The Department of Arts and Culture (DAC) presented its annual report for the year 2014/15. It had received an unqualified audit by the Auditor-General and had spent 97.9% of its budget.
The potential of the arts sector to contribute to the nation’s economy was emphasised. The Department had a number of priority programmes that aimed to ensure that the sector fulfilled this potential. One such programme was the Mzansi Golden Economy Programme which had led to arts festivals being held in different provinces and contributing to provincial economies. The Department was also revising its White Paper. The granting of bursaries by the Department to study arts courses was furthering capacity building and skills development. The Department discussed its repatriation programme as well as its Geographical Names Programme (GNP). While three bodies had been repatriated in the 2014/15 period, there had not been any name changes in the same period, as the relevant council had been constituted only late in the year.
Members were agreed on the importance of the repatriation programme and the GNP, despite the politically sensitive nature of both programmes. The Committee questioned the lack of relevance to individual provinces of the information presented by the Department, as this affected the Committee’s ability to engage meaningfully with the presentation. A concern was also raised over the fact of the bulk of the funding allocation under the Mzansi Golden Economy Programme being allocated to Gauteng province. These funds had to be allocated in a more equitable manner. Members also mentioned the need for the Department to improve its marketing of the different programmes it was running, as the public often did not have adequate information about the Department’s activities. The bad condition of the heritage site at Robben Island was questioned, and the Department was urged to take action to remedy this state of affairs.
Ms Rejoice Mabudafhasi, Deputy Minister of Arts and Culture, said the Department had moved from a qualified to an unqualified audit, and this was a source of pride for the officials of the Department. The Department was still waiting for results of the forensic audit so that appropriate action could be taken offending officials. She emphasised that offenders would be punished. The Department had decided not to renew existing contracts and was revising its procurement policy to align it with the realities of the sector. Efforts were being made to promote craftwork for sale on the international market. A study on the importance of arts and culture to the economy had been carried out, and it showed that the sector had great potential to contribute to the economy through job creation in particular. A partnership had been concluded between the Department of Arts and Culture (DAC) and the Department of Small Business Development for the purpose of equipping people in creative industries with business skills.
Mr Vuyo Jack, Acting Director-General: DAC, said that the Department had met 71% of its targets in the 2014/15 year. This had been an improvement on the previous year, where 66% of targets had been met. The Department’s priority programmes were discussed. Under the National Development Plan, the Department was responsible for coordinating nation building and cohesion. An implementation forum had been set up including other departments and representatives from civil society. While the forum had made some progress, it was facing notable challenges in obtaining the necessary technical assistance and support from certain departments.
Another priority area was the revision of the Department’s White Paper. A review process had started in October 2014 and it was anticipated that a review report would be compiled by the end of the year. Under the Mzansi Golden Economy Programme, many successes had been recorded, such as the large contributions made by festivals such as the Macufe Festival and the National Jazz Festival to local economies and the funding of arts projects across the provinces.
The Department had coordinated three repatriation projects during the period under review, namely those of the remains of Nat Nakasa, Moses Kotane and JB Marks. As this process had been undertaken on an ad hoc basis, the Department was currently crafting guidelines to regulate future repatriation exercises.
In terms of the Geographical Names Programme (GNP), no new names had been gazetted because members of the South African Geographical Names Council had been appointed late in the year. A number of name changes that had been gazetted in previous years had been delayed by court challenges.
The Department had disbursed a number of heritage bursaries tenable at different South African universities with the aim of increasing capacity in the heritage sector. Under its library programme, 17 community libraries had been built and 20 had been upgraded. A number of events had been scheduled by the Department to coincide with national holidays, such as Heritage Day and Youth Day, in order to promote social cohesion in commemorating significant past events. Such events were failing to attract attendance that represented the country’s diversity, and they were also affected by a shortage of financial resources. Within the national archives programme, certain records that had previously been inaccessible had been made accessible. A number of outreach projects were being implemented by National Archives.
During the year under review, the Department’s activities had led to over 17000 jobs being created, although this information had not been verified by the audit report. The Department had obtained an unqualified audit from the Auditor-General’s office. The audit report had pointed out that there had been more than R41 million of unauthorised expenditure. A portion of this had represented funds shifted from the 2010 World Cup budget during the 2008/9 financial year, which had been reclassified as irregular expenditure. Investigations of potential irregular expenditure on the construction of three cultural precincts were pending. The Department had spent 97.9% of its budget allocation.
The Chairperson commended the report. She approved the reintroduction of crafts into the education curriculum, as this would equip learners with useful skills. She had been informed that there was a group of protestors in the building who were disrupting Committee meetings. For this reason, the Department would be allowed to respond in writing to questions raised by Members, but a few crucial questions could be answered during the meeting.
Ms L Dlamini (ANC, Mpumalanga) reminded the Department of the question posed by the Committee at a previous meeting on the San heritage site. How far had the Department gone on this, because the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) was going back to the community and wanted to provide feedback? She observed that there had been very little in the Department’s presentation that was specific to any one province. As this was a sitting of a Committee constituted by NCOP Members representing the provinces, the Department ought to rectify this in future reports to the Committee.
She congratulated the Department on the transformation of the Apartheid Museum, but suggested that more work should be done to the entrance gate. She raised the issue of low staff salaries of employees at museums, and said the Department ought to improve salaries in order to retain staff and attract skilled employees. More marketing of Freedom Park was necessary. The presentation had shown that deployment of artists to the provinces had been done in eight provinces -- why had one been left out? The repatriation programme was politically sensitive, and although it was an expensive exercise, it was necessary because the deceased persons had played a big role in South Africa’s liberation struggle.
She pointed out that the GNP was not doing well because of the politics of the matter. She gave the example of Mbombela, which had changed names from Nelspruit. The process had taken an undue amount of time because of resistance to the change which had included a court challenge. The Department had to ensure that the name changing process continued because this was an important exercise.
The complaint had been made that events to celebrate national holidays were being politicised, and this was the reason for the lack of diversity among attendees of the events, as they tended to attract only supporters of political parties. She asked that the Department formulate a solution to this problem. She suggested that an International Cultural Day should be commemorated every 25 May in order to counter xenophobia.
On the issue of libraries, concerns had been raised about unqualified staff (despite a training programme being conducted by the Department) and small rooms that were being used as library facilities.
Mr Vusithemba Ndima, Deputy Director-General: DAC, said that he would make a specific follow up of the San heritage site issue.
The Chairperson stated that answers to this question were required urgently, because the Committee was going to visit the community in question the following week.
Mr D Stock (ANC Northern Cape) commended the Department for a comprehensive presentation. He agreed with Mr Jack that it was possible for the Department to obtain a clean audit. He agreed with Ms Dlamini that the repatriation programme was a sensitive issue and required further exploration. There was a lack of synergy between the national and provincial spheres of government over repatriation, and gave the example of the Northern Cape provincial government repatriating three bodies in the period under review, yet the report by the Department had not discussed it. This showed that a common approach to the repatriation programme was needed.
The presentation had shown that Gauteng province was being prioritised for allocations under the Mzansi Golden Economy programme. There should be a better balance among the provinces. He proposed that the Department should use provincial databases for allocations for Departmental funding of arts organisations – potential beneficiaries in more remote areas may be unaware of the Department’s calls for funding applications. He asked whether the Department had publicised the recent show by a local recording artist, Cassper Nyovest, who had filled the Coca-Cola Dome to capacity. As another musician, Rebecca Malope, had claimed after the show, she had in fact been the first musician to accomplish this feat, and this showed that there was a need for the Department to publicise notable artistic achievements.
Ms T Mampuru (ANC, Limpopo) asked what the Department was doing in order to fulfil its mandate in Limpopo province in particular. The Department claimed in the presentation that it had created many jobs -- she asked them to provide details of how many jobs had been created in each province as well as the nature of these jobs. The same applied to heritage bursaries -- she asked that the number of bursaries given out be broken down by province. This would allow the Committee members to engage with the relevant MECs.
She referred to a municipality in Capricorn that she had visited which was carrying on a sisal project, and asked for information on the progress of this project, as it appeared it had not proceeded as planned. Why was the GNP process taking so much time? On the repatriation programme, she said that a relative of hers who had been active in the liberation struggle had died outside South Africa, and his remains were yet to be brought to South Africa. She urged the Department to take action on this matter. The Department was encouraged to promote Braille on business cards and other promotional materials. She gave the example of the Department of Home Affairs using Braille for identification numbers.
Ms M Tlake (ANC, Free State), referring to page 6 of the presentation under the heading ‘Programme drivers’, said that a notable absentee was the Constitution. It ought to have been listed, since it was the highest legal authority in South Africa, especially the Bill of Rights that provided for language and cultural rights. The Department had to improve the marketing strategy of its programmes by publicising them more. Heritage bursaries in particular should be publicised more as they could help the youth to access tertiary education.
On the GNP, if there was more consultation with communities prior to the gazetting of new names, then there would be less resistance to these changes. She asked about the condition of the Robben Island heritage site, as she had information that the facilities there had deteriorated. This was unacceptable due to the important symbolic value of the Island. The Department should fast-track its repatriation policy, because the process was taking an undue amount of time.
The Chairperson asked about the court cases that the Department was currently defending. She asked about the outcome of these, as well as the Minister’s plan of action concerning the cases. There should be coordination of reporting systems by the Department at the national and provincial levels, as this would enable the provincial perspective discussed by previous speakers to be given. She asked who the Department official responsible for managing the Mzansi Golden economy programme was.
Mr Jack replied that the relevant person was absent.
The Chairperson asked for reasons to be given for the imbalance in provincial allocations. It could send the wrong message if other provinces were neglected in this regard. Did the Department have a policy to encourage university students to study subjects that would allow them to follow careers as curators? It was important to ensure that there were curators employed by the Department who appreciated the value of African cultural artefacts. The repatriation programme was important, and needed to continue. She spoke of the need to involve the families of deceased people identified for repatriation in making the decision to repatriate, as some families may place little value on the repatriation of their family member’s remains, depending on their religious beliefs. There had been reports that Robben Island was in a bad condition and she asked the Department to attend to this. When would the Department’s White Paper be finalised, and what were the critical issues it covered? The establishment of a Language Board as soon as possible was imperative, as it could deal with problems in educational institutions around languages of instruction. Members of the Select Committee had not been receiving invitations to the Department’s events, and she asked that the Department rectify this.
Mr Jack replied that there had been an arbitration award made in favour of some dismissed workers. The Board was currently engaging with the workers with a view to reaching a settlement. The Minister had not yet decided whether to dissolve the Board or not, and was still applying his mind to this question. On the White Paper, there had been engagement with the provinces and an indaba of all critical players was going to be held at the end of November. This indaba was being held to allow debate on the content of the White Paper so that the views received could be incorporated into the Paper. One of the key areas covered by the White Paper was the goal of supporting leaders in the sector to be sustainable. Another priority area was the alignment of the Department at the three spheres of government and rationalisation of institutions to encourage economies of scale. The Paper also dealt with the funding of the arts sector.
The Chairperson asked where the indaba would be held.
Mr Jack answered that it would be held in Johannesburg.
The Chairperson asked for Committee members to be invited and for further information on the indaba to be provided.
Mr Jack stated that the White Paper also discussed gender mainstreaming, protecting the rights of disabled persons as well as promoting youth employment. There was also a focus on promoting the heritage mandate to be on the same level as arts and culture.
The Chairperson said that the rest of the questions were to be answered in writing. She said that issues of wasteful and fruitless expenditure, extension of contracts, appointing contractors without following proper procedures and approving of funds above the allowed amount, remained a concern with the Department.
The meeting was adjourned.