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ARTS, CULTURE, SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
18 November 2003
PUBLIC READING LIBRARY AND RESEARCH CENTRE: BRIEFING
Chairperson: Ms M Njobe
Documents handed out:
Archival Community Based Public Reading Library: Proposal and Vision Statement
The Diop/Du Bois Peoples Public Reading Library and Research Centre
Letter from Department of Science and Technology
Letter from Select Committee on Public Accounts
The Committee was briefed on the proposal to build an archival community based public reading library. The Portfolio Committee was supportive of this idea but felt it was premature for them to make a commitment. It was decided to wait for the result of the meeting with the Director General and Minister Ngubane. It was proposed that the location of this project be reconsidered in order to enhance its accessibility. Concerns about the turnaround time of minutes and reports were raised as an area needed improvement.
The Chairperson opened the meeting although the Committee did not constitute the required quorum. She justified this by explaining that the Portfolio Committee was not going to be taking any decisions. The new format was said to have delayed the release of the annual report, however an instruction was issued by the Chairperson that as it was the content that was of importance, and as time was of essence, the old format would be used until the new format arrived. The minutes to be adopted were also not ready as the Committee Secretary was attending a training course. Emphasis was made on importance of submitting adopted minutes before the end of the term.
The Chairperson introduced Mr Bennie Bunsee who in turn briefed the Portfolio Committee about his proposal to build an archival community based public reading library.
Mr Cassiem (PJC) did not think the Portfolio Committee could feature at this point beyond it saying the idea was a good one. He raised issues related to the constitution, budget and the law. Constitutionally the Portfolio Committee was only meant to support the South African National Libraries; hence they would need to find some legal assistance in order for the Portfolio Committee to play a lead role. It was also of critical importance to know the amount involved. There would be legal implications to consider if the trustees were going to manage this project as their own. Their independent role would no longer feature if government took over.
Mr B. Bunsee said he was well aware of the issues that had been raised. The legal implications, including the constitutionality of the matter were important; however, a suggestion had been made to having this project becoming an African institute. He added that Director General Mosala would be inviting him to discuss this with the Minister. In terms of the budget, an estimation of R50 million plus would be needed, but this would be money well spent.
Ms T. Tshivase (ANC) pointed out that libraries were manned by provinces and provincial government. She asked whether business people had been approached for funds. Had the Department of Education been approached as this also fell under part of its terrain? How inclusive of the official languages was the library and research centre intended to be?
Mr B. Bunsee said he would contact the Department of Education. The language issue was very important as this would be a cultural library. He added that it was unfortunate that the indigenous language of this country was not amongst the official languages of South Africa, and yet foreign languages were.
Mr V. Gore (DA) said the idea had its merits and suggested that interaction between Alexandra Libraries and the Trustees might prove beneficial. He felt that the plans on mapped did not look accessible to people with disabilities. Hopefully this would be rectified.
Mr B. Bunsee welcomed the recommendation to interact with Alexandra Libraries. Libraries in the United Kingdom would also be visited. People with disabilities would definitely be catered for.
Mr S. Dithebe (ANC) commended the presentation as comprehensive and thought provoking. He echoed the sentiments of previous Members and asked what the intended location of this institution was, and whether they would be adverse to it being in Pretoria; bearing Freedom Park in mind. He suggested that the Gauteng government be approached and that there was a need for a comprehensive business plan if their intention was that government should finally take the institution over run it as a public entity.
Mr B. Bunsee said that location was not a problem, but they needed adequate premises with a lot of space. They had a business plan which outlined R5 million for books, and R3 million per annum for salaries. Problems in obtaining sustainable finance were not envisaged. If the Department of Arts and Culture took over the institution, they had a vision with critical humanistic values that they would like it run by.
Mr Cassiem proposed that the Portfolio Committee request a formal report from the Director General on this and what they planned to do.
The Chairperson emphasised that Members were not throwing away the idea, but they needed some questions answered. Partnerships were encouraged and they were eager to hear how the private sector was assisting. The Portfolio Committee agreed that they would wait for the Director General and Minister's reaction.
Ms T Tshivase said reference to disadvantaged communities often referred to people living in the deep rural areas. How would they have access to such an institution?
The Chairperson also expressed concerned about the location. If it was to be based in Cape Town it would not really be accessible to the people of South Africa if one looked at where Cape Town was geographically situated.
Mr B. Bunsee said accessibility was critical and they had hoped to serve as a model for other libraries. However, they did not see themselves as exclusive; they would continue exploring the best ways to ensure accessibility. He agreed that collaboration and partnerships were important but they needed Parliament's and the NGO sector support.
The Chairperson requested Mr Bunsee to keep the Portfolio Committee informed about developments whilst the committee would interact with the Department of Arts and Culture to find out what their position was on this project.
Study Tour to Gauteng
The delegation that undertook the tour was asked to look at the draft report, amend it and come up with a final draft by the 25 November 2003. The minutes would become meaningless if they were not adopted in the year 2003. Mr Dithebe expressed concerns of having only received the draft on the 18 November for a tour that had been undertaken a while back, and now he had to recall and think the issues through.
New burial sights had been identified and more human skeletons had been discovered. SAHRA could not brief the Portfolio Committee on what was happening as they were being taken to court The matter was now sub Judice and could not be discussed.
Mr S Opperman (DA) said a principle decision had been made and as a Portfolio Committee they had a position that they ought to stick to. The Chairperson explained that the briefing would have been on the recommendations that the Portfolio Committee had made and how SAHRA had taken them.
National Arts Council Update
The Chairperson had tried but had not managed to speak to Director General, Mr Mosala, but rather had spoken to speak to the Deputy Director General, Mr T. Wakashe. Mr Wakashe confirmed the suspension of the CEO and Financial Manager of the National Arts Council (NAC). Subsequently a third person from the board had been suspended. The Director General had left a message that he would make contact. The Portfolio Committee still had no concrete evidence of what was happening. Assumption was made that an investigation was still at its initial stages and that they were unable to communicate with the Portfolio Committee. Mr Dithebe suggested that it be communicated to the person that was supposed to liaise with the office of the Chair, to report to the Chairperson upon the finality of this matter before the matter became beyond the Portfolio Committee's control. Mr Cassiem pointed out that the Committee had until the 26 November and it might be necessary to get them to come and brief the Portfolio Committee so as to enable Members to ascertain what was going on, how serious it was, and what steps could be taken. The Chairperson promised to follow.
Select Committee on Public Accounts
The Portfolio Committee felt that it had no time to interact with the entities listed by the Select Committee on Public Accounts before the end of the term. Mr Cassiem said that for Parliament to adopt each report the respective entities must have had their asset register compiled and scrutinised and they must have complied with the PFMA conditions. He advised that the Portfolio Committee write to the Minister to ask whether the listed entities had complied with these requirements.
Mr Dithebe agreed but added that as the Portfolio Committee that exercised oversight on these entities, they ought to also make contact with the institutions and impress upon them the need to comply with the PFMA conditions.
The Chairperson said she found the conclusion of the letter to be very surprising and wondered what their role as the Committee was if the letter read that there was no need for further interaction with the entities. If time had permitted the entities would have been invited to come and make presentations. Mr Dithebe said that his interpretation of that section of the report was that the Select Committee on Public Accounts, in terms of the PFMA , so no need for further need for further interaction. This did not absolve the entities from interacting with other Committees that exercised oversight.
National Science Week
Mr Dithebe felt the Committee needed to go much further than just diarizing the week long activity. He proposed that the department should give them the names of the companies that would be running these activities. This would help the committee to target communities that would not be able to take their youth to these places. Attendance should be drawn from as many towns as possible. The letter's last paragraph challenged the Committee to keep alert on ways to excite learners with science.
Minutes of the Annual Report
Mr Cassiem felt that 36 hours after the meeting was reasonable in which minutes should be made available to the Chairperson and then to Members. He suggested the taping of meetings and the adoption of the 36 hour report.
The meeting was adjourned.
ARTS, CULTURE, SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
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