but nothing had been done about it. When the Committee makes findings, the Department should come in and act immediately. If it did not react immediately, it would not change anything. The Committee felt the DAC was not taking it seriously.

Mr Grootboom agreed with the Chairperson. The DAC had discussed the matter of the poorly made flags imported from China. He asked if there was no company in South Africa that could produce them.

He asked about bursaries allocated to students -- what were they for, how were they allocated, were they all for black African students, were national demographics taken into account? How was this Department fulfilling its mandate, as it was best suited for social cohesion and nation building.

Mr Mahlangu stated that the manner in which the presentation’s information was packaged, especially with regard to the information on university scholarships, was difficult to read. It did not follow a particular sequence.

He also asked if it was only the Western and Eastern Cape that had benefited from the issue of reading clubs.

Dr Mulder referred to the issue of bursaries. The Language Bill, given that we are a diverse society, states that the different languages must be acknowledged, and the scholarships are given for the studyof isiZulu, isiXhosa, and Afrikaans. However, the majority of the recipients of the Afrikaans scholarships were not white Afrikaners. There needed to be more sensitivity in taking the total population into account when allocating bursaries.

Mr Vuyo Jack, Acting Director General, DAC, addressed the question relating to Persal. He said the key difficulty was the structure. The Department was looking at ways to resolve the issue, and this was taking time.

The Chairperson said the Committee asked for feedback from the Department on what they going to do so it could monitor progress. The DAC needed to give the Portfolio Committee its programme so it could assess it. The PC had even given the Department areas where action needed to be taken immediately. This information had still not been received. The Committee had no information on the work the Department was doing. She asked why it was so difficult to get this information from the Department. The Committee wanted to assist the DAC.

The Acting DG stated the DAC would provide the Committee with a programme that would serve as a monitoring tool.

The Chairperson asked why this roadmap had not already been received, as the Portfolio Committee had already requested it.

Mr Jack responded that there had not been an internal agreement on the best way to resolve the issue. However, an internal engagement with the board had brought more clarity and there would be a change in the composition of the Persal board. These were some of the reasons why there had not been a programme on what to do.

Mr Vusithemba Ndima, Deputy Director General, DAC, conceded that the Department had not looked at where the flags were manufactured. What had been more important was having and installing the flags. Local manufacturing was important, and in future this would be the focus. It would procure from local manufacturers. The bulk of the standard flags were manufactured locally.

He said that there were two kinds of bursaries. The first was for heritage-related studies, and bursaries for language studies. Bursaries were distributed throughout the country from all universities. Information on the beneficiaries had been handed out today. The majority of people benefiting were Africans and women, and as a university, the University of Limpopo featured prominently.

On the packaging of information, when the Department resubmitted this information, it would be in a way that lessens confusion.

In regard to reading clubs, the DAC said that as the National Library was the organisation which was hands-on on the topic, it would ask it why the Eastern and Western Cape were the two provinces primarily benefiting.

The Chairperson stated that time was something the Portfolio Committee did not have, so it would be appreciated if the Department applied its mind when responding, so that the responses given did not raise more questions. The issue of flags was an example of where the Department needed to apply its mind and work with other departments, ensuring that local flags were bought. Government money could create jobs and change people’s lives. The documents that are presented should be of an unquestionable standard, as one day they would be archived. She encouraged the DAC to apply its mind as it did its work. Compliance was a key requirement of Government departments, but we must not accept mediocrity, we must strive for excellence. The work it produces today is its heritage.

Mr Ndima also gave feedback on the Use of Official Languages Act. The DAC had engaged with the Minister to remind people of the deadline, and an extension had been given to departments on condition they provided a status report on their progress. The adoption of the language policy would happen by 2 May. The dates had been announced publicly. The roadmap would be finalised in two weeks

The Chairperson wanted a document stating, at a glance, what each department had already implemented and the timeline of the process for public submissions, etc. She added that it was good to take a decision, but the decision must be managed. She had also received a letter from the Minister on the issue which she will share with the Members of the Committee.

Presentation on status report
Mr Ndlima presented the status report on the National Archives and Records Service of South Africa. He gave a brief account of the National Archives empowering acts and pieces of legislation, the role of government and the role it plays in nation building. He gave a brief summary of its nine main objectives and the key objectives and functions of the National Archive, as set out by the National Archives of South Africa Act, which includes making records accessible and promoting their use by the public, record management and preservation functions. In addition, the function of the National Archive was to co-ordinate and manage the Oral History and Memory of the World Programme. Record management was highlighted as being one of its key functions.

The Deputy Director General explained its security services and administration and coordination functions. He gave a brief overview of its target groups, organisational structure and budget. He listed the delivery partners and stakeholders, and explained the role of provincial and local governments.

Mr Ndlima gave a breakdown of the impact made by the institution in terms of projects, records provided, the oral history project, exhibitions, and requests dealt with, paying special attention to the Rivonia Trial Digitalisation Project (the Dictabelt project) and the upcoming 11th Annual Oral History Conference.

The key challenges included an inadequate budget, severe staff shortages, inadequate space to house the accrual of records, and obsolete systems and equipment. A government grant was necessary to address the key challenges.

The Chairperson asked the Department to rate the National Archives on a scale of 1 to 5.

Mr Rofhiwa Mudau, Parliamentary Officer, DAC, said there were major challenges, but they were beginning to come up with steps to deal with problems and challenges. This was why the conditional grant was necessary. She said that in all honesty, the National Archives rated a 2 minus -- that was the seriousness of the issue. The Acting DG agreed.

Ms S Tsoleli (ANC) asked how the provincial archives would rate. She asked about the vision of the Department for the archives, as presented, and questioned when this vision was intended for. She added that the system in Switzerland was very advanced.

Mr Jack said the new vision was difficult to articulate, but suggested ten years as a safe timeline, assuming the grant, as dealing with the infrastructure was not an easy process.

The Chairperson stated that it was important to have timelines. Terms such as ‘ongoing’ were not acceptable. Things must be measurable to be monitored. The Department must think about it and give the Committee concrete timelines.

Mr Jack replied that the study should be done by next year, and that study could give a comprehensive time line.

Ms Tsoleli said that she was worried about career pathing, and asked what the Department was doing to attract students from grade 12 or FET schools. This was a critical career.

Mr Jack stated that DAC does work with schools to attract students. There were outreach programmes especially in Archives Week. They fetched schools to come to the Archives to excite them about making this a career, but this was a limited programme, given the resources.

Ms Tsoleli criticised the inability to retain staff. The National Archives needed a retention strategy so that it was not just a training ground, and that strategy must be shared with the Portfolio Committee.

Mr Jack replied that different administrations had done their best to retain staff. They had tried to encourage people to stay and raised the salaries of people wanting to leave, but this became a race between the Department and other institutions. The retention strategy should not just be financial, but a pride incentive, encouraging people to look at exactly what they were archiving.

Dr Mulder thanked the Department for its honesty. Admitting the problem meant it could begin to work on it. The issue of archiving was not just a problem for this Department, but for all departments. All must be sensitive to its importance. He asked if there was training for civil servants on the issue of archiving.

Mr Mudau said there were challenges involved in management training. It had had to stop in-house training, as did not have sufficient trainers. However, it was doing something about it. It was in discussions with the University of South Africa (UNISA) to introduce a course on archiving so one could obtain a post-graduate training certificate on archiving. The plan was to include the School of Governance for internal training too.

Dr Mulder asked what the purpose of the proposed amendments to the Act was.

Mr Mudau stated that there were issues that were unclear in the wording of the act. The amendment to the Act would clarify issues affecting the Department’s structure as well.

Dr Mulder asked if there was standardisation in the process of digitization.

Ms Mudau said there were issues surrounding standardisation, and how to archive the entire country within the national and provincial archives. The amendments and the grant would serve to standardise the process.
Dr Mulder asked why there had not been a National Archivist for four years.

Mr Jack said there had been a long, drawn-out court case on the matter, and settlement had taken place last year. There had been many internal issues, hence the long process. There had been an Acting Archivist, and since the case had been resolved, the post would be opened again. Within the next six months, there would be a National Archivist.

Dr Mulder said the Act stated that when documents were transferred or destroyed, this could not happen without written permission from the National Archivist, and there must be a report to Parliament. He noted that the last report was ten years ago.

Mr Mahlungu said that having sufficient staff was important. He was concerned at the inadequate vocational level in the entity. The National Archives was an important entity, and should be categorised as a Chapter 9 institution.

Mr Jack replied that there were policy issues, but he did not believe it was feasible for the National Archives to be a Chapter 9 institution. It was not yet able to be independent, due to its current challenges.

Mr Mahlungu asked where the National Archives were. He commented that it was not accessible to the majority, and could be seen as an elitist space, but it was essential to all – for example, for land claims. He highlighted the lack of a relationship between the archive unit in the Department and universities. Some of the most valuable depositories of learning and skills were found in universities, but there was no link between the two. Reports by the South African Heritage Resources Agency (SAHRA) had raised the issue of the deplorable archives, regarding access to information.

Mr Jack said there was a good relationship between the Archives and universities on its on-line data basis, and there were many contributions made by universities.

Mr Mahlungu said that the issue of digitalisation was important, as was the extent to which the Department made the resources available to the public. He asked if anything was being done in this regard. An example of this was the Lancaster House agreement, which could not be found in Zimbabwe.

Mr Mudau replied that there was sharing of information to assist countries in allocating documents. It was possible to search other countries’ archives, and there were also regional bodies of archives. Digitization was a good method of archiving, but it was a very expensive exercise, so one must be clear as to why one is doing it – for example, for preservation or for access. There was also the issue of copyright, such as other organisations claiming South African information.

Ms Mogotsi noted that poor record management had been pointed out by AGSA. She questioned the organisational structure, and asked if all posts were filled, and if not, what the vacancy rate was.

Ms Mogotsi asked which provinces were doing well in terms of good record keeping and sending their documents to the National Archive. Were some copies kept in both the provincial and national archives?
Mr Mudau said that many provinces drew from national legislation to implement policies in provinces. An example of this was the Western Cape, where the archive legislation was similar. The amendments to the Act would look at the independence of provinces and standardisation. There was an agreement that there was a need to develop a policy of repatriation in order to have the correct documents taken to the correct or most relevant provinces.

Ms Mogotsi asked about the nature of the relationship with sister departments, and if they transferred their documents to the National Archives, as all departments needed to.

Mr Mudau stated that there was a relationship. The Department of Justice had sent all the records of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), which were now with the National Archives. These were mainly managed by the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA), because they were not yet 20 years old.
Mr Grootboom asked about the refurbishment of the National Archives building, to whom the building belonged, and whether it fell under the responsibility of the Department of Public Works. What was the cost of the refurbishment?

Mr Jack stated that he did not know if he could speak of costs, as he did not have actual figures with him, but it was a state building under the jurisdiction of the Department of Public Works.

Presentation on Strategic Plan
The Chairperson stated that due to time restraints, Mr Jack would begin his presentation on the Strategic Plan, and whatever he was not able to present this week, he would present at their meeting next week.

Mr Jack presented on the topic, “Unpacking Radical Economic Transformation in the Arts, Culture and Heritage Sectors.” He described the Department’s role in the National Development Plan and its key role in nation building and social cohesion. This included expanding opportunities, creating decent jobs and sustainable livelihoods, inclusive social and economic development, sustainable investment and growth and a capable developmental state.
He said that the economy was under financial pressure, and highlighted some of the ‘pains’ experienced by artists. These included a lack of business skills and access to funding. He noted the exclusivity of the private sector and what the Department intended on doing about the issue through its “Operation Phakisa” programme. He noted that funding remained the key issue.
Critical to the solution was bridging the gap between what these entrepreneurs had and what they lacked. The Department needed to be the bridge between the opportunity seekers and opportunity providers. There was a need for radical economic transformation. The organogram of the ‘Mzansi Golden Economy’ was discussed.
The investment approach was value creation, value capture and value circulation. He discussed the size of market and the assumed amount spent on arts, culture and heritage. The new approach to growth opportunities included mentorship, creating a workspace and venture capital projects with partners.
Mr Jack gave a detailed account of the music industry as a project of the DAC, what it entailed, the costs involved and the role of the music artists and music companies. He explained the increase in use of the internet as a source of management and of information sharing.
He also gave a brief overview of Africa Month, and how the Department intended to showcase the performing arts, fashion and culinary skills.
The Department would present the second part of its Strategic Plan at its next Portfolio Meeting next week.
The meeting was adjourned.

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