United Nations Education, Scientific & Cultural Organisation Conventions (UNESCO) Conventions: briefing

Arts and Culture

15 October 2002
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Meeting Summary

A summary of this committee meeting is not yet available.

Meeting report

15 October 2002

Acting Chairperson:

Mr S L Dithebe (ANC)

Documents handed out:

Briefing on Accession of South Africa to UNESCO Conventions
Draft Progamme Of Action (document will be available shortly)

The briefing covered the background, overview and purpose of the two UNESCO Conventions. Namely the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict (the Hague Convention) of 1957 and the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import and Export and Transfer of the Ownership of Cultural Property Convention of 1970; and South Africa's accession to the two conventions. The Committee's draft programme of action was distributed and briefly discussed.

Mr Mabeta Rabilili and Mr Vusithemba Ntima presented the briefing on behalf of the Department of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology on the UNESCO Conventions.

The Acting Chairperson, Mr S L Dithebe (ANC), asked the representatives what implications these Conventions would have in terms of Section 231 of the Constitution?

Mr V Ntima stated that there would be no legal implications if and when South Africa becomes part and parcel of these Conventions. The Department of Justice, international lawyers and the state's lawyers and legal advisors had studied the Conventions and what the impact would be as a first step even before the matter was brought before Cabinet.

Mr Ntima went through the presentation. (please see attached document) He concluded by saying that the only process left was for the National Assembly to be convinced of the significance of these Conventions, and adopt them. He highlighted that as a member state of UNESCO it would be easier for South Africa to become a signatory to these Conventions.

Ms TJ Tshivhase (ANC) wanted to know what had become of the drum of war known as Nomankunkunku which was once said to have been taken away to Pretoria.

Mr Ntima that he was not sure whether this specific drum had been placed in an institution like the University of Pretoria. People needed to begin to engage institutions in order for restitution as well as preservation to take place. This would ensure that wherever the heritage or cultural object goes it would be preserved and protected.

Ms A Van Wyk (NNP) asked about other Conventions. She gave an example of the 1954 Florence Convention on books. Many countries subsidise the tax on books and learning material. South Africa does not, yet there is a dire need for learning in this country and the tax is very high. The Department should take this to the government and to the Department of Foreign Affairs. She suggested that South Africa looks at this issue comprehensively and ratifies the Convention. She also spoke of means of preventing the import, export and illicit transfer of ownership of
plants, minerals and artwork. She expressed her concerns particularly in view of South Africa's currency not being good.

Ms H M Mpaka (ANC) asked what Mr Ntima's view was regarding the export of heritage objects in Kenya.

Mr Ntima mentioned that there are two people nationally looking at the avoidance of moving, exporting and transferring of heritage objects. Section 50 of the National Heritage Act governs the appointment of inspectors.

In response to Ms Mpaka, Mr Ntima said that South Africa could not do what Kenya was doing because of legislation. According to the South African Heritage Resource Agency Act (SAHRA Act) no heritage object can leave the country without specific permission. There were many processes that had to be undergone before the object could leave the country, especially in the case of objects that are part of the country's identity.

Ms ND Mbombo asked, with respect to museums, whether museums got such objects they were monitored or was the acquisition let loose to them?

Mr Ntima said that any acquisition required prior ministerial assertion.

Ms Tshivhase said that she had a problem with the audit of the heritage objects. She questioned how sure they were of which stolen objects they were looking for or of what is in museums. She said that some foreigners visiting the deep rural areas where some of these objects are kept can get them released to them ignorantly.

Ms Van Wyk followed up her previous question, saying that all museums in South Africa belonged to the Council of Museums, which was a very highly thought of body internationally. They maintained high standards relating to collection and conservation. This body was also said to uphold basic code of ethics with guidelines that they could not accept stolen goods and illegally exported goods. She continued to say that the South African Museum Association had its own code of ethics, which was both excellent and in line with the international museums code of ethics. Although museum employees were devoted and dedicated to looking after the country's treasures, this did not mean theft does not take place. She maintained that it did take place, just as was the case in Parliament and Tuinhuis. In the SAHRA Act, the inspectors are there but the South African Police Services (SAPS) were also needed.

Mr Dithebe (ANC) said that the Committee needed to work closely with the ministry of Safety and Security to ensure that this part of their job is well done.

Mr Ntima said that Ms Tshivhase' audit question was very challenging. He said that one could conduct a heritage audit at the level of institutions, but at the level of households it became difficult. Mr Ntima said there was a need for an awareness drive. People needed to take part because there was a lack of understanding particularly in the value of the heritage objects which they sometimes release at very low prices. He ended by saying that it was a long term solution that they should be looking into.

Mr Dithebe said he could not foresee any problems if these Conventions were not going to have implications which might require the SAHRA Act to be amended.

Draft Committee Programme
The Acting Chairperson opened the floor for comments and adoption of the programme of action draft.

Ms Van Wyk, having not received or seen the Natural Scientific Professions Bill, said they may still be ill-prepared by Friday 29 October 2002 .

Mr Dithebe assured the Members that the Bill was now available and that the Bill itself was not so controversial. In order not to detract from the democratic process the Committee Members could decide if they wanted a more staggered process, bearing in mind that it should be finalised before Parliament rose at the end of the year.

Ms Van Wyk said that if the Acting Chairperson had read the Bill and assured her that it was not complex and controversial, the Committee could leave the schedule as drafted.

Prof I J Mohamed (ANC) said that he had read the Bill and although he would not be taking part in the discussions, he did not like it because it amounted to saying that "a person may not write poetry if he is not a poet". However, he would not push for any changes.

Ms Van Wyk noted that if they found they needed more time with the Bill, they would indicate so. She emphasised that the right to learn, to study and to discover was very important.

The meeting was adjourned.



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