Briefing by Deputy Minister

Arts and Culture

05 November 2002
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Meeting Summary

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Meeting report

5 November 2002


Ms M Njobe (ANC)

Documents handed out:

The Deputy Minister highlighted various issues. These included the division of the Department. She noted that the arts would be given particular attention and this would mean a steady increase in the budget. In the mid-term expenditure framework, emphasis was placed on infrastructure. This therefore heralded a good beginning and meant that libraries, community arts centers, galleries and so forth would be given attention. She also expressed her desire to see more funding made available for cultural activities.

The Deputy Minister: Arts, Culture, Science and Technology, Ms Brigette Mabandla, briefed the Committee and was accompanied by Ms Premi Appalraju (Parliamentary Officer), Ms Margorie Pyoos (Chief Director: Research and Technology Development: Department) and Mr R Marimi (Researcher).

The broad areas discussed by the Deputy Minister were:
-The division of the Department. To this extent the arts will be given particular attention and this would mean a steady increase in the budget.
-The mid-term expenditure framework highlighted that an emphasis was placed on infrastructure. This therefore heralded a good beginning which meant that libraries, community arts centers, galleries and so forth, would be given attention. She also expressed her desire to see more funding made available for cultural activities.
-The Department of Trade and Industry has also restructured itself to focus on culture. This restructuring was related to the rearrangement of assets.
-With reference to the structure implemented for the WSSD, she confirmed that those structures would now form a permanent structure in Gauteng. To this extent she expressed her optimism that better times were in store for the future of the arts in South Africa.
-A big partner with the Department of Arts, she stated, was the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism. Relating a statement made by the Safety and Security cluster that arts and culture promotes safety and security, she added this may in the future emerge as a new link with the Department.
-Reflecting on the post WSSD situation within the Department, she noted that the arts were linked to economic development. The Department was also extending its outlook to links that are created by Nepad and the AU. A Concept Paper was in the process of being developed within the Department, which aims to develop an African aesthetic. This draft will be brought out next year and links with Nepad will be highlighted.
-As regards the Timbuktu manuscripts, referring to a set of manuscripts in the town of Timbuktu in Mali, work was still in progress. She was of the opinion that it was time that African business invested money into arts appreciation as well.
-With reference to progress on language issues, she commented that this was not an easy process as it is an emotive subject, although good progress was being made.
-Commenting on language technologies, the Department was working with tertiary institutions to develop language software. Afrikaans, she highlighted, was included as an indigenous language as well.
She concluded by stating that the Department could not micro-manage projects and needed to resource them adequately.

Mr S Opperman (DP) posed three questions. Firstly, he was concerned that sound languages were on the brink of extinction. Secondly, what was done at school level with regard to promotion of the arts and thirdly, what was the status of the Commission for linguistic rights?

Ms A Van Wyk (NNP) raised concerns firstly about the problems around the SAHRA (South African Heritage Act). She emphasised the problems surrounding the issuing of licenses in respect of structures older than 60 years. She suggested that it might be logistically practical if such licenses were issued at national level rather than at provincial level.

Second, she highlighted that audiences were not being created for the performing arts or theatre. Therefore, there was a need to deliberately create audience through schools, community centers and targeting deep rural areas. She referred to the example of foreign producers exploiting natural beauty, but at the same time continuing to retain a foreign contingent of actors. This, she added, diminished the status of performers in this country. She suggested that every province should have a performing arts group to conscientise and provide outreach programmes to enlighten others.

Finally, she added her concerns about designing a proper strategy for the built heritage and to prevent a visual pollution as a result of bad urban planning.

Mr F Cassim (IFP) expressed concern over a number of issues: the issue of teaching maths in school, technikons and colleges, Robben Island and its facilities and the issue that tour guides were misinforming tourists. In this regard he suggested that pre-packaged hearing devices would offer the same story in several languages. He enquired about the possibility of creating markets which would provide an opportunity to showcase local produced goods and arts. This, he said has the potential to increase employment and tourism. Finally he commented on the open-source code which was utilised by University of Western Cape. However, it was not utilised in schools and therefore he argued, this area needs to be explored.

The Deputy Minister chose to answer the questions cumulatively, as there were overlaps. As regards ancient languages, the Department had identified ancient languages that were under threat. This list would be forwarded to the Committee. Commenting on arts at schools, she stated that the arts form part of the school curriculum. If any gaps exits, then there was a need to partner this Committee and the Dept in order to address such deficiencies. The matter was brought before MinMec. Generally speaking, the arts were facing tremendous challenges and required partner alliances. One of the problems with arts and culture was that it was very tangible. As regards Robben Island, the Department would look into that. On the role of commercial markets, the Department has to think about how these will differ from existing markets. This would mean that there is a need to work with local government.

With reference to open source software, the Department would have to look at it. However, they could not act independently of other institutions. Ms M Pyoos, Chief Director: Research and Technology Development in the Department, added that with regard to the content, the government was entitled to use this software for any type of service delivery. The Department anticipates developing a pilot project along with NACI (National Advisory Council on Innovation). A report setting out the way forward will be sent to the Committee. Improving maths and science was in the process of being addressed by the Department.

Ms N Mbombo (ANC) reflected that whilst the division of the Department was welcomed, there were still several challenges and legislation emerging from the Department was very slow.

Prof I Mohammed (ANC) was concerned about the decision taken that Freedom Park would be situated in Johannesburg and why were issues that were outside of the ANC struggle not reflected in Freedom Park as well. He also had not seen a list of the community centers in Soweto.

Ms H Mpaka (ANC) enquired whether the DTI was going to establish a directorate on arts and culture and if there would be a co-ordinated pool of funds.

The Deputy Minister responded that she would forward a report on the work carried out by the clusters. The development of Freedom Park was a shared responsibility as the work setting up the concept took a long time and various people were consulted in the process. Its location, she explained, was informed by history and its centrality. Its present position will enable all people to access it easily, as it was not designed for tourists but for South Africans.

On the issue of local content, this was important, she added but the Department had not reached that point as yet. Commenting on issues of morality, she encouraged the Committee to participate in discussions with the Department.

Responding to questions about funding and the DTI, she added that their work was promotional. In other words they went out to acquire funding. Projects on science and alleviating poverty were currently pilot projects she added.

Ms M Pyoos further clarified the strategy on poverty reduction. The Department, she stated, recognised that universities and technikons possessed vast skills and these skills could be used in a way that was beneficial to the community. Elaborating further she stated that these skills could be transferred to individuals in communities to enable such individuals to bring their ideas to fruition and to utilise their resources. She quoted several success stories in the North-West province.

Commenting on the coelacanth project, she added that will be a large project in the future.

Ms N Mbombo (ANC) stated that there was no mention of funding going to arts centres in community areas. Moreover, even if these centres exist, people do not know what they are to be used for and were under utilised. She concluded that plans to redress were necessary.

The Deputy Minister enthusiastically commented on biotechnology. The Department was also forming working relationships SADC and Nepad on science and development. Ms Pyoos expanded on the biotechnology project of the Department and highlighted that the Department bore a responsibility to address this issue. Certain provinces were definitely stronger in one aspect or the other and these expertise should be capitalised on and encouraged. Commenting on bio-informatics, she said that this was the backbone of biotechnology. However, the costs associated with this were high and she referred to Telkom's high charges for bandwidth, and there was a need therefore for investment in technology and people. Their aim therefore is to set up a National Bio-informatic Network which will run academic programmes and conduct research.

The Chairperson concluded the meeting by expressing her satisfaction that there are proposed amendments to SAHRA; that the indigenous Knowledge System (IKS) legislation will be introduced next year, although there was a considerable lack of legislation from the Department. She wondered when the division of the Department into two separate departments would occur, namely, the Department of Science and Technology and the Department of Arts and Culture.

The meeting was adjourned.



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