Heritage Preservation and South African Biotechnology Strategy: briefing

Arts and Culture

16 September 2003
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Meeting Summary

A summary of this committee meeting is not yet available.

Meeting report

16 September 2003

Documents handed out;


Progress Report: National Biotechnology Strategy 2003
How Heritage Contributes to Economic Development
Business Plan Heritage Day and Heritage Month.

Chairperson for first session: Ms M Njobe (ANC)
Chairperson for second session: Mr D Kgware (ANC Northern Cape)

The Department of Arts and Culture discussed the lack of South African research and preservation capacity within the Heritage sector. The Department in cooperation with the SABC had embarked on a programme to educate South Africans on their national symbols, which involved 10 SABC radio stations and SABC 2.

The Department of Science and Technology discussed the need to encourage the industrial use of Biotechnology in South Africa. The science of Biotechnology was safe and there was no credible scientific information to the contrary. The management of the science required careful attention but scientific advances could minimise and illuminate the inherent difficulties.

Chairperson: Ms M Njobe ANC

Department of Arts and Culture Presentation
The Department of Arts and Culture planned to undertake an audit similar to the recent assessment of the cultural sector on museums and the value of South Africa's heritage estate.
2003 was the last in a series of 3 years that focussed on familiarising South Africans with their national symbols. The objectives were to popularise and generate pride in South Africa's national symbols, reflecting especially on the recent monumentous achievements.

According to recent studies of citizens' understanding and appreciation of national symbols; the national flag was found to generate the most passionate responses and was most readily identified by South Africans. The flag established itself in the South African psyche and was often prominently displayed in daily culture, on T-shirts and even face panting. Many displays of pride and affection were not always in line with heraldry conventions but nonetheless exhibited the national acceptance and pride.
The national anthem was the second most popular national symbol, although the department was concerned that not everyone knew all its lyrics. The anthem was a national prayer and collective expression of the nation's aspirations.
The least understood national symbol and most recently introduced was the national Coat of Arms. Although readily identified, South Africans did not appreciate its content and symbolism.
The Department of Arts and Culture had partnered with the SABC to promote the forthcoming celebrations of Heritage Day. The SABC made 10 of its radio stations as well as the television channel SABC 2 available to the Department free of charge. Special mention was made of SAFM, and that all national languages would be accommodated in the airing of educational programs. The SABC was a natural ally because of its wide coverage and diversity of languages in its broadcasts. Every Wednesday SABC 2 focused on various national themes, screening an educational video produced in co-operation with the GCIS and entertaining guest discussions afterwards.

Printed pamphlets and small flags were distributed to schools and provincial government departments as well as the forthcoming Heritage Day celebrations at the Union Buildings on 24 September.

Ms A van Wyk NNP asked why SAFM, with a comparatively smaller listenership was chosen over "Radio Sonder Grense".

Mr A Xaba, the Department's Chief Director of Communications, said SAFM's talk show format was a positive consideration. Information packages were made available to community radio stations, in co-operation with the GCIS. Newspaper advertising was considered too expensive and the department hoped the high profile of the event and artists would garner free publicity.

Prof I Mohammed ANC asked whether the Department was considering changes to the Union Buildings' name.

Mr Wakashe, DDG of Arts and Culture, said he was not aware of this debate.

Mr A van Niekerk NNP asked whether the Heritage Day Pamphlets were made available in all languages.

Mr Wakashe said the Heritage Day pamphlets were currently only available in English but they were in the process of translating it into other languages.

Mr S Opperman (DA) said if the National Anthem was considered a prayer, it could exclude atheists.

Mr Wakashe said the issue of religious affiliation was a very philosophical question. The majority of South Africans were believers in their respective religions and he added prayer was not alien to traditional religions. A small proportion of the population was atheist and he expressed confidence that their national aspirations were reflected in the anthem.

Ms A Njobe (ANC) said the difficulty of harmonising national anthems within a nation of many faiths was not a uniquely South African challenge. In Zambia, the Watch Tower group refused to sing the national anthem because of religious reservations. She asked what the colours of the Flag symbolised.

Mr Wakashe said he had to consult the Bureau of Heraldry for the significance of the national flag's colours. The general understanding of the colours' significance was that it reconciled the previous South African flag and colours identified with the national liberation movements.

Mr N Raju DA (KwaZulu-Natal) asked to what extent schools were involved in Heritage Day promotion.

Mr Wakashe said they had a partnership with the Department of Education and were co-operating closely.

Mr van Niekerk asked whether the Department would commit to translating the Heritage Day pamphlet into all South African languages before 24 September.

Mr Wakashe agreed, but said it was impractical for the Heritage Day celebration to be conducted in all South African languages.

Mr N Ngcobo (ANC) said the logistics of changing names should be balanced with the honoring of foreign heroes in South Africa. A visiting academic was surprised at the non-African representation of statuary in South Africa.

Mr Wakashe said South Africa was a multicultural society where members of various communities contributed to South Africa's heritage. He said South Africa had to redress the distortions in place names, as there was unfortunately insufficient indigenous representation.

Ms Njobe said South Africans appreciated the historical context of our present condition and she wished to debate the academic in question. Other African states were often surprised at South Africa's multicultural identity.

Mr Wakashe said the Heritage documents distributed to the cCmmittee simply provided the Department's philosophical approach to economic development. The film industry received vast amounts of foreign investment annually.
France and Britain had managed to leverage their heritage to increase tourism and were renowned for their museums. In South Africa, Heritage could not be allowed to become a subsidiary to the tourism industry as it held other intrinsic value.
The preservation of National Heritage sites was both costly and labour-intensive. The Department was exploring Private/ Public/ Partnerships (PPPs) in heritage preservation and maintenance.
Purists argued this would result in the commercialisation of our national heritage although the Department believed if properly managed, a healthy balance could be achieved.
An amount of R1.5 million had been budgeted for the first audit on the security levels of museums. Both Belgium and Japan had indicated their eagerness to assist in this regard

Ms Mpaka ANC asked who managed Table Mountain and whether the state shared in the profits generated.

Mr Wakashe apologised for the late submission of the meeting's documentation to the Committee. The Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism managed Table Mountain, but he was unsure of the commercial details thereof.

Mr Ngcobo (ANC) said the Freedom Park investigative team spent three years researching international approaches to Heritage and suggested the Department could benefit therefrom.

Mr Wakashe said the Freedom Park delegation had a brief limited to how nations commemorated their freedom. The objective now was to focus on leveraging heritage for economic development.

Mr Opperman (DA) said the Department should assist those involved in research to publish their findings.

Mr Wakashe said there was a shortage of especially black people in the Preservation of Heritage sector. South Africa consisted of a population of 43 million people and only two individuals held Masters Degrees in Arts Management. The Department was co-operating with the University of Cape Town to develop Museum Management courses to reduce this deficit.

Mr N Raju DA asked whether the local authorities assisted in the maintenance of historical buildings and other monuments.

Mr Wakashe said with restorations and maintenance there was always a question of ownership- if the state had to make significant financial contribution. South Africa and the Dutch government were discussing a framework of co-responsibility of common heritage sites. The Dutch government had similar arrangements with Surinam and Indonesia.

Ms Njobe said a School of Arts and Culture similar to the one in Nigeria would encourage young students to study these fields. She asked whether indigenous knowledge was also considered part of the national heritage. Indigenous foods could assist in ensuring food security and improve the health of the nation. Currently indigenous foods were being exploited by foreign companies for significant profits.

Mr Wakashe said China and India were possibly the only nations that successfully used their traditional medicines to enhance their economic development. South Africa was currently at a cross-roads where it could either harness its traditional heritage or lose it forever

Mr Kgware said there were many unemployed academics that could alleviate the shortage of South Africa's heritage skills. He recommended an audit of unemployed skills in the sector. African traditional clothing should also be encouraged.

Mr Wakashe said a photographic exhibition dating from 1860 - 1890 of Southern African traditional dress would be held soon. The photographer observed fundamental changes in African traditional dress and lifestyle. The Collection was restored at a cost of more than R1 million and was expected to have a major influence on current designers.

Chairperson: Mr D Kgware (ANC Northern Cape)

Department of Science and Technology

South Africa currently lacked the enabling mechanisms for the establishment of biotechnology companies. The main inhibiting factors included, amongst others, the lack of infrastructure for research and development and support for biotechnology businesses.

The Department was investing R400 million over three years to address the lack of innovation in biotechnology. The establishment of Biotechnology Regional Innovation Centres (BRICs) would act as incubators for the development of the science, allowing more biotechnology businesses to be developed.

Mr Ngcobo encouraged Mr Durham to inform the Committee more on biotechnology issues as they were inundated with anti-biotechnology information from public groups.

Mr B Durham, the Department's Manager of Biotechnology, said he was aware of the anti-GMO lobby, he added that Europe spent billions or Rands studying the impact of GMOs on human health and there was no evidence that GMOs were harmful to human beings. He acknowledged there was a risk that stronger genetically engineered plants could transfer genes to other wild species and there was always the possibility of mutation. The science of biotechnology was safe as long as it was managed properly and the risks and benefits engaged with an open mind. There was no credible scientific evidence to stop GMO science from continuing.

Prof Mohammed said without balanced information, the public could fall prey to inaccurate propaganda. He could appreciate the confusion of ordinary South Africans regarding biotechnology.

Mr Durham said it was difficult to explain the science of biotechnology without oversimplifying important aspects. The cloning of human beings was an ethical question and not a scientific matter and as such would always be debated. He added that science could only inform and minimise the risks involved.

Ms van Wyk said there were many good ideas but funding was required to develop them to the point of patenting or industrial viability.

Mr Durham said South Africa had world-class research capacity but lacked the funding indicated by the member. Venture capital in South Africa was very risk averse and funding to bridge this innovation divide was sorely needed. The Department secured funding to attend conferences in the U.S. to discuss solutions to this problem. The possibly of recruiting Biotechnology Officers was one consideration but the Department was still looking for the best approach. A biotechnology audit would be published in a few weeks, indicating the size and scope of the industry. Draft legislation protecting intellectual property would also be made available by June 2004. Universities received financial incentives for publications and admissions but unfortunately there were no similar incentives for patenting.

The meeting was adjourned.



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