Transfer of National Zoological Gardens, Natal and National Museums: Department briefing

Arts and Culture

10 August 2004
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Meeting report


10 August 2004

Mr S Tsenoli (ANC)

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Arts and Culture Department briefing

The Department informed this Committee that they were against the transfer of the National Zoological Gardens, National Museum and Natal Museum to the Department of Science and Technology (DST). They believed the DST did not have the necessary expertise to host these institutions, and more valuable museum material could be lost in a transfer to new management. However, the Committee felt that it was necessary to hear the DST's view on the matter at a later date, and encouraged the Department to consult thoroughly with that department in their building. The Committee also expressed regret that there was no SETA dealing with the heritage sector.


Department briefing
The Department of Arts and Culture was represented by Mr Vusithemba Ndima (Department Chief Director: Heritage), Mr Themba Wakashe (Department Deputy Director-General: Heritage, National Archives and Library Services), and Mr Mike Rennie (Department Director: Corporate Governance).

Mr Wakashe noted that the proposed transfer of the National Zoological Gardens, the National Museum and the Natal Museum to the Department of Science and Technology was a very sensitive and challenging issue. The Department needed absolute assurity that the national heritage would be protected. The transfer needed both a legal and a policy framework.

They argued that the DST and the Department of Environment and Tourism did not have the necessary tools, skills and experience to host the institutions, whereas they could provide these. The transfer could have disastrous implications. The heritage sector was underperforming, partly because it had been so neglected, both in terms of skills building and infrastructure. Many of the most skilled staff in the Museums were ageing and vacant positions were not filled. Thus the human resources to drive transformation were not there. There was also a problem with theft. Apparently this issue was common not only in this country, but all over the world. There was no doubt the transfer was inappropriate at this time. However, the Department had raised about R20.5 million to deal with these problems. They believed that their Department should deal with "the heart and soul of the country", and enhance patriotism through public appreciation of national heritage.

Mr L Greyling (ID) suggested that the Department should sit down with other concerned departments to assess the implications of the transfer. It was difficult to hear only one side of the story.

Ms S Matubatse-Hounkpatin (ANC) said that the country's strategic plan regarding museums should be revised. Museums were losing material and the transfer might mean more was lost. Nevertheless, there was need to listen to the DST about this.

Mrs D Van der Walt (DA) said the Committee should give input on the future of people working for these institutions. Many people did not study towards disciplines such as heritage management, and some provinces did not even have museums. She was concerned that some museums showed 'one-sided' history, either emphasising contributions made after 1994 or before that.

Mr C Gololo (ANC) agreed that the Committee also needed to invite the DST to hear about their plans for the two museums.

The Chairperson agreed and asked whether the Department had addressed DST concerns. He was worried that although the two Departments shared the same building, they had not adequately consulted with one another. How would the DST be affected if there was no transfer? He enquired whether there was a SETA for skills development.

Mr Wakashe suggested the Department do more research into the issues raised, and agreed it was important to hear from the DST. The transfer was a matter beyond simply legislative and research capacity. He was concerned that DST did not have enough background and cultural policy to run the museums concerned. However, they welcomed co-operation and co-ordination between the two Departments. They needed to re-examine the strategic plan. He also agreed that theft in the Museums was very serious. In April 2004, the Department had been given funds for extra security.

Mr Wakashe regretted that there was no SETA to deal with heritage management. The Department of Education's role had thus become more important in this regard. Academic institutions had not addressed the issue adequately. The Department was currently looking at proposals to reprioritise the budget to encourage people to study the heritage disciplines.

Mr Ndima was worried that the transfer transition could cause instability as there would be new management. This could lead to the museums losing more material. The Department needed to work together with DST and there should be a forum for both institutions to address common concerns.

The Chairperson appreciated that the Department had embarked on the audit of the estate and skills in the national heritage sector. The audit should be decent and comprehensive. Various departments needed to co-operate to achieve the desired objectives.

The meeting was adjourned.



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