The Portfolio Committee on Sport, Arts and Culture met virtually with the Department of Sport, Arts and Culture for a briefing by the Pan South African Language Board (PanSALB) and the South African Heritage Resources Agency (SAHRA) on their 2022/23 annual reports.
The Minister informed the Committee that the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) had confirmed that consequences for South Africa not amending legislation to comply with new WADA requirements had been put on hold following a notice of appeal submitted by the South African Institute for Drug-Free Sport. The Committee requested that the letter from WADA be shared with it.
Members commended the continuous clean audit outcomes at SAHRA. Concerns were raised about underspending of the budget, the gender balance of its council, the freezing of entry-level salary notches and the late filling of vacant posts.
Members were briefed on salary negotiations with labour unions and the organisation’s inability to meet their demands.
Other discussions focused on the preservation of South African heritage and efforts to create heritage awareness in different communities. Members spoke of the need to reconstruct the fire-damaged parliamentary buildings to take account of the heritage of all South Africans. They also asked what would happen to statues reflecting South Africa’s colonial and apartheid past and about equitability in honouring representatives of different political parties. The return of African relics in museums abroad was raised, as was an outcry about the South African fossils taken on a space flight.
The proposed amalgamation of SAHRA and the National Heritage Council and its impact on job security were raised.
Concerning PanSALB, discussions focused on its efforts to promote social cohesion and language rights. Concerns were raised about the staff complement and lack of critical skills. The Committee heard many government departments did not comply with prescribed language policies.
Members raised questions about a reported regression in the quality of its financial statement and the number of missed performance targets.
Several concerns were raised about a decline in the use of indigenous languages. Members were told about several projects to promote indigenous languages at schools and plans to expand a successful mother-tongue-based bilingual education project in the Eastern Cape.
The Chairperson remarked that in the previous day’s virtual meeting, some Members had logged in but had not participated. Members should focus on the Committee’s business and not just “hang their coats and leave.”
Mr Zizi Kodwa, Minister of Sport, Arts and Culture, said the Committee would be aware that Cabinet meetings were held on Wednesdays. So he would leave the Committee in the capable hands of Ms Nocawe Mafu, Deputy Minister of Sport, Arts and Culture.
However, he first wished to allay concerns raised by the Committee in the previous day’s meeting about the possibility that the South African anthem would not be sung at international sports events because South African anti-doping legislation had not been amended to align it with World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) requirements. WADA had since written to the Department to confirm that they had received the Department’s correspondence about an appeal and that the matter would be put on hold.
The Chairperson responded that this was a big victory. While she was chairing the previous day’s meeting, she was aware that the Ministry was going to do a media briefing. She was being pressured to take calls from the media, but she did not want to be defocused by them. If they could not take information from the political head of the Department, what else did they want? They wanted to misquote her and distort her information. She thanked the Minister and said she would issue a statement on behalf of the Committee.
SA Heritage Resources Agency: DSAC overview
Dr Cynthia Khumalo, Acting Deputy Director-General, Department of Sport, Arts and Culture (DSAC), gave an overview of the SA Heritage Resources Agency (SAHRA). The presentation included the Agency’s mandate; non-financial performance; financial allocations; audit outcomes; governance matters; and challenges and interventions.
For the 2022/23 financial year the Agency achieved 100 percent of performance targets. It received a financial allocation of R74.4 million, which was made up of the baseline allocation of R62.2 million and infrastructure grant of R12.2 million. SAHRA maintained their unqualified (clean) audit.
The main challenge involved financial pressures and the issue of salary increases. Labour unions demanded a 15 percent increase and threatened to declare a dispute if their demands were not met. SAHRA was not in a position to meet the demand due to the financial constraints. The Agency was tasked to conduct an exercise with the Department to determine if any savings could be utilised. SAHRA offered a three percent salary increase and a three percent once-off bonus.
(See slide presentation for details)
SAHRA annual report 2022/23
Dr Luyanda Mpahlwa, Chairperson, SAHRA, presented the SAHRA 2022/23 annual report. He said the Agency obtained a clean audit opinion and achieved 19 out of 19 performance targets.
Programme 1: Administration and governance
The Committee heard that 100 percent of output indicators were achieved. The revised and updated schedule of application fees levied by SAHRA was the most viable income stream. SAHRA strived to develop and retain its staff by offering developmental opportunities and successfully rolled out 100 percent of the training interventions. The staff turnover rate was 8.6 percent. One hundred percent of the performance management system was implemented.
Programme 2: Strategic coordination
The Heritage Resources Management Coordination Plan (HRMCP) was finalised during the year. This was a critical step towards ensuring that those who should be playing a role actively participated in identifying, protecting, and conserving heritage resources.
Programme 3: Public engagement
SAHRA had overperformed. It conducted 24 knowledge dissemination activities and 12 additional activities. This was to improve communities’ knowledge of the importance of managing and protecting their resources.
Programme 4: Business development and transformation
One hundred percent of the expected outputs for the financial year were achieved. The Agency overachieved, having assessed 12 sites for grading and having declared nine heritage resources. The overachievement was due to serial assessment of 11 kramats and the serial declaration of eight sites in District Six. This ensured 100 percent representativity of the previously marginalised. There were 68 resource inspections - 48 more than planned. The higher number was a result of contraventions, complaints about damaged resources and the saving of financial resources by combining activities at heritage sites.
Programme 5: Economic empowerment
SAHRA identified potential areas in which it could directly or indirectly contribute to economic empowerment. One hundred percent of the expected outputs were achieved. In collaboration with sector education and training authorities(SETA), SAHRA offered opportunities for six students to gain experience through internships. It offered 23 indirect employment opportunities.
The total budget for 2022/23 was R 124.7 million. Actual expenditure was R 70.5 million and there was under expenditure of R 54.2 million. The under-expenditure was attributable to projects which could not be fully implemented and was exacerbated by a procurement freeze during the financial year. Funding comprised grants received from the Department, project funds and own generated income from rentals and interest earned on investments. No irregular expenditure was incurred in the current and previous year as SAHRA complied with all applicable legislation in the procurement processes.
SAHRA’s liquidity and solvency were sound. It was looking at creating more revenue-generating opportunities. Expenditure decreased significantly. Due to budget cuts, the Agency had received no increases in programme funding for the past five years. Cost of employment was the largest chunk of SAHRA’s expenditure. The stagnant budget meant the entity had to keep the cost of employment down by freezing the entry notches of salaries. It was now facing cost pressures, a negative outlook of looming industrial actions, and the loss of critical skills.
SAHRA primarily relied on the budget allocation received through the Department to fund its operations. The budget provided to SAHRA has continuously declined in recent years, posing a threat to its ability to properly meet the aims outlined in its mandate. Provincial Heritage Resources Authorities (PHRAs) were critical players in identifying, management, and protecting the country’s heritage resources. Non-functional PHRAs therefore presented a threat to SAHRA’s work.
SAHRA’s impending amalgamation with the National Heritage Council (NHC) could present an opportunity for the new organisation’s to benefit from combined resources, new ideas and diverse perspectives. However, due to budget cuts, there was uncertainty about how the merger would impact both organisations and the effect on job security.
(See presentation for details)
Mr T Mhlongo (DA) noted the stable audit outcome at SAHRA. He had a concern that there was only one woman on the board of the council. That really had to be addressed. The Committee should check the diversity of boards appearing before it.
He referred to concerns the Association of South Africa Professional Archaeologists (ASAPA) raised about the transportation of South African fossils in a space flight. The matter was of serious concern but was not mentioned in the presentation. What happened? What were the challenges? SAHRA was responsible for preservation of heritage and had to account because they had given permission. There was an international outcry about this.
He asked for more information about the 23 direct job opportunities created. What was the cost and the economic impact? He congratulated SAHRA for ensuring service delivery. He asked about the impact of their work on tourism.
Mr E Mthethwa (EFF) said that SAHRA was the one institution of all those within the Department that had done well. He asked what “target achieved” meant as he had not seen white people participating in the national events. Did the phrase refer to a box being ticked internally or to an impact assessment? Reporting that 100 percent of targets were reached was a very beautiful picture on paper, but reality did not seem to produce the same picture. History had no blank pages. South African heritage used to refer to the Jan Van Riebeeks and so on. Now, it was mostly ANC cadres who were honoured. Where were the PAC members and APLA members? Could SAHRA name any? There were also people other than the political cadres who participated in achieving South Africa’s freedom.
SAHRA said the budget was underspent, yet they were not able to raise the salaries of workers who seemed to be performing very well in terms of the picture that had been presented. Was there no way of requesting a budget deviation? Underspent money would be returned to National Treasury which had been the cause of decreasing budgets, especially for this Department. He had also noted the meetings attended. Some members attended eight and some were at two or three. What was the reason for that?
Ms V Malomane (ANC) commended SAHRA for obtaining a clean audit opinion and achieving 100 percent of the targets. She too was not happy about the issue of gender balance. It could not be that there were 12 board members, but only one female. The Department needed to make sure that this was corrected. Fewer council committee meetings were set for 2022/2023, than in the past. What was the reason?
The executive management consisted of three females and two males. She commended SAHRA for that. SAHRA spoke about freezing the entry-level salary notches to make savings. Did this not affect service delivery? Why did they choose to freeze those notches? What had SAHRA done about non-functional PHRAs? Why was there a delay in filling vacant posts when there was a budget for it? She recalled that there had been a late submission to the South African Revenue Service (SARS). What was the reason?
The Department had referred in its report to the issue of salary increases. SAHRA had stated that the schedule of application fees it levied had been updated. It further stated that this was the most viable income-generating stream. Did this mean that SAHRA was able to deal with salary issues? The Department said it had discussed the 15 percent increase requested by the labour unions with SAHRA. A three percent increase and a three percent bonus were offered. This was not tabled in the cost of employment budget. She needed more information on that.
She referred to efforts by SAHRA to improve communities’ knowledge about their heritage. Managing and protecting resources were fundamental in nation building and the work had to be commended. SAHRA should ensure that this programme of public engagement was protected. Pilgrim’s Rest was in her constituency and she wanted to know when last SAHRA had visited the site as part of their heritage research.
Mr M Zondi (ANC) noted that SAHRA had achieved 100 percent of its performance targets since the 2021/22 financial year and had maintained an unqualified audit outcome. That was encouraging because the audit outcome was unqualified with findings in the 2020/21 financial year. The cooperation with SETAs to offer opportunities for six students to gain experience through internships provided hope for decreasing the youth unemployment statistics. However, he noted that SAHRA was not a job creation entity. Did SAHRA plan to maintain the relationship with SETAs? There was a need to create public awareness and provide education to people on the ground. They needed to appreciate heritage in their communities and promote preservation. Was SAHRA doing that as a matter of principle?
Mr B Radebe (ANC) said it was good that public funds were used effectively and efficiently. The Committee really appreciated what SAHRA had done to maintain a clean audit.
He said it was misleading to maintain that there was an undue emphasis on commemorating the contributions of ANC cadres. For example, Steve Biko was a member of the ANC. One of the best academic hospitals was named after him. Was Sarah Baartman a cadre of the ANC? There was a municipality named after her. People should be circumspect in what they are saying.
Mr B Madlingozi (EFF) raised a point of order. Mr Radebe responded to comments made, but the Committee still had to ask questions. Was that proper?
The Chairperson said Members had a right to respond to points raised by other members. SAHRA was still going to respond. Mr Radebe said the Chairperson was correct. He was not answering the question. The question was going to be answered by SAHRA. If political statements were made, they would be responded to. Was Robert Sobukwe a cadre of the ANC when the longest road in Cape Town was named after him? Communities must not be misled that only a certain political party’s leaders’ names were used. Was Philip Kgosana a cadre of the ANC?
The Chairperson said that Mr Radebe’s point was taken.
Mr Radebe said the point he wanted to make was that he appreciated the work done by SAHRA. A disaster struck South Africa when the Parliament building burnt down. It was well known that that site reflected the Western type of heritage. When going towards the Iziko museum, one would find a big statue of a lady there. Going towards the main entrance of Parliament, one would find a farmer. Those people did not reflect the heritage of South Africa. Because the site of Parliament was going to be reconstructed, what were they going to do to ensure that the total history of South Africa was reflected there?
There was also the issue of burying Jan Van Riebeek. Members’ grandchildren would never know that there was such a person who was responsible for a lot of oppression. There was a movement to remove those statues. What was going to be done with them? How was the Agency going to ensure that they were preserved so that Members could take their grandchildren and tell them that there was once a PW Botha here in South Africa, who ensured that so many people in the townships were killed? They must know that there was once a freedom fighter, Solomon Mahlangu, who paid the ultimate price so that they could get the free education they were getting.
Mr D Joseph (DA) said the Committee appreciated what the Minister had been doing in the past 24 hours. He asked whether the Minister was willing to share the letter he had received from WADA with the Committee. SAHRA had referred to an amalgamation. There should be a debate about that. The staff turnover was fairly low, between eight and ten percent. What was the actual staff complement and did SAHRA do exit interviews with people who left? Did they raise any issues about the Agency or the work itself?
He asked how the Castle in Cape Town fitted into the work of SAHRA. Was there public engagement about it? It was probably the oldest heritage site in South Africa. It was now open to many organisations. He asked for more information about the kramats and the Tana Baru cemetery in Cape Town’s Bo Kaap area. There were graves in the Constantia, Newlands and Harfield areas where people had lived long before apartheid. How did SAHRA view those sites and many others that were there long before apartheid? Some of them were accessible and people did still visit them. However, perhaps there were others that the Committee was not aware of.
He asked about engagement with municipalities. What role did they play? It was good to hear an entity talk about own revenue. Regarding the under-expenditure, what was meant by “procurement freeze”? There was a reference to the sheriff's costs in the attachment of properties. Where had that happened? The cost of employment had moved from R44 million to R47 million, which was a fairly low increase. How did this compare to other expenditures? He believed SAHRA was managing the challenges posed by amalgamation.
Mr Madlingozi commended the work done by SAHRA. It was excellent. What was happening with relics taken away by Westerners as trophies? He thought that was very evil. South Africa today was going through hell. Everything was going wrong and the majority of its people believed in ancestral power. There was a need to bring back the head of King Hintsa and other body parts that the British had taken away. What else was taken by the killers of South Africa’s royal heritage, especially the Xhosa royal heritage? Did SAHRA know what else was taken away?
The Chairperson urged the Department to take note of the gender balance issues raised by Members. She noted that the Agency had achieved its targets for business development and transformation. There was adequate management of resources and controls. The partnerships underway would bring social and economic benefits to the surrounding communities. She asked for more detail about a proposed solar energy plant at Dal Josaphat farm.
She asked whether the conflict between Israel and Palestine threatened South African heritage. There had been burning of buildings in Gauteng. Some of them were graded by SAHRA and were heritage sites. Perhaps this focused attention on the neglect of the built environment, which was a key component of the social decay.
Dr Mpahlwa said SAHRA appreciated the words of encouragement from Members. It was very encouraging to see the level of engagement by Members. SAHRA wished they had the funds and time to do everything that Members were raising.
Regarding the composition of the council, the government always tried to ensure that councils were balanced and he hoped the matter would be addressed. Because of the specialised nature of the organisation, it was very important that SAHRA achieved that balance.
Regarding the fossils taken on space flight, SAHRA welcomed the dialogue this matter generated. SAHRA was mandated to issue permits and did its best to assess each application. It had received an application from Prof Lee Berger of the University of the Witwatersrand. It was not just anybody who made the application. SAHRA believed taking the fossils into space would contribute to research and scientific exchange. All measures were taken to ensure that the fossils would come back. This asset was back in the country. SAHRA appreciated the dialogue created by the outcry in the media. All of a sudden, everyone was engaging with issues of heritage and fossils and how they were managed. SAHRA did not believe that they had acted in an irresponsible manner. The ongoing engagement would perhaps help SAHRA manage these things in a manner that satisfies everyone. One issue was that SAHRA did not consult with other entities and communities. SAHRA had been given a mandate by the government and had capacity within itself. All the members of the SAHRA management who were involved in this project were members of ASAPA themselves.
Mr Joe Serekoane, Chairperson: Heritage Resources Management Committee, SAHRA, spoke of the need to bequeath content, not objects to the next generation. Buildings and other heritage materials were burnt precisely because they were perceived as objects without content. SAHRA had adopted a strategic position to revisit the understanding of the cultural heritage of the South and take that voice to the North. South Africans needed to reclaim the narrative that the North had taught to the South.
Unless heritage collections became functional, they would remain objects behind glass at museums and serve absolutely no purpose. It was unfortunate that the academic community and others did not see the issue of the fossils in the context of heritage celebration and education. SAHRA had processes that allowed public participation in its decision making. Applications were put out for public comment before being gazetted. SAHRA took social considerations into account and not particular academic interests. It was irresponsible for people not to comment on the issuing of a permit before it was gazetted and then to want to go to the media to engage with SAHRA. It was within the context of elevating objects to serve as social functions, that SAHRA saw fit to issue the permit to trigger some sort of dialogue. It was unfortunate that the dialogue took on a negative kind of disposition.
Ms Mamakomoreng Nkhasi-Lesaoana, Executive Officer: Heritage Resources Management, said applications were processed on the South African Heritage Information System (SAHRIS). It was an online system that was quite transparent. Applications for permits were open for comment on SAHRIS for 30 days before a decision was taken. The process also allowed 14 days to appeal a decision. The issue of transparency could be improved on. SAHRA also needed to work with academic institutions and general communities on the accessibility of resources where they were curated.
Dr Mpahlwa said that SAHRA wanted to reassure the Committee that issuing the permit for the fossils was done through a thorough appraisal of all the issues. Obviously, SAHRA could not control all factors, but they were happy that the asset was taken to space and returned without any damage. SAHRA could not comment at this stage on the impact of the space flight on the asset itself. However, the professor had the competence to assess the value of the exercise. SAHRA was not saying that everything they did was perfect. However, they believed that in this case, they had acted within their mandate, within the law, and all their procedures were followed.
Mr Mhlongo had talked about SAHRA’s impact on tourism. The debate about the fossils drew attention to the assets that South Africa had and the value of these assets to society.
Regarding the claim that only cadres of one organisation, the ANC, seemed to be honoured, he needed to point out that this annual report was for activities in a particular year, 2022/23. It was not about everything that SAHRA had done. Previously, they had had the grave of Steve Biko refurbished and looked after. For example, the same was done for Robert Sobukwe, and his statue was erected. All these activities could not be reported in one year. SAHRA did not look at anybody's political affiliation. It looked at issues of national interest that were brought to it.
Mr Mthethwa had raised the issue of salaries and underspending. He did not think there was a direct relationship between underspending and salaries. Money that had been underspent was funds that were allocated for particular events and activities. They were not allocated for salaries. Salaries were paid from the grant that SAHRA received from the Department. The funding for special projects was a separate budget altogether.
Mr Mthethwa had also raised the issue of attendance at council meetings. This was related to challenges that PHRAs had. Sometimes, there were changes in the composition of a PHRA and the SAHRA council member was withdrawn at the PHRA level, and then another one was appointed. SAHRA’s company secretary monitored the attendance of council meetings. A member who missed three consecutive meetings would be given a warning that they would be excluded from the council. No one had missed a meeting without tendering an apology.
Dr Mpahlwa said that SAHRA had noted the questions about gender balance from Ms Malomane. She had raised the issue of a salary freeze versus service delivery. There was no salary freeze. All that SAHRA was saying was that entry-level salary notches were kept at a level that SAHRA could afford. This obviously did not have an impact on the service delivery. Another Member had asked about a procurement freeze. SAHRA did not have a procurement freeze as such. However, in the previous week, they had been told by the Department that because of the amalgamation, SAHRA was not allowed to make new appointments.
Adv Lungisa Malgas, CEO, SAHRA, said that the procurement freeze referred to a moratorium imposed by National Treasury the previous year because of a matter between Treasury and Afri Business. All government entities were asked not to do procurements at that particular moment while the Treasury was dealing with that case. That led to a delay in rolling out projects and underspending on capital works projects.
With regard to salaries, SAHRA’s limited budget made it difficult to attract skills. SAHRA hoped that would change with their strategy of generating their own income. At the moment, the permit fees that they were collecting and rental revenue that was generated were not enough to get SAHRA out of the woods. There were challenges with staffing. SAHRA could not employ more people to make more money.
Mr Clinton Jackson, Senior Manager: Heritage Information, Policy and Skills, addressed the matter of Pilgrim’s Rest. It was a declared provincial heritage site, so it did not fall within the remit of SAHRA. The Mpumalanga PHRA was responsible for the site. Where there was a desire to have provincial heritage sites recognised at the national level, any person could actually submit a nomination to SAHRA.
In response to Zondi, Dr Mpahlwa said that where there were opportunities for internships with SETAs and any other entity, SAHRA would grab them with both hands. These were ongoing processes.
Adv Malgas added that there was ongoing work with three SETAs - MICT SETA, FASSET, and CANSETA. There were six internships in the year under review, but there had been about 20 in the past. When the internship ended, SAHRA gave the interns a further 12-month contract from its own budget and encouraged them to apply for positions when they were advertised. A number of them were now in permanent positions within SAHRA. None of the interns that SAHRA had trained were unemployed at this stage.
Dr Mpahlwa said that SAHRA was invited to assist in assessing the fire-damaged parliamentary buildings regarding their heritage value, character, and significance. The process of defining what Parliament should be going forward would fall outside SAHRA’s mandate, but they would continue to play a part in formulating a new vision for Parliament.
Mr Ben Mwasinga, Senior Manager: Heritage Conservation Management, said that the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA) had been appointed as the principal agent in the restoration of Parliament. SAHRA had already begun engagements with them. When Parliament was first built, there was obviously no consultation with the larger population. The DBSA was consulting widely with interested parties such as conservation bodies, local authorities, the Department of Public Works and parliamentarians.
Dr Mpahlwa said he supported the view that SAHRA had to reimagine what Parliament should be and what it could mean to South Africa. The preservation of South Africa’s symbols was a very big debate that SAHRA could not manage on its own. There needed to be a wider engagement. SAHRA wanted to preserve statues in a manner that told new generations what had happened in the past. There had to be a process for doing this. He had lived in Germany for a while and he knew that they had not demolished all the statues that represented the bad history of the country. They were stored somewhere and people could access them; South Africa needed to move closer to a broader context where its history was not one-sided.
He told Mr Joseph that SAHRA had 84 staff at the moment the staff turnover was less than ten percent, which was encouraging. SAHRA did exit interviews. One of SAHRA’s priorities was public engagement on issues such as the kramats and graves in Constantia, Newlands and the Bo Kaap when such issues were brought to their attention.
Adv Malgas said that In most cases, people were leaving SAHRA because they had been with the organisation for a very long time or to pursue opportunities abroad. However, some left because of disciplinary processes against them.
Whenever there was a nomination for a site to be either graded or declared, SAHRA did extensive public engagement. She recalled that SAHRA had had difficulty declaring the Bo Kaap as a heritage site, and it took many years. The declaration of District Six was easier because of the experience gained from the Bo Kaap. SAHRA had a very good relationship with the Castle of Good Hope and used it as a venue to bring everybody together to obtain consensus on the declaration of sites.
Mr Mwasinga told Mr Joseph that SAHRA was very focused on Khoi and San heritage. SAHRA was looking at excluded groups or minority groups in South Africa. They were in the process of looking at the Griqua monument at Ratelgat. They had recently graded the memorial and grave of Adam Kok, and they were also looking at the Three Rivers Urban Park in terms of its heritage resources. Concerning the kramats, Tana Baru, was part of the Bo Kaap heritage declaration.
SAHRA tried to work with municipalities as much as they could. However, there was the issue of delegation of authority. SAHRA had to get that authority from the PHRAs. As matters stood, he thought only the City of Cape Town had some level of competency to deal with heritage management. So, SAHRA primarily dealt with the provincial authorities.
Dr Mpahlwa said Mr Madlingozi had raised the issue of the remains of South African kings and how to deal with ancestral history and body parts that were taken. He was happy to report that SAHRA partnered with the Museums Lab, an organisation that promoted international cooperation between museums. There was international discourse about the repatriation of stolen artifacts. He had been fortunate to participate in the signing ceremony for the return of the Benin Bronzes to Nigeria.
The recent establishment of the Repatriation and Restitution Office (RRO) would assist in the debate about how to deal with these issues in South Africa. It was early days, but its mandate was very clear – to actually deal with these issues on a national scale, on a continental scale, and on an international scale. SAHRA was very open to input and contributions from the broader society, but particularly from the Committee.
On the issue of burning heritage assets raised by the Chairperson, he said most of these buildings fell under the PHRA. However, in broad terms, he would hope that the country invested more in heritage. If the country did not make sure that these assets and buildings were actually looked after, it was going to be very difficult to avoid buildings being vandalised and destroyed.
Deputy Minister's response
Deputy Minister Mafu said a process had to be followed to declare heritage sites. All communities had a right to submit applications and be part of the process. She thanked the Committee for this debate.
To Mr Joseph, she said the Department would provide the Committee with the response from WADA. The Department noted the issue of the composition of the council, which Members had raised sharply.
She reminded the Committee that the issue of amalgamation was in full flow at present. A service provider had been appointed to now start looking at the issues involved. She knew that SAHRA would have difficulty in responding to some questions as the amalgamation process hindered them. The issue of new posts would be dealt with.
The Department noted the contributions and comments that helped them as a department to actually improve and make sure that its entities were doing what they were required to do by law.
Pan South Africa Language Board: DSAC overview
Dr Khumalo presented an overview on the Pan South African Language Board (PanSALB). The presentation included the mandate; non-financial performance; financial allocation; audit outcomes; and governance matters.
PanSALB achieved 64 percent of its performance targets. It received a financial allocation of R 134.8 million in 2022/23. It received an unqualified audit opinion with findings. The financial statements submitted for auditing were not prepared in accordance with the prescribed financial reporting framework answer not supported by full and proper records. Management did not perform adequate review processes to ensure preparation of regular, accurate and complete information.
(See presentation for details)
PanSALB annual report
Mr Lance Craig Schultz, CEO, PanSALB said the organisation had significantly promoted multilingualism. PanSALB had implemented a turnaround strategy to ensure continued delivery of its constitutional mandate. Its objectives revolved around safeguarding the human rights of South Africans to freely use their preferred language. It successfully supported diverse languages and was hard at work in anticipation of the officialisation of South African Sign Language. A multilingual dictionary that featured Nǁng and Namagowab was published in October 2022. PanSALB was finalising an audiovisual dictionary in the Nǁng language. Over the past months, PanSALB has benefited immensely from vital collaborations and strategic partnerships with organisations supporting democracy, various government departments, municipalities, and speech communities.
Programme 1: Administration and institutional support
Six out of seven targets were achieved.
Programme 2: Language development, use and equitability
Ten out of 18 targets were achieved.
Underperformance on the ICT master system plan was due to challenges in the sourcing and appointment of a service provider and changes to the timeline requested by the service provider.
Underperformance on the proposed amendments to the PanSALB Act and the Use of Official Languages Act (UOLA) submitted to Parliament was due to feedback being awaited from Parliament.
Underperformance in the number of printed and recorded lexicographical materials was attributed to the late finalisation of the isiZulu dictionary. However, the planned target would be achieved in the 2023/24 financial year.
Underperformance in the number of research findings shared on various media platforms was due to research not having commenced and budget reprioritisation after testing the market for actual costs. This would be achieved in 2024/2025.
Underperformance on language advice and recommendations published by the board was because gazetting took longer than anticipated due to capacity constraints. However, the reports were gazetted during the second quarter of 2023/24.
Underperformance in the percentage of national departments submitting compliance reports on language prescripts was due to the late appointment of a service provider who should have been responsible for national compliance reports. To date, 14 (33 percent) national departments have submitted compliance reports.
Underperformance in the number of language policy practice public hearings conducted was due to the fact that they depended on compliance by the national departments. The hearings would be held once the other national departments had submitted their compliance reports and would depend on the availability of budget.
Underperformance in the percentage of linguistic human rights violations resolved was due to the ongoing Naluthando case, which was resolved in the second quarter of the 2023/24 financial year.
Regarding language development, use and equitability, PanSALB had an annual target of publishing eight dictionaries. It fell short of this goal by failing to release monolingual dictionaries for English, Sesotho Sa Leboa and Isikhungo Sesichazimagama SesiZulu.
With administrative support from the provincial offices, the national boards verified and authenticated all the terminology lists received from various institutions, primarily universities and government departments.
A comprehensive Khoe and San language research report was completed. PanSALB initiated the establishment of Khoi and San community language schools as a pilot project. Currently, around 12 community schools are in the early stages of operation, with a minimum of two facilitators assigned to each school.
During the reporting period, PanSALB undertook a review of the PanSALB Act and UOLA. An internal consultation process was initiated within 33 PanSALB structures. Each structure identified clauses considered inhibiting and proposed necessary amendments. These inputs were consolidated and presented at the first chairpersons’ forum. Subsequently, the same structures reviewed inputs from other structures and resubmitted them for further consolidation.
Regarding the Audit Opinion, a regression was noted in the quality of submitted financial statements. There were material misstatements which were subsequently corrected by management. The misstatements resulted in material non-compliance with section 40(1) of the PFMA being reported in the auditor’s report.
Focus areas for improving procurement and contract management included internal control deficiencies noted by the auditor and a new supply chain management (SCM) policy. Most of the transactions identified were related to prior years and management implemented controls to avoid the recurrence of similar non-compliance. Determination tests were conducted for all transactions and a request for condonation was finalised and submitted to the board for approval. There were no material findings on expenditure management and asset management. The Auditor-General (AG) evaluated Pansalb’s oversight of the national lexicography units (NLUs) and nonprofit companies (NPCs) under its control and noted that although grants were monitored, there was inadequate oversight of NLUs’ financial reporting. Material adjustments were made in the consolidated financial statements due to the late submission of audited annual financial statements by two of 11 NLUs. Management was developing guidelines for NLUs to apply consistent accounting policies.
(See presentation for details)
Mr Zondi noted that there were 54 females and 26 males on the staff. He appreciated PanSALB’s financial stability. The report identified unfilled critical posts. Were there plans to fill those vacancies given the recent circular by the National Treasury about filling posts in the Department and its entities. PanSALB entity wanted to appoint a service provider to report on government departments’ compliance with language policies. Why did it require an external service provider for this? Where would it source funds for this?
Senior officials seemed to benefit more from the incentives than the junior staff. Why? What was the effect on the morale of subordinates? Training opportunities referred to in the report benefited the upper-level employees more than lower-level ones. Why? What were the implications for growth in the organisation?
The AG reported a regression in the quality of financial statements as material misstatements were subsequently corrected by the management. What were the plans to avoid such behaviour in the near and far future?
Mr Mthethwa noted disparities in society's reaction to PanSALB’s interventions. The picture painted was that white society seemed to be resistant to social cohesion and integration, whether it was in sport, national events or campaigns against social ills, racism, and discrimination.
In particular, when it came to languages, there was a very deliberate language preference that suggested that of all the African languages, Zulu was on top. Black children learned in languages that were foreign to them, while their counterparts were not equally subjected to such conditions. What was PanSALB’s view about this non-willingness to participate in nation building programmes?
Mr Joseph said language was perhaps one of the biggest barriers to promoting social cohesion. The Department had referred to its constitutional mandate. It provided a very strong foundation. The question that had to be asked was whether the Committee and the Department were doing enough. He commented on slide 15 of the presentation which referred to the appointment of disabled staff. He thought government departments, in general, were too quiet about the plight of disabled people.
Regarding the audit outcome, was there a lack of financial expertise? On promoting indigenous languages, he asked if the Committee could be provided, in writing, with examples of these projects and the languages involved. Reference was made to the oversight that PanSALB had over language policy. Did they see the policies of government departments and the Department of Basic Education in particular? Were there policy documents in place? If children could not be taught in their own language, it was automatically a barrier to their future.
What were the two or three main performance areas where PanSALB missed its targets? What did they think they could do about that? PanSALB said it was addressing deficiencies in internal controls. He asked what exactly was being done so that the Committee could learn something for when they engaged with other entities. He thought PanSALB was providing hopeful signs that they were making the right moves to improve their work.
Ms Malomane asked about the planned target for lexicographic materials in the 2023/24 financial year. In what quarter would that be achieved? She said Siswati and isiZulu were in decline at schools that usually used English as a teaching language. What was PanSALB doing to promote other languages in schools and also at tertiary levels? A bill on sign language was passed. What was PanSALB doing about teaching sign language in schools and providing materials and interpreters?
Mr Mhlongo asked about the relative strengths of languages in South Africa. Was any research done, because the survival of African languages was vital? An audiovisual dictionary, a so-called talking dictionary, was currently being developed. When would it be completed?
The Chairperson asked for information about the Naluthando case referred to in the presentation. She noted that government departments were not complying with language policy requirements. Was the Department aware of this and was any action being taken? What consequence management could PanSALB enforce?
Regarding critical posts, Mr Schultz said an organisational design (OD) exercise had found that PanSALB was woefully short of skills required in terms of its mandate. However, in terms of PanSALB’s current reality and in terms of the annual performance plan (APP) and Annual Operational Plan (AOP), there were no vacant posts. The reason for seeking a service provider to deal with departments' compliance reports was to bring in a specialist who was able to understand all the legal requirements and ensure the correct work channels.
On the question about senior officials benefiting more from incentives, he said PanSALB followed the Department of Public Service and Administration's (DPSA) prescripts regarding remuneration and benefits. Over the past two years, there were certainly no practices that indicated that disproportionate financial or otherwise benefits were awarded to senior staff. The OD exercise had shown that certain salary levels had to be reviewed. These were largely at the lower scales. PanSALB had made efforts to ensure that was done because they wanted to ensure that they retained staff at those levels.
Regarding the AG’s report of a regression in the financial statements, PanSALB would argue there seemed to have been a shifting of the goalposts. The tests and determination measures used by the AG in the previous financial year were suddenly changed. PanSALB had to have engagements with the AG, and believed that they had provided information that was substantial, truthful, and free of error or omission. He emphasised that PanSALB was not trying to play a blame game against the members of the audit team. The senior member of the audit team had changed as the audit was progressing and that was never a good thing. There had been a sudden change in the way material declarations were handled from the AG’s side. However, SAHRA was intent on ensuring that they did not have a repeat of those findings. .
Concerning the concerns raised that certain segments of society might be advancing their own languages, he feared that despite PanSALB’s dispensation providing for equity and fostering multilingualism, this would continue to be the order of the day. One was always going to find that certain segments of society would want to advance their own causes. PanSALB tried not to be ideological. They used their enabling legislation to try to improve the reach of indigenous languages and ensure they could enjoy the parity and esteem they deserved. PanSALB’s task was to look at areas where languages were in decline and ensure that they provided resources to improve the use of those languages.
A concern had been raised about the financial statements not being prepared properly. External companies prepared the statements. PanSALB had now put controls in place to ensure that those companies submitted statements to PanSALB timeously and that the auditors conducted the necessary testing of the reports that came through PanSALB.
PanSALB would provide details of the language projects and the areas in which they were located. Most were in the Eastern Cape and Northern Cape.
Regarding the Department Basic Education (DBE) and the Use of Official Languages Act, PanSALB held a workshop with the DBE. PanSALB believed they needed to work in a complementary way, because the DBE had their own policy prescripts. PanSALB could not dictate but could provide the necessary oversight and support to the department. PanSALB tried to ensure that there was no overreach, but they continued to monitor and assist with providing dictionaries and teaching and learning material.
PanSALB would support DBE in the “read for meaning” project in schools. It would also supply materials in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. A pilot programme in isiXhosa done jointly with the DBE significantly improved the number of learners who exited from primary schools. PanSALB wanted to ensure this was replicated in all of South Africa’s other official languages, and they were working with the DBE.
PanSALB had actually just conducted a strategic review session. It wanted to focus more on two or three areas, South African Sign Language being one. A second area was the incremental introduction of African languages and the capacitation of schools. Another was the digitisation of material to increase the scale of information provided to communities.
Regarding statistics about language usage, PanSALB hoped to disaggregate StatSA’s census results to get a closer understanding of where they possibly needed to shift resources. PanSALB also utilised resources through UNESCO, which provided regular barometers on the use of languages. It took advice from its national language bodies on areas where they felt certain languages might require more attention.
Regarding the South African Sign Language Bill, PanSALB participated in a multidisciplinary team. The team was analysing what the requirements were going to be to ensure that all government departments reached a state of compliance. Other work concerned the quality of interpretation services.
PanSALB had a memorandum of understanding with the national broadcaster, the SABC, to improve their reach in communities. A question had been raised about what could be done to reverse the declining use of some languages. Quite simply, PanSALB needed to go back to the streets. The preponderance and the hegemony of English, and even Afrikaans, was a societal issue. PanSALB had to ensure that people understood that there would be no violation of the rights of one group versus another and that socioeconomic benefits were derived irrespective of a choice of language. The assumed prestige and stigmas associated with language use actually led to discrimination against indigenous languages. PanSALB would address this through very focused media campaigns.
Mr Julius Dantile, Executive Head: Languages, PanSALB, elaborated on the case involving Noluthando School for the deaf at Khayelitsha in the Western Cape. A complaint was submitted to PanSALB’s provincial office that a number of teachers in the school did not even know the basics of sign language. They just came to class and were taught as if it were a normal situation. Assistant teachers who could sign were appointed, but there were issues around that. PanSALB approached the provincial department in the Western Cape. The provincial department then arranged a mediation process to resolve the human resources issues. PanSALB had given them specific targets to meet within a specific period.
The target for publishing a dictionary was not achieved because of a change in editor-in-chief. The new one felt that the quality was not up to scratch and the time frame for publishing was extended. Dictionary compilation involved highly intense research processes where words were defined through a corpus that was sometimes not readily available, as would be the case with English. However, two other isiZulu dictionaries have been published.
The declining use of languages was a societal issue. South Africa came from a system of apartheid, imperialism and colonialism. These systems did not recognise indigenous African languages for purposes of development - they were recognised for purposes of evangelism or to treat black people as just a simple working group, not really people who could generate and innovate through their own languages. Changing that system took time because it was currently embedded in society that one had to speak English to achieve socio-economic progression.
The issue of resistance identified by Mr Mthethwa did not apply only to white people. The government itself was not complying with the Constitution. Most of its communication was in English, while the Constitution prescribed three official languages. There was non-compliance within government. That had been identified. However, certain laws limited PanSALB’s enforcement powers, including intergovernmental framework provisions that organs of state should take one another to court only as a last resort.
PanSALB planned to ask government departments where they were in terms of compliance with the Constitution and honouring their own policies. A report in 2017, for instance, showed that 70 percent of the national departments had language policies but compliance with those policies was something else. This was the reason for appointing a service provider with the skills to perform the audit.
SALB was piloting language projects at schools in the Eastern Cape, Western Cape, Gauteng, and Northern Cape.
Regarding the working relationship with the DBE, the Minister of Basic Education would announce an expansion of the work done in the Eastern Cape on mother tongue-based bilingual education. It had been proven successful because the results in the Eastern Cape had moved from 40 percent to 70 percent over the 12 years of that programme.
Mr Tebogo Matabane, CFO, PanSALB, responded to questions about the quality of financial statements. As the CEO had indicated, the main issue was not really about the quality of PanSALB financials. PanSALB submitted a consolidated set of financial statements from the NLUs whose statements were prepared according to a different set of reporting standards than those that applied to PanSALB. There was a request that PanSALB needed to be consistent in consolidating its financial statements. However, the main issue that led to actual non-compliance was that two subsidiaries did not submit their financials on time. PanSALB consulted National Treasury to find ways to consolidate the statements using the same standards.
Regarding non-compliance with the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA), PanSALB was aware of the requirements for resolving this issue. It investigated all cases of irregular expenditure and fruitless and wasteful expenditure. Most issues were related to old cases. Some dated back to 2014. A report was submitted to National Treasury and PanSALB was waiting for feedback from National Treasury.
Deputy Minister Mafu said she was sure the Committee would agree that the interaction had been intense and the responses had been good. She noted that the current board’s term was coming to an end and an ad hoc committee had to be put in place to start the process of appointing a new one.
The Chairperson thanked the Committee for working as a collective. She said she was very happy that “no jackets were left alone on their chairs,” as in the previous virtual meeting.
The meeting was adjourned.
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