Department Strategic Plan: briefing by Minister

Arts and Culture

27 May 2004
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Meeting Summary

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Meeting report

27 May 2004

Chairperson: Ms M Njobe (ANC)

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Department Budget Vote

The Minister outlined the three key programmes of the Department. The first programme focuses on the maintenance and improvement of South African heritage, archives, libraries and museums. The second programme aims to increase the profile and quality of South African arts, culture and languages in society, and the third programme deals with cultural development and the Department's international relations programme which seeks to increase the profile of South African arts and culture abroad.

During the discussion Members raised several concerns such as the fact that not all museums had transformed sufficiently to reflect all the cultures of the South African people. The Minister was asked about efforts to ensure that South African crafters in the rural and underprivileged areas have the necessary marketing opportunities, and whether the Department would fund artists who otherwise would not have sufficient funds to perform at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown and if the Department planned to intervene in the deteriorating state of the Playhouse Theatre in Durban. Members sought clarity on the reburial in Freedom Park of people who had died in foreign lands during the struggle. Also discussed was the Minister's concern about the lack of skilled young people at hand to replace ageing personnel in museums, libraries and archives.

Introduction by Chairperson
The Chair welcomed the Minister and Deputy Minister to the meeting and stated that the Committee looked forward to interacting with both the Minister and the Deputy Minister over the next term. She reminded Members that the former Department of Arts Culture Science and Technology had been split into the Department of Arts and Culture and the Department of Science and Technology in 2002, but still all fell under a single Minister. This had been changed this year so that each department now fell under its own Ministry, and are thus completely separate.

Briefing by Minister and Deputy Minister on Plan of Action
Dr Z Jordan, Minister of Arts and Culture, stated that the Department was quite large and embraces three main programmes.

Programme 1: Heritage, archives, libraries and museums
The first dealt with heritage, archives, libraries and museums and this was the largest single component of the departmental budget, in the order of 62% of the budget. This large allocation was understandable because that area dealt with fixed assets such as the various national galleries and national libraries, the national archives and the museums. There were currently three flagship museum groups. The first was the in Western Cape at Iziko, the second was in Kwa-Zulu Natal and the third was in the Limpopo Provinces, and more will be added in time. These were called flagship museums because the consisted of institutions that used to be separate and which were now all contained under a single flagship. These were also institutions that were all dependent on the national purse as well as the Department for their maintenance and sustenance.

A similar rationalisation process was undertaken with regard to the archives as well as the old Cape Archives have now become that Cape branch of the national archives, and the same applied to the now Pretoria branch of the national archives and those in Kwa-Zulu Natal. The same applied to the national libraries as the national library in Cape Town used to be separate from those in Pretoria and Parliament. These were all now part of the National Library and drew their resources from the Department.

There was also a percolation down in the provincial and local government levels with regard to the libraries. In many instances these were unfunded mandates with the result that there was much unevenness as far as the provision of libraries was concerned, and this was thus a matter that the Department would have to address.

This was a programme that needed to be treated with a great deal of care and attention in order to transform it effectively and to make it more relevant to the South Africa being built at present. A few more museums have been added since 1994, such as the Robben Island Museum and the Nelson Mandela Museum in Umtata and later this year the Albert Luthuli Heritage site will be launched in Kwa-Zulu Natal, and the Freedom Park Project which would be launched as a work in progress on Reconciliation Day in 2004.

The largest single problem that faced this programme at the moment was an ageing staff complement which had been largely brought up under the previous regime. This staff would disappear through attrition, but the difficulty lay in the replacement of that ageing staff complement. The Minister stated that he had learnt recently that the study of history is now longer a popular subject amongst students at any of the universities and this meant that younger people who would, in the normal course of events, replace the older staff complement would not form the same sort of pool that could previously be drawn on.

Programme 2: Arts, culture, language and society
Language and society was important because the Department was faced with a difficulty due to the constitutional provisions with respect to language, as all the eleven official languages were equal and thus had to enjoy equal rights. The problem was that two of the languages were advantaged because the other nine suffered from a shortage of technical texts in disciplines such as mathematics, sciences etc. The language and society section of the programme sought to address this shortcoming. This was also aimed at creating an environment in which language would not only be de jure equal but also de facto equal, so that any body of state would be able to communicate with a person in any of those official languages without the need for an interpreter.

This was a highly technical branch and was staffed by linguists as well as philologists, who were working on a technical glossary in all the nine disadvantaged languages. These staff worked closely with the Pan South African Language Board (PANSALB) and, based on the briefings the Minister received from those officials on the work they were doing, the Minister was left with the impression that they had a difficult task ahead. It was an academic and highly technical component of the Department's work, and it might thus be better served by being slightly at an arms length with the Department rather than as a component of the Department. This was however something that could be worked out in due course.

The arts and culture component of this programme dealt with the various arts and culture endeavours of the Department. The Department had various arts councils as well as a number of non governmental organisations and civil society organisations that dealt with arts and culture. These were responsible for many of the theatres, playhouses and other such projects that the Department was responsible for maintaining and sustaining. These included the State Theatre in Pretoria, the Marketplace complex in Johannesburg as well as The Playhouse in Durban. This component was also responsible for the sponsorship of the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown, and a host of other smaller arts and culture festivals that took place in various other provinces. This was directly responsible also for the projection and showcasing of South African culture not only at home but also abroad.

Programme 3: Cultural development and international relations
This was probably the most proactive programme. It was responsible for the promotion of the arts inside South Africa as well as South African arts and culture internationally. South Africa had concluded a whole range of cultural agreements with various countries including India, China, Sweden and Belgium. Many of these countries had even concluded more than one agreement with South Africa. This arm was also responsible for South Africa's participation in international cultural events, such as the Cannes Film Festival, through which South Africa was able to conclude a number of co-production agreements with a number of countries including Italy, France, Canada, Australia and a few more in the pipeline.

The proactive dimension of the cultural development arm dealt with the manner in which the Department related to the promotion and preservation of South African arts and culture and artists especially. This programme also included many of the aspects of the Department's work which dealt with interventions into - and what the President referred to in his State of the Nation Address as - the "second economy". In this regard the Department sought to become a creator and promoter of opportunity and work, as well as to become very economically active in terms of what can be done with South African culture. Examples included the Creative South Africa project which aimed to utilise the creative work done in South Africa as a means not only of making artefacts and palpable goods, but also to skill people and train them so as to transform the cultural industries into contributors to the well being of South Africa.

There were a number of co-ordinating sectors that included crafts, film, music, design and publishing. The craft industry suffered from the all too common problem with exploitation by unscrupulous middle-men, by which the beautiful craft created by the crafter would be sold at very high prices either here or in oversees markets while the crafter receives a mere pittance. The South African film industry was still very young even though South Africa has become a favourite destination for a number of film-makers, but in the main they have been shooting commercials in South Africa. South African film was beginning to make its mark internationally and at the recent Cannes Film Festival South Africa was able to screen eleven different South African movies, some were new others older. A project was underway which sought to set up a film studio in the Western Cape, and the bid has been won by the Dream World group headed by Anant Singh.

South African music has made its mark internationally, but South African musicians do not necessarily live well and do not necessarily get their just desserts in terms of what they produce. Design in a whole host areas including fashion, internal and exterior design, furniture can become very important economic activities and the Department aimed to promote this at a very serious level in the near future. Publishing in South Africa suffered from the same sort of problems mentioned with regard to language, and it was very difficult to find books published in all the official languages because again English and Afrikaans were advantaged. This was something that needed to be attended to.

With regard to the uses to which culture and arts could be put to in South African society, it could serve to promote social cohesion in South African society as well as to promote a new South African patriotism as well as assist in making South Africans better understand each other. One of the historical problems is that the various components of South African society do not know each other because they are ignorant of each other's languages in the first instance and, the in second instance, they were ignorant of each other's cultural practices, customs and cultural and artistic productions stemming from the various communities. A national flag, anthem and coats of arms assisted, but it appeared that people only sung that part of the national anthem that they knew. He doubted whether all South Africans even knew the symbolism of the coat of arms or the flag. These were matters that the Department could assist in remedying.

The Department was also responsible for the moral regeneration movement, which drew 100% of its budget from funds contributed by the Department. This was in keeping with the idea that arts and culture could contribute to the moral regeneration of South African society. The Department's vision was to transform it from the manner in which it was publicly perceived, which was the entertainment or song and dance component of government, to making a very serious and considerate contribution to the entire national project indeed by using the instruments of entertainment, song and dance. The Department was thus also the custodian of the collective memory of South Africa as embodied in its archives, its galleries, its museums and its heritage sites.

Ms N Botha, Deputy Minister of Arts and Culture, stated that as far as the interventions that needed to be made by the Department in the second economy were concerned, it must be ensured that the activity in the second economy must be promoted. Thus in the film industry, for example, not only the established and popular film stars but also the emerging artists must be promoted. Jobs must be created for these people because, as stated earlier by the Minister, most of them do have talent and can create jobs for themselves but simply need some assistance. Thus the Department would be focusing on this issue in all its activities as this would bring the arts and culture programmes to the people, especially those in the rural areas where this is not happening.

The President emphasised the need to work together in this regard to make this a success and thus every Member of Parliament must ensure that the needs are identified in each and every constituency area, in order to promote arts and culture with a view to addressing the issues of poverty, unemployment and also moral regeneration and social cohesion.

Ms S Motubatse-Hounkpatin (ANC) expressed her concern with the fact that the museums did not necessarily reflect the culture of all the people who lived in that area, but reflected the culture and history of only a certain group. Thus the transformation of certain museums was lagging behind.

The Minister responded that it was the position that many of South Africa's heritage sites were not truly representative, and this had much to do with the past. It must also be appreciated that although many of those institutions were funded and answerable to the Department, it was not a hands-on approach and they all had their own boards who ran those institutions. Many of the problems that arose, especially around the issue of representivity, revolved around the character of the people on the board.

He stated that, with regard to the Voortekker Museum in Kwa-Zulu Natal, it has come to his attention that the feeling there was that attempts were being made to bring in innovative ideas that they believed sought to wipe away the history of the Voortrekkers and the Afrikaners in Kwa-Zulu Natal. The issue of representivity ran right through South Africa's heritage sector and would have to be addressed by the Department. It would require transformation in terms of changing mindsets and also changing even the conception of the flagships.

Ms Motubatse-Hounkpatin asked the Department to explain its plans to ensure that the literary texts were available in all official languages in bookstores.

The Minister responded that this could only be addressed via interventions. The Department planned to have meetings at some time or another with the various publishing houses in South Africa to address this very issue. The Department understood that publishers were business people and that the business of business is business, and the Department was therefore not asking to transform themselves into charitable institutions, but rather to face up to some of the national challenges facing the Department. The Department will arrive at a solution to this problem.

Ms D Van der Walt (DA) stated that her experience with arts and crafts in the Lowveld region suggested that the problem was that the crafters did not possess the necessary marketing and business skills that would enable them to properly market and sell their products.

The Minister agreed that this was a problem and that the levels of skills were highly differentiated. A mechanism would be needed that would be inserted between the crafters and the marketplace that would assist in skilling people, not only in terms of their particular crafts but also in terms of the business sense. It was precisely because these business skills were lacking that people were able to exploit these crafters. This skilling exercise would also enable the controlling of quality of the crafts produced.

Secondly, Ms Van der Walt stated that the second problem was distance between the crafters and the main trading centre in the province, and she suggested that it was thus an absolute necessity that the Department actually spend time in those areas that were so far removed from such trading centres and who have traditionally been left far behind in the area of arts and culture, such as the Limpopo province. The libraries, theatres and even the museums were not of a comparable standard with their counterparts in the more developed areas, even though the skills and talent level was equally high in all provinces.

The Minister replied that this was a problem that needed to be addressed. There was much talent in the deep rural areas but South Africa tended to "want to look at it with urban spectacles". He stated that there was no reason why the traditional, non-theatre based artform that is performed in rural villages should not be promoted actively in those villages, instead of insisting that it be performed in a stage at a theatre. There was also no reason why the person who performed that type of traditional artform, after collaboration with a playwright, should not be able to produce theatre right there.

Mr K Moonsamy (ANC) stated that the status and condition of the libraries in the largely black areas needed to be improved, and this was a serious concern.

The Minister responded that libraries were devolved down to the provinces and local government, and the Department was only responsible for the national libraries. The provinces and local government structures were differentially endowed financially and also faced different, and numerous challenges with regard to social deficits. This was a matter which the Department must address.

Mr Moonsamy stated that the talented young and emerging writers and poets must be offered some form of assistance by government so that their works can be published.

The Minister replied that the Department must devise mechanisms to deal with this as well. A similar approach could perhaps be followed to the problem raised earlier by Ms Motubatse-Hounkpatin regarding the bookstores, and the publishers would have to be consulted to arrive at a workable solution to this issue. This would not only to the young writers but also to the old writers whose works were becoming lost and forgotten.

Mr Moonsamy stated that there should be "less of the Hollywood poison" until South Africa was able to produce more of its own films. Progressive films should be acquired from other countries as well.

The Minister responded that the United States produced so many films per year that it outstripped most film industries. The only way for South Africa to stem the tide of Hollywood movies would be to develop its own film industry, and this was a very important issue to the Department. Producers in the film industry would attest to the fact that it cost far less to buy a Hollywood film or series for screening in South Africa than to "try and do one from scratch here in South Africa". It was however possible to try and resist the tide when it came to the programmes in indigenous languages, as it was impossible for those to be produced by Hollywood.

Mr K Khumalo (ANC) asked whether NICRO assisted the prisoners to market their crafts.

The Minister replied that this was related to the issue raised earlier by Ms Van der Walt, and of importance here was how to expose those crafters to the markets and also how to encourage them to view it as a means of generating an income. This could very well tempt them away from he very mischief which landed them in trouble in the first place.

Ms D Kohler-Barnard (DA) stated that in the last few hours once again the top three board members have been suspended from The Playhouse theatre, and requested the Minister to take The Playhouse under his wing and basically regenerate what has become an empty shell which is now merely hired out to companies to perform their works there.

Secondly, Ms Kohler-Barnard stated that it has come to he attention that a number of artists who had been promised grants by the Department to perform at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown have not yet received those funds. These artists were now absolutely stuck because they needed to get to Grahamstown and the festival organisers were now demanding the money from them which they have not yet received from the Department. She asked the Minister to clarify this situation.

The Minister replied to these two questions by stating that the Department was not responsible for The Playhouse because it had its own board that dealt with its operations. It did receive funds from the Department but the Department did not have the authority to dictate the composition of the board, as they were more or less autonomous. The same applied to the National Arts Council which ran the Grahamstown Festival, even though they received funds from the Department. The Department was aware of the many problems that currently faced the National Arts Council but the Department itself did not run the Arts Council on a day-to-day basis, and thus those artists who needed sponsorships would not have received funds from the Department directly but from the National Arts Council who in turn received some of its funds from the Department. The Department has given the National Arts Council its funds, but it has its own problems which must be sorted out.

This was a difficulty with many institutions that received support and funds from the Department, but it must be remembered that the Department itself did not have a hands-on relationship with them. Nor would such a hands-on approach be desired as the Department would be overtaxed at the thought of having to run the numerous playhouses alone, let alone the various institutions in each of the other programmes of the Department.

The Deputy Minister stated that the inter-related nature of the programmes must be borne in mind. At the Cannes Film Festival the Department took along artists from the South African music industry so that they could gain that kind of exposure, and they would thus be able to engage themselves in film industry as well. These were thus co-related.

Furthermore the programmes of the Department were so cross-cutting that they very often involved the programmes of other government departments, such as the Department of Trade and Industry, the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, the Departments of Education and Labour. Thus for example with regard to the issue of prison crafts as raised earlier by Mr Khumalo, the Department of Labour would be responsible for training those crafters and the Department of Trade and Industry would then provide them with the marketing skills needed. They would also be provided with opportunities to showcase their crafts via the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism.

The Department would also have to work with the provinces and local government. The Grahamstown Festival was support, amongst others, by the Eastern Cape Provincial Government. She stated that she was aware that some municipalities did have an arts and culture desk, but she was not sure whether this was the case for all municipalities. The inter-governmental relations legislation would also assist the Department in achieving this culture of working together as the three spheres of government.

South Africa had a responsibility as part of the SADC region, NEPAD and the African Union, to initiate these programmes. The Department has commenced the implementation of some of its programmes.

Prof I Mohamed (ANC) asked whether the deceased who fell across the South African borders and even in foreign lands would be brought back by the Department and laid to rest at Freedom Park.

Mr R Nogumla (ANC) stated that there is no clarity on the programmes that were taking place at Freedom Park, and this was important so that those who were part of the struggle could participate in those programmes.

The Minister responded to these two questions by stating that, in general terms, it was the policy of the ANC that were people fell was were they would be buried. Since people have returned home, those individual families that have had the means have been able to exhume the remains of their family members and have them reburied in South Africa. There was thus no policy of repatriation. He stated that as far as he knew Freedom Park did not have a project on the repatriation of the remains of people who had died outside South African borders. There might be such a policy with regard to Hero's Acre, which involved the identification of certain individuals who were thought to be deserving of repatriation. The Minister reiterated that there was no general policy on the repatriation of the fallen.

Prof Mohamed stated that the former Department of Arts, Science, Culture and Technology had a dedicated fund for employment creation and poverty alleviation, and asked whether the Department of Arts and Culture had the same kind of fund.

Mr Nogumla stated that the Department of Public Works stated yesterday that it was maintaining the graves of the soldiers of the World Wars in South Africa and those graves that were abroad, and that it was performing this function on behalf of the Department of Arts and Culture. When asked whether this covered the soldiers of the liberation struggle that Department replied that that matter was an area of concern that fell with the Department of Arts and Culture. He asked the Minister to clarify this matter.

The Minister replied that there was a Commonwealth War Graves Commission which had always taken care of such matters, and when South Africa was thrown out of the Commonwealth in 1961 this aspect probably had to devolve out of the South African government. He agreed that there was no reason why it should only apply to those who feel during the two World Wars or in Korea, and it should be extended to all South African war graves throughout the world. This would also have to be addressed in time. But the Department would have to be allocated a larger budget by Parliament if it wished this to be carried out.

Mr M Sonto (ANC) stated that the national museums were manned by personnel that were turning into museums themselves and were thus resistant to transformation. He asked the Minister to explain its plans to replace them.

Ms Motubatse-Hounkpatin stated that the Minister had referred to the ageing staff in the Department and related institutions, and asked the Minister to explain their efforts to ensure the new personnel are properly trained.

Ms M Mdaka (UDM) asked the Minister to explain the measures taken by the Department to ensure that more young people study history.

The Minister replied to these questions by stating that some officials were leaving in anger, some in disgust and some in protest and others were remaining behind. It would also not easily be possible to remove that person from office on the grounds that s/he was "unreconstructed", because that person might be a repository of much needed skills. Thus those skills would first have to be passed on to someone else before that person could be removed from office. This was where the large problem arose, because there were not always enough up and coming young people to replace the older personnel. Curatorship of an archive or library was not an easy job but was instead a highly skilled job.

A further difficulty was that the older personnel often recognised that they possessed these skills and were reluctant to pass it on to the incumbents, and the Department thus needed to devise a strategy that would address this issue as well.

Ms Mdaka stated that, with regard to the inter-related relationship, the Department of Education was also a custodian of arts and culture. Yet that Department had minimal skills and resources to dedicate to the teaching of arts and culture, with the result that it became a side item. She asked the Minister to explain the Department's efforts to promote arts and culture in schools.

The Minister replied that this was a big problem, because those school that were financially more fortunate were able to provide such programmes as the school governing body itself bore the responsibility of funding such additional posts. This was thus a big headache. The Department would have to take this up with the Department of Education both at national and at provincial levels. It was however very difficult to insist on this in view of the financial constraints faced. It was fortunate that in some cases teachers with the necessary ability did provide such programmes, sometimes even as an extra curricular activity. He agreed that these programmes should for part of the school curriculum and they should be funded posts.

Ms Van der Walt asked whether it was true that institutions such as Eskom and Telkom were involved in uplifting these kinds of projects.

The Minister responded that there was an organisation called Business Arts South Africa which was initiated by the Department some years ago. A total of 98 companies, ranging in size from the largest such an Anglo-American, First National Bank and Eskom to the smaller entrepreneurs have signed up with Business Arts South Africa. There was however only so much they can do, and more people must be involved. These companies would then sponsor certain artists or craftsmen. The Department was working very closely with Business Arts South Africa.

The Deputy Minister stated that there were a number of small businesses that were supporting a number of small groups in the rural areas. When the Department meets with stakeholders in July it would also be inviting these companies to try and consolidate this effort.

Mr H Maluleka (ANC) stated that the Old Synagogue where part of the Rivonia Trial was held has become rather dilapidated, yet he was of the opinion that it should itself be declared a museum. He asked whether the Department had any authority of this matter.

The Minister responded that the Department did not own or run any building itself, even the buildings that house the Department fell under the jurisdiction of the Department of Public Works. This was the case with every branch of government. The Department of Public Works could sometimes acquire property which a specific government department would then lease, but this was a general rule. The Department or citizens could in fact come forward and request that a specific building be preserved as a heritage site.

The maintenance or restoration of any building would be the task of the Department of Public Works, even though that department would deduct the costs of that operation from the Department's budget. Once the building was up and going it would then be handed over to the heritage programme, but even then the Department itself will not be running the programme but instead the Department of Public Works would be in control of the operation.

Ms Motubatse-Hounkpatin asked whether the Department assisted in protecting the patents of the artwork generated by South Africans artists.

The Minister replied that this was of great concern to the Department because intellectual property have been violated with absolute impunity by all sorts of people all over the world, beginning with music dance and even the new species of plants that have been developed by South African botanical institutes. The current Rooibos case is a typical example. This matter must be addressed by the Department and attention was being focused on the protection of people's intellectual property rights.

The Chair thanked both the Minister and Deputy Minister for their input and reiterated the Committee's eagerness to work with the Department during the next term.

The meeting was adjourned.



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