Iziko Museum Annual Performance Plan and grievances raised by employees

Sports, Arts and Culture

13 September 2022
Chairperson: Ms B Dlulane (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

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The Committee was briefed in a virtual meeting by the Iziko Museum on its annual performance plan and interventions on grievances raised by the employees, with input from the Department of Sports, Arts and Culture (DSAC). Challenges included the questionable renewal of the CEO’s contract, part-time workers transitioned into the permanent structure, lack of transformation in directorship and human resource complaints of recruitment and selection processes at Iziko.

The Committee was concerned about the issues surrounding the contract of the Iziko CEO, her performance agreement and fees spent on litigation. They said Victimisation was also a serious concern. Positions that needed to be filled critically had to be allowed to be advertised externally, as internally showed favouritism. The transfer of skills should begin before retirement. It was unfair when one person was allowed to work until after their retirement period when millions were unemployed. The Department needed to review the number of years a CEO could serve.

Members raised a wide range of questions. Were its artworks insured and audited on an annual basis; was there an inventory of the art that belonged to the state; why were some museums closed, and when would they be reopened; was the Museum underfunded; what principles guided the entity to decolonise its collections; what was the issue with the chief executive officer (CEO) and the extension of her contract; how was Iziko attracting additional financial support from different agencies to offset its financial constraints; what had been done to collect stolen artefacts.

Iziko responded that the artworks, which were worth R2.6 billion, were insured, but additional funding was also needed to help cover this; the Museum's inventory did not include all the artworks owned by the state, and this issue was being prioritised; the closure of some museums had been due to infrastructure issues; the Iziko Maritime Centre lease agreement had come to an end, and this Museum had been closed; smaller museums were open, but only on specific days; the CEO had been performing very well during her tenure, and her intervention and leadership had stabilised the Iziko entity as it was getting very negative audit outcomes before benefiting from her guidance.

The Iziko museums were underfunded and needed up to R400 million for their transformation, which it was seeking from potential donors, working with other role players, such as the National Research Foundation, the HCI Foundation and the Human Sciences Research Council. The museums focused on Afrocentric art and heritage in the hope of decolonising the art spaces. A small team was working on determining the whereabouts of stolen artefacts and returning them to African soil. 

Meeting report

Opening remarks

The Chairperson greeted the Members and the Department. She said she would be in the meeting until 12:00pm and thereafter would need to go to Parliament, and Ms V Malomane (ANC) would sit in as Chairperson. There was an apology from Minister Nathi Mthethwa.

The Chairperson said that the Rugby Sevens World Cup had boosted tourism and helped hotels and transport entities to generate good profits in Cape Town.

DSAC briefing on Iziko Museums of South Africa

The Committee was taken through the presentation of Iziko Museums of South Africa, which covered the entity's vision and mandate, operational context, the strengths-weakness-opportunities-threats (SWOT) analysis, key issues affecting Iziko, financial information, and its 2022/23 annual performance plan deliverables.

The financial information reflects steady growth over a five-year period. Escalation in the net position of the entity at the end of the 2020/2021 financial year resulted from the disclosure of heritage asset collections.

The Department reported that the entity achieved 80% of targets in the previous financial year and 50% for the current financial year so far. The entity obtained a qualified audit opinion in 2021/22.

Challenges included the questionable renewal of the CEO, Ms Rooksana Omar, beyond her ten-year contract:

  • The matter concerning the employment contract of the CEO was first brought to the attention of the Department by the CEO, after she lodged a complaint with the CCMA.
  • The Council was called to submit a detailed report to the Minister on the matter. Subsequent to receiving the Council’s report and the Chairperson letter giving account of the turn of events concerning the CEO’s contract, and a brief on the Council’s decision to extend the CEOs contract until 31 August 2023; the matter was then considered closed and the CCMA case was withdrawn.
  • The decision to extend the CEO’s contract was taken to maintain stability and ensure proper handover to the succeeding Council, as the serving Council’s term  was coming to an end on 31 July 2023
  • The Minister accepted the final resolution and strongly condemned the previous Council’s conduct in dealing with the matter.

Another challenge was part-time workers transitioned into Iziko’s permanent structure with full benefits and more working days added to their working schedules under a special dispensation:

  • The Iziko Museums of South Africa’s sites operate seven days a week, including public holidays and at times after hours for the Planetarium shows and events. The Museum then appoints part-time workers who receive pro-rata benefits to cater to operating times.
  • Several meetings between the part-time employees, NEHAWU, management and the Department were held since 2018, when the complaint over the alleged discrimination and employment of part-time employees was first lodged.
  • Lengthy deliberations and consultations led to a conclusion by Iziko Management that the absorption of part-time employees was not financially feasible, and rather reached an agreement for a special dispensation where employees will be given first preference when there are vacant positions.

Another challenge was the human resource complaint of lack of transformation in directorship:

  • Following allegations that the Iziko Museums Management deliberately and willingly excludes Black Africans from management positions at the Museums, the Minister directed Council to investigate the matter and provide a  report in response to the allegation. Council referred the matter to the Iziko Council’s Governance and Ethics Committee for investigation and reporting. The Committee’s report illustrates that there is no anti - transformation practice prevalent at Iziko Museums and further outlined the appointment process in accordance with the Museum’s Employment Equity policy and the Employment Equity targets as guided by the preamble of the Employment Equity Act (EEA), 1998 (Act No 55 of 1998).
  • The report further demonstrates that Iziko employs 4 (57%) female Black Directors. Currently, the Museum employs four  female Directors and three male Directors, which is an improvement in comparison with 2018 where the Museum only employed two male Directors and three female Directors; and the entity commits to a continued increase of representation in all levels and development of previously disadvantaged groups

The final challenge report was the human resource complaint of recruitment and selection processes at Iziko:

  • The report also outlined that the recruitment process for a Director position is steered by a recruitment panel which includes senior management and a Council Member. In view that the Minister appointed and entrusted the Council to provide strategic support and leadership to the entity, the Department was satisfied with the recruitment process of the entity.
  • The Department fully supports and encourages transformation and will continue to monitor progress in this regard and assist the entity further in ensuring transformation.
  • The Department further encourages improved relations between Council, management, staff and the trade union, which was communicated through a letter by the Director-General.

(See attached documents for details)

Discussion

Ms V van Dyk (DA) said that she believed that this presentation was due to complaints raised by the Museum's employees. It was “weird” that the Chief Executive Officer's (CEO’s) contract was a fixed term contract, yet she had needed to go to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) after knowing the exact date on which her contract expired. Why had no one followed up on her contract? This was a failure of the internal audit. Could the Committee get the performance documents of the CEO? Could it be provided with the report produced by the Iziko Council on 6 May? What had been the outcome of the Iziko Council's benchmarking exercise on salaries? Was there a need to review the salaries of staff?

Was there an inventory of the art that belonged to the state? Could members of the public review it? Were the artworks insured and audited on an annual basis? What was the value of the Frans Hals art at Iziko? Did the Department have a restoration programme? What was being done to ensure that important art institutions were looked after? What protocols had been put in place by the Department to protect art owned by the state? Could there be an update on how many of these museums are open to the public now? Why were some of them closed, and when would they reopen?

Mr T Mhlongo (DA) said the CEO had 15 years experience. Could the CEO tell the Committee of its successes whilst working with the Department? Did the CEO have a performance agreement with the Council? If yes, could the Committee have a copy? If not, why not? How much had been spent on legal fees during the past two years? Could the Committee have a copy of the retirement policy? Who was Ms Louw, and what was her position in the institution? Was the Museum underfunded? If yes, what were the CEO and the Council doing about this? How much had been donated by the National Lottery? When were the admission fees reviewed? What were the details of what was happening at the heritage site between management and employees? What were the regulations that impacted the institution? Iziko was not a government institution -- it was a public entity -- yet it used government subsidies to pay its staff. What was being done about this?

Ms R Adams (ANC) asked how the entity partnered with other national institutions to expand its outreach footprint. What programmes was the entity implementing to improve its organisational culture? What principles guided it to decolonise its collection? What had been some of the successes in diversifying its audience? Why was the legislation allowing the CEO’s contract to be renewed? This needed to be reviewed, and perhaps the terms that a CEO could serve needed to be limited. What was the share of tourists at the local, national and international levels? How was Iziko attracting additional financial support from different agencies, as it was facing financial constraints?

Mr B Madlingozi (EFF) asked what proved that the Department of Sport and Arts and Culture (DSAC) supported other entities more than the Museum? Museums worldwide had artefacts of human origin – what efforts had been made to collect stolen artefacts? If none, why not?

Mr D Joseph (DA) noticed a drop in the financial allocation for Iziko museums. Could the Committee get a list of the infrastructure grant projects and the assets owned? The Minister's intervention showed that the matters were serious. Was there transparency for all the stakeholders? Was there oversight on management? Why was the vacancy rate so high? Why was there no national footprint? Too many consultants were being appointed. What was the difference between an entity and an agency? Victimisation was also a serious concern. Positions that needed to be filled critically had to be allowed to be advertised externally, as internally showed favouritism. The transfer of skills should begin before retirement. It was unfair when one person was allowed to work until after their retirement period when millions were unemployed.

Mr M Zondi (ANC) asked which bodies were delaying issuing permits to maintain heritage buildings. How was this resolved? How would the entity increase sponsorship for the current and following year? Had the CEO signed a performance agreement before the letter of the Council? Did she make a counteroffer that resulted in her extension? Did the Council pay to comply with the legal prescripts that govern the appointment of the CEO? What were the potential legal implications of these actions?

Ms V Malomane (ANC) asked about the advertising allocation – why was the DSAC targeting an increase of income of 0.5% and 0.25% per funded project? Was this target sufficient? What was the update on the youth unemployment project? What public-private partnership (PPPs) had the entity entered into in the past, and what were its challenges currently if it entered PPPs now?

Ms D Sibiya (ANC) asked about the budget report for 2021/22 – why was it a qualified audit report? Why was there no mention of the? What was the percentage of physically challenged staff employed by previous entities? Had Iziko projected the budgetary implications to address the matter of unequal benefits for staff?

The Chairperson asked if Iziko hosted activities in its Museum. How was the Museum made accessible? Regarding human resources (HR) challenges, did it have any instances of unequal pay for staff? How would inequalities be addressed? What values and skills did Mrs Louw add as a retiree? Had Ms Omar reached her targets during her tenure? What were the limitations to attracting and appointing black African site managers?

Responses

Mr Popo Masilo, Chairperson, Iziko Council, replying to Mr Zondi, said that the CEO’s contract in compliance with legal prescripts could have been handled better. He had been part of the Council when this matter was discussed. Decisions were made collectively as a Council. However, the decision had been made in a way where the Council was not engaged. During the first Council meeting, the chairperson at the time had made it clear that the CEO’s contract would come to an end, on 30 April. This did not make sense to the Council members, himself included, because it was confusing for the Council to learn that the CEO’s contract was coming to an end only seven days ahead of time. The previous chairperson had subsequently explained that due to COVID, some administrative discrepancies prevented the announcement of the CEO’s end of contract being discussed earlier.

Mr Mhlongo requested that the CEO be removed from the meeting, and for her to return later, as the discussion was about her.

The Committee removed Ms Omar from the meeting.

Mr Masilo said that the chairperson said it was his “prerogative” to engage the CEO on the extension of her contract, and according to his predecessor, this was to be done. This had caused contention in the Council. The hiring and firing of the CEO was the responsibility of the entire Council. The former chairperson had advised the Council that he would engage with the CEO, and when there was progress he would relay the information to the Council. Thereafter there were no engagements with him until last December, almost two years later, in an email saying that the CEO’s contract was ending in April 2022, and attached an advertisement to appoint a new CEO. There was not enough time for discussion, and the advert had to be sent out. He had asked the former chairperson for an update on the advert, and he had replied that the CEO was challenging the advert, and had referred the issue to the CCMA. During the contractual dispute in June 2021 between the chairperson and the CEO, the Council was unaware of this issue. The chairperson sought two legal opinions, which were not discussed with the Council. The legal opinions were that the Council failure to sign the CEO's fixed term contract had been incorrectly done and if the matter went to the CCMA, then the Council could not defend the claim successfully. There was a special Council meeting to address this issue and the Council became divided. Some members supported the chairperson's decisions; others said that the CEO’s dishonesty had led to her extended contract, and so on. The Council had written its own report and sent it to the Minister regarding all the details of the matter. In April 2022, a meeting was held to resolve the matter in consultation with the Minister. The resolution extended the CEO’s contract until August 2023. The Council was divided, and the executive team had become dysfunctional over the issue.

Ms Mandisa Tshikwatamba, Deputy Director-General (DDG), DSAC, said that in May 2020, there was a process of engagement with the CEO to renew her contract. There was a referral of the recommendation sent to the Minister. The proposal said that the contract would be extended for two years. There were discussions for a succession plan after the contract of the CEO. The Minister had responded to the two-year extension, and the matter was not brought up until November 2021 due to a trigger by the Council. During this time, there had been a discussion on advertising the CEO position, and this had caused the CEO to question the extension of her contract. She assumed her contract was extended for five years, or until her retirement age of 65. There had not been proper feedback, or a formal letter sent to the board on the CEO’s contract. Based on this gap, the CEO was able to dispute and negotiate her term of extension. The board and CEO were to engage via the chairperson, and if there was no agreement, there would be arbitration. New negotiations were started, and the Minister received a report on the matter. The settlement date offer was up to August 2023.

Mr Jabulani Sithole, National Heritage Council, said that the matter of the CEO and her contract was based on a collective decision. The process of succession was now being prioritised for stability in the institution. The CEO had been performing very well during her tenure, and her intervention and leadership had stabilised the Iziko entity, as it had been getting very negative audit outcomes before her guidance.

Mr Masilo said that the CEO’s performance was routinely assessed, and she had performed excellently in the strategic objectives. When she was appointed, she had signed only the fixed term contract, and there was no performance agreement.

Mr Sibusiso Tsanyane, Director: Entity Oversight and Interface, DSAC, said that during 2021, the performance was lower due to COVID, but had increased to 80%, and 50% of targets were achieved during the first quarter.

Mr Mhlongo said that reports needed to be given to the Committee beforehand. Information needed to be presented to the Committee. The issue with the CEO should not happen again.

Ms Adams said that the Committee should note the displeasure of the Minister at the manner in which the Council had handled the CEO issue. The Department needed to review the number of years a CEO could serve.

Mr Joseph said it would be good to settle the case according to the Ministers intervention for August 2023. The Department needed to assist the board by putting the agreement in writing. The DSAC needed to inform the Committee on issues they faced with entities. The disciplinary hearings bring about a conflict of interest.

Ms Van Dyk asked for the statement on the CEO’s current contract. How was the CEO paid in the absence of a contract? How could the Committee trust that the performance report of the CEO was a true reflection of her performance?

Dr Bongani Ndlovu, Executive Director: Core Functions, Iziko, responded that members of the public were allowed to access artwork through exhibitions. Those who could not pay entrance fees had the fees waivered. There were visual exhibitions, and these were related to core work and content.

Artworks were insured but funding was also needed to cover this. The value of the artworks was about R2.6 billion. The Department was assisting the institution with interventions at the infrastructure level. The upkeep of artwork and infrastructure was being discussed. Several positions were responsible for seeing to art conservation and the restoration of heritage objects. The HR Department had submitted to Treasury how much was needed for the upkeep of the museums.

Museums that were not accessible to the public were closed, and this was due to the restoration of infrastructure. The Iziko Maritime Centre lease agreement had ended, and this Museum had been closed. Smaller site museums were open, but only on specific days. The Iziko South African National Gallery was closed now, and would reopen next month in October with a new exhibition.

Funding was dependent on grants. The entity was a public entity looking for additional income and working with other role players, such as National Research Foundation, the Hosken Consolidated Investments (HCI) Foundation and the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC), amongst others, that aid in funding. The entity was also working with universities such as the University of Cape Town, University of the Western Cape, the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) and others, and provides youth with exposure to the working environment. The entity was also funded by some embassies in the country, and they had also helped in ground-breaking research.

The entity worked closely with members in South Africa and worldwide – some from Uganda, Ghana, the European Union (EU), etc. In the past seven years, the development of new plans and strategies for transforming spaces has been considered. Afrocentric approaches had been taken towards content and the decolonisation of projects. In the next ten years, it expected to see a new range of museums that allowed public engagements. Iziko may need approximately R400 million as a maximum, and R230 million as a minimum, for its transformation. Funding needed to be sourced and some departments have been contacted regarding this.

For outreach projects and audience development, a mobile bus allowed the entity to visit big cities and areas outside Cape Town. The bus allowed it to take museums to communities and places outside the main cities. The bus needed to be replaced. A mobile planetarium was also needed, with a new bus. Virtual content and exhibitions were also used so those who could not access the Museum could experience it. It was also collecting items that demonstrated Africa’s greatness and research on social history. The Linton Panel was one of the most sought-after objects, and had been refused permission to be moved internationally. There also were objects from renowned South African artists in the museums.

Iziko did not treat human remains as objects and followed the guidance of the DSAC and other sister organisations that focus on protecting these specimens and ensuring that no active research is carried out on them. Re-humanisation of human remains was the aim. Sites had several requirements that needed to be followed, and permission from Treasury was needed for some of the sites.

Ms Malomane took over as Acting Chairperson.

Ms Lucinda Rudolph, Director of Human Resources, Iziko Museums, responded to HR questions.

On the question of black African site managers at the museums, she said there had been two site managers for the past ten years, so there had not been recruitment for new staff. One of them, a white male, had taken early retirement, which had been allowed to introduce new staff of colour. The person who managed all the managers was a black African male.

In 2021/22, Iziko held ten disciplinary hearings, with four dismissals. Legal costs amounted to R251 504 in 2020/21, and R240 434 in 2021/22. This included advice on policy requirements and labour matters.

Iziko did not have a retirement policy. When staff reached 65, they were required to retire and did not work beyond that in their contract. They could retire from age 55, depending on their pension fund. On unequal benefits, everything that had been done was according to legislation, and this was due to legacy issues. The union had asked management to review extending the benefits in 2021, and there had been an extensive exercise on all the benefits that were reviewed. Staff had to retain their benefits in certain instances. Iziko had never undertaken a benchmarking exercise.

On retirement and the transfer of skills, line managers were notified several months before retirement and arrangements were made for a transfer of skills. In some instances, there are no staff to hand over to after one member retires, and then it is handed over to a manager or the director of that department.

All positions were advertised internally and externally. In early 2021, the organisation had been stressed as many recruitment processes were put on hold from 2019 to 2020, and the pandemic and the reduction in subsidy had held it back from performing. A group of positions had been looked at that the organisation could fill, and a recommendation was made to Council regarding staff promotions. The unions had been engaged before the recommendation was made to Council. Because of the promotional nature, advertisements were aimed internally for a limited period. Ms Louw was a retired employee of Iziko, and had been an HR manager, and was appointed to a position that needed to be filled urgently.

As a counter to youth unemployment, Iziko participated in the Presidential Youth Programme, and employed 17 youths for a two-month period.

Ms Ronell Pedro, Chief Financial Officer, Iziko Museums, said that the issue of under-funding was being discussed with Treasury and the DSAC. At the last review meeting, the Council had been concerned about increasing admission fees, which excluded poorer communities. Access was important to Iziko.

Referring to the audit outcome, she said there had been a duplication of records in the heritage asset listing, and not all the assets were recorded. There were imperfections, and verification would take more than one financial year. These imperfections were being prioritised internally. Iziko had a small supply chain management unit.

Mr Vusithemba Ndima, DDG: Heritage Promotion and Preservation, DSAC, responded to Mr Joseph, who had asked about the difference between 'entity' and 'agency.' These terms were used interchangeably. He said an entity was a formal word. Entities were called agencies because they were used to execute responsibilities that the Department could not execute. They were viewed as an extension of the Department.

On the issue of human remains, he said suitable graves were being considered for the proper burial of ancestors in a dignified way. This project would have been completed if COVID-19 had not occurred.

A number of stolen African artefacts were scattered all throughout the world and out of Africa. There was a small team looking into this. It had to determine where these artefacts were, and dignity needed to be brought to them.

The additional information that had been requested by the Committee would be provided.

Mr Joseph spoke on the issue of disciplinary hearings. He said it was a conflict of interest to have a chairperson working at the entity and assessing it. The unions would not see this as fair.

Mr Madlingozi asked about the update in obtaining the Nelson Mandela heritage artefacts.

Ms Van Dyk said she was unsure whether all her questions had been answered. She repeated her questions, and asked the Department for a written response.

The Committee concluded that the follow-up questions should be given a written response.

The Iziko delegation thanked the Committee for its time and consideration, and said it would provide the reports to the Committee before the deadline.

Adoption of minutes

The Committee adopted the minutes of the meeting of 6 September.

The meeting was adjourned. 

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