The Department of Arts and Culture briefed the Committee on the Implementation of the South African Language Practitioners Act 2014, and the Implementation of the African Renaissance Charter. Apologies were received from the Minister and Deputy Minister. The need for a regulatory body for South Africa’s language practitioners had been researched and documented. The Act provided for the adoption of language policies and the establishment of language units in national departments, national public enterprises and entities. Regulations had been developed to give effect to the Act.
Members raised great concern that Sign Language for the deaf community and Braille for blind and partially blind was always left out. The Department was then asked how far it had gone in promoting inclusivity in terms of job creation as the deaf and blind community was battling to find jobs. Members heard that this area of disability required more work. However a very positive sign was that Human Language Technology was piloting a series of software that spoke to, among other things, audio books and speech conversion through software, which the Department was hoping would make information a lot more available. Members asked how the 2% or R25 million was going to be allocated in the disability sector and were told that the Department had met the 2% criteria amidst the challenges in the employment environment. A further question on disability related to how inclusive was ‘invisible’ disability, which involved areas like Bipolar and epilepsy. The inclusivity of Sign Language was questioned as it was not legislated but would be included as a ‘12th’ official language. The Committee asked if the anthem and posters would be accommodated in Braille. Incubator programmes for trainee artists were explained.
Members were concerned that the bill was silent on language educators at Basic Education level and asked if the Bill required that language educations be registered with the Council. Members heard that there was positive public response to the Regulations. The Section 75 tagging of the Bill was questioned and explained, as it did not prevent the expansion of structures of the Council, as the Council was for everyone who wanted to register as a practitioner. The Committee committed itself to assisting the Department in requesting more funds from the National Treasury.
The Minister had launched the African Renaissance Charter 2-3 October 2014, which was also used as a platform to discuss sector contribution to the implementation of the African Union Agenda 2016. The Charter Committee would be established in 2015/16 and would include other Government departments implicated. Among other areas the role of the Committee was to monitor progress of the implementation strategy and report on the implementation; and to assess the areas of greatest urgency and assess appropriate resource allocations to address these areas.
Members asked if the African Renaissance Charter was aligned to Thabo Mbeki’s vision and were told that it was a continuation and alignment in the establishment of the African Union. It came up with a cultural programme that celebrated the AU with a range of dialogues, seminars and cultural programmes. There were crosscutting measures that every government department had to implement and carry forward to internalise the aspirations of the AU. Members asked if they would each get a copy of the CD; if all provinces were included in the Charter; how the Charter was formed; for clarity about future plans and provincial workshops; whether schools had been included as stakeholders in the provinces; and bursaries for studying language.
The Committee expressed concern about the absence of the Minister and the Deputy Minister even though apologies had been tendered.
The Department was commended and encouraged to continue to pursue excellence.
The Chairperson said a lot of work has been done with regard to moving towards the establishment of the Council, which had a very important role to play. A Bill had been passed and the previous Committee had concerns about the joint tagging mechanism as the Bill was tagged as a Section 75 Bill and language issues had implications in provinces. The reasoning behind this decision was unknown and because the Bill had been promulgated this decision could not be reversed. There could be a whole lot of new processes going forward, but of major importance was the fact that it had to be established, it had to begin to function and during the process of actually putting this Bill together her thinking was that – and this could be corrected – whenever a piece of legislation had to be introduced, one had to consider the fact that it required some kind of planning coupled with budgeting for implementation. She had not been at this level of government for long, but in her understanding when an Act or Bill was planned she could not understand why it was not part of the budget. It would be interesting to know how it would be implemented in provinces.
Apologies from the Minister and Deputy Minister were tendered.
Briefing by the Department of Arts and Culture on the Implementation of the Language Practitioners Council Act, 2014
Ms Monica Newton, Deputy Director-General Arts Culture Promotion Development: Department of Arts and Culture, said the need for a regulatory body for South Africa’s language practitioners had been researched and documented. The Act provided for the adoption of language policies and the establishment of language units in national departments, national public enterprises and entities. The Objects of the Council as prescribed by the Act were explained. The Bill was drafted in consultation with a number of stakeholders including the Pan South African Language Board and National Treasury.
To give effect to the Act, draft regulations were developed. These were:
- Registration requirements, criteria and procedures and
- Conduct and ethics
The funding of South African Language Practitioner’s Council was outlined with the budget involving the following items:
- Operational costs;
- The needs of the Council from Treasury, being R25 million; and
- Establishment expenditure
The Council was unlikely to be established in the short term due to budget constraints.
Briefing by the Department of Arts and Culture on the Implementation of the African Renaissance Charter
Ms Newton reported that the Minister launched the Charter on 2 – 3 October 2014, at Ditsong Museum with sector stakeholders. The launch of the Charter was also used as a platform to discuss sector contribution to the implementation of the African Union Agenda 2016. The implementation strategy for the Charter had four imperatives: Economic, Social, Political and Cultural. The Department undertook to initiate a few flagship projects to kick-start the implementation strategy of the Charter.
The Department was currently in the process of developing an Advocacy Handbook on Arts Education in Africa. It would also further support the NEPAD Agency to encourage other regions in Africa to host Regional Conferences leading up to the Pan African Conference on Arts Education planned for 2017.
The Charter Committee would be established in 2015/16 and would include other Government departments implicated. Among other areas the role of the Committee was to monitor the progress of the implementation strategy and report on implementation; and to assess the areas of greatest urgency and assess appropriate resource allocations to address these areas.
Mrs T Mpambo-Sibhukwana (DA, WC) asked for further information on the slide headed ‘Progress to date’ where Sign Language was mentioned. It was found in this Department that Sign Language for the deaf community was always left out. Braille for the blind and partially blind was also always left out and this aspect of the disability sector was forgotten. How far had the Department gone in this regard and how was it going to promote inclusivity in terms of job creation and especially for the deaf and blind because they were battling to find jobs.
Ms Newton replied that the incorporation of Braille and Sign Language into communication needed to be worked on a lot more. One of the challenges with Braille was the cost of printing. The Department was very excited by the work that the National Language Service was doing for some years now as it involved the development of Human Language Technology. It was piloting a series of software that spoke to, among other things, audio books and speech conversion through software that the Department was hoping would make information a lot more available. If the Committee was interested the Department could provide a supplementary report on this new area of work that would make Braille and Sign language more available.
Mrs Mpambo-Sibhukwana asked how the 2% or R25 million was going to be allocated in the disability sector.
Ms Newton replied that the Department of Arts and Culture had met the 2% criteria for employment in their own staff establishment but this was always a challenge in the employment environment.
Mrs Mpambo-Sibhukwana said the 2% usually comprised of visible disability. There were increases in bipolar and epilepsy, which were invisible disability. She asked if it was inclusive of invisible disability as whole, or just disabilities related to wheelchair and Down syndrome.
Ms Newton replied that she would need to consult with Human Resources in order to report fully on this matter. She would send a text message to the office and if there was no response would follow up with a written response to the Committee as soon as was possible.
Ms Mpambo-Sibhukwana asked if the African Renaissance Charter was aligned to Thabo Mbeki’s vision.
Mr Rufus Matibe, Director: Department of Arts and Culture, replied that the African Renaissance was not really like a new council, but a continuation and alignment in the establishment of the African Union (AU), so the Charter was really a road map. South Africa was one of the few countries with eight others who ratified the Charter. It came up with a cultural programme that celebrated the AU with a range of dialogues, seminars and cultural programmes. Within this there was also a mechanism and campaign to encourage other stakeholders or member states to ratify. There were crosscutting measures that every government department had to implement and carry forward to internalise the aspirations of the AU.
Mrs Mpambo-Sibhukwana asked, with regard to service delivery, how Sign Language and Braille were going to be accommodated.
Ms Newton replied that the Department had always made certain that language practitioners could be part of the language bursary programme to further studies in Sign language. This was always a challenge and needed improvement.
Ms P Mququ (ANC, EC) asked for clarity about future plans and provincial workshops and whether schools had been included as stakeholders in provinces.
Mr Matibe replied that workshops would be a continuation. There had been a round of consultations looking at implementation strategies as to what to do to give life to the Charter so that it was internalised in day-to-day programmes,
Ms Mququ asked for more information about bursaries for studying language.
Dr Mbulelo Jokweni, Chief Director: National Language Service, DAC, replied that bursaries were not given to all at the same time but the Department always made sure that the demographic was taken into consideration when awards were made.
Ms Mququ said the Bill was silent on language educators at Basic Education level. Would this Bill would this Bill require that language educators be registered with the Council as language practitioners.
Dr Jokweni replied that it was important that it was integrated and accommodated because of the importance of the profession. As far as registering with the Council for language practitioners, the Department recognised that there was already an association, the Academic Council for Educators (ACE). In so far as language in teaching was concerned, their skills were assessed and developed. While that was happening the South African Council for Language Practitioners was out going to encourage those who wanted to register.
The Chairperson asked what the response was of the public regarding the regulations.
Dr Jokweni said that a lot had been done; this was one Act that was passed faster than the previous one. One of the delivery targets was to have the Bill passed. The regulations were done and gazetted for public comment and very positive comments were received. The Bill was done in consultation with the public. The regulations were gazetted on 2 June 2015 and now available for public information.
In reference and answer to what the Chairperson had said earlier about the Section 75 status of the Bill, Dr Jokweni asked if this could be compared to the use of the Official Languages Act, which applied at National level. This meant that a similar Act was expected to be drafted by provinces. This was only supposed to apply at National level. This Council would have to serve the whole nation, and any South African who wanted to register. He did not think that because it was a Section 75 Bill it prevented the expansion of the structures of the Council. The Council was for everyone who wanted to register as a practitioner.
The Chairperson said that at the moment the Department was at the period of adjustment of estimates. She asked if it was possible to get some money from National Treasury for implementation and having the Council established.
Ms Newton replied that unfortunately in this adjustment period, Treasury did not open any augmentation windows, so did not allow the Department to make bids. Essentially it allowed the Department to identify money from other areas and shift money accordingly.
The Chairperson asked what the roles of Charter Committees were.
Ms Newton said that because the Renaissance Charter spoke to so many areas of work, not just Arts and Culture, it would be a role of coordinating all the functions across the Department, and as it moved into provinces interdepartmental committees may also become necessary. At the moment the focus was on creating a national structure.
The chairperson asked in which provinces the incubator programmes for trainee artists had already been rolled out, what the programme was and if provinces were providing for the budget or was the National Department providing budget.
Ms Newton replied that currently Incubator programmes were being piloted with six performing institutions and one organisation in Mpumulanga. So at the moment this was the pilot phase, but next year the Department was putting out a call to others who could host Incubators online. Budget constraints depended on how much incubators could be done online. The National Academy of Creative Industry (NAKISA) was the model of the Department, to whom it would be looking at to try to drive it through centres of excellence nationally, rather than one institution centrally.
At this stage provinces had not necessarily provided resources for incubators, but the Department hoped that it would be able to do more in partnership with the provinces. There were going to be Technical Implementation talks in the next couple of weeks at MINMEC (Ministers and Members of the Executive Council) where working more closely with some of provinces on key programmes would be discussed.
Ms Mpambo-Sibhukwana expressed concern with regard to the consultation of stakeholders as SAPS (South African Police Services), was not part of the stakeholders. From her experience in the province, the deaf community was seriously disadvantaged because they were suffering from abuse. When they got to SAPS they could not speak and the police could not understand sign language. Hence they should have been included in the consultations with stakeholders so that the police could get training – especially those at front desk - so that when a disabled person came to lay a charge they were able to communicate in sign language.
Ms Newton said the Department had listed the National Language Forum as one of stakeholders, it was important to understand the constitution of that forum which did include SAPS and the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development. It had quarterly meetings at it essentially was the Department’s way of pulling the whole of National Government together into the Forum. The Department did consult with those two Departments who had language policies and language units. The Department would communicate the concerns of the Select Committee about the use of Braille and Sign Language to those Departments. The Committee was invited to visit the South African Library for the Blind in Grahamstown that was doing extraordinary work in this regard in collaboration with the Department and other stakeholders. The Department believed that the way that human technology Programme could change the way people reacted with each other was about making information available and promoting communication between people through software.
The Chairperson thanked the Department for the presentation for the clarity provided. She supposed the establishment of the Council would also assist with universities and their language programmes.
Ms Newton said that universities were part of the community of organisations that were accountable to the use of the Official Languages Act. They were not necessarily described as public entities, due to the complexity of how they were formed. Universities were expected to have language policies and were expected to implement those policies in terms of the Use of the Official Languages Act.
The Chairperson asked specifically about the monitoring aspect of it in terms of whether they had actually developed language policies and if they were followed.
Ms Newton replied that in terms of the Act the Pan South African Language Board was intended to play a significant monitoring role and some of the complexities were being felt as the challenges of that organisation was having repercussions in the whole language system. In the National Language Service the Department did take some responsibility with regard to reporting as it had an obligation through the Minister to report annually to Parliament.
Dr Jokweni Chairperson was spot on; the Council was not only responsible for the registration of who wanted to be a translator etcetera, but also the institutions that trained. For example in KwaZulu-Natal, the Durban Institute of Technology had a very strong component of translation that was the training aspect of it. So the Council would be able to monitor the institutions that did the training and see whether they were really qualified to do the training.
The Chairperson thanked everyone present and pleaded that the issue of the South African Language Practitioners Council was very important; the Department should attempt to get funding from National Treasury and start rolling out the important aspects of its work. She was pleased with the African Renaissance Charter as it was moving forward but it was clear from the documentation provided that finances were not entirely adequate.
The Chairperson asked who covered the expenses when SADEC countries were engaging about the Charter.
Mr Matibe replied that normally the hosting country would take care of most of the expenses except the transport costs. This was always a challenge especially with SADEC because South Africa was expected to foot the bill.
The Chairperson asked the Department to keep up the good work. In spite of the challenges around funding the Department had to navigate coherently and implement the Act to the best of its ability. As much as the Committee was sympathetic to the lack of funding, services had to be rendered. The Committee would also throw its weight behind trying to get National Treasury to come to the rescue of the Department.
Ms Mpambo-Sibhukwana asked the DDG to carry a message that the Select Committee had noted with concern the absence of the political heads, the Minister, the Deputy Minister and the DG. She was still not happy with the criteria of the Charter Committee and asked how it had been selected. She added that this question was specifically for political heads not the DDG.
The Chairperson reiterated the apology tended for the absence of the Minister and Deputy Minister.
The Chairperson said that the Minutes could not be passed because that meeting did not quorate.
Questions asked but not answered
Mrs Mpambo-Sibhukwana said that in the presentation it was said that everything was going to be translated in all official languages, however the 12th language, South African Sign Language (SASL), was not legislated but it was going to be included to bring equality to the disability sector
Ms Mpambo-Sibhukwana asked if the anthem and posters were going to be accommodating Braille.
Ms Mpambo-Sibhukwana referred to one of the allocations and asked if the criteria were going to be transversal and across the racial divide. With regard to the ‘racial divide’ there was a perception that only a certain race and community was poor, but there were poor people in the white community as well. She asked whether all Members would get a copy of the CD.
Ms Mpambo-Sibhukwana asked if all provinces were included in the Charter, and how the Charter Committee was formed.
Ms P Mququ asked if the Department foresaw any challenge with regard to language education in schools.
The Meeting was adjourned.
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