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ARTS AND CULTURE PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE Mr L Tsenoli (ANC)
4 March 2005
SECURITY AT HERITAGE INSTITUTIONS AND NATIONAL AUDIT; PROVINCIAL GEOGRAPHICAL NAMES COUNCIL; NATIONAL LEGACY PROJECT: DEPARTMENT PROGRESS BRIEFING
Documents handed out
ARTS AND CULTURE PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
Mr L Tsenoli (ANC)
Department briefing: National Audit of Heritage Institutions and Security of Collections in Museums: [PMG note: Annexure A is not available to public]
Department briefing: Progress Report on Establishment of Provincial Geographical Names Council.
Department briefing: National Legacy Projects.
The Department highlighted the need to establish a national committee to deal with the security of national museum collections. The Committee was also briefed on the progress and challenges of provincial geographical name changes and on the status of eight legacy projects. Members expressed particular concern over the apparent lack of co-ordination between the Department and the provinces on name changes.
The Chief Director of Heritage, Mr Vusithemba Ndima, mentioned the security breaches that had taken place in museums across the country in the last few years. He advocated the need to set up a national committee to deal with the security of cultural property. On a global scale South Africa, like many of its African counterparts, was lagging behind in developing a database of all cultural property and providing accurate details and statistics when it came to thefts of such items. The proposed committee would comprise of representatives from the National Heritage Council, the Heritage Resources Agency, the Museum Association, Interpol (SA) and the World Customs Organisation (SA) and would develop a common strategy to combat trafficking of cultural property. At the moment such co-ordination was lacking and each of the institutions seemed to be working independently and without much success.
On establishing provincial geographical names councils, he stated that progress varied from one province to another. Most provinces had yet to develop measurable objectives and targets in terms of their core set of priorities. He cited financial, human resource and provincial reporting challenges as the main difficulties of the Department.
On the National Legacy Projects, he told the Committee that the eight proposed projects had been halted due to the need for more research into each of the projects.
Security at Heritage Institutions and National Audit
Mr M Sonto (ANC) asked why the Department did not have a co-ordinated security effort and he wondered whether the new committee would solve the security problems. He also asked if the security breaches were due to untrained curators or mere infrastructure inadequacy.
Mr K Khumalo (ANC) sought clarity on the apparent overlap of roles within the Department institutions.
Ms M Mdlalose (IFP) asked the Department whether there should rather be a standardised security system.
Ms Van Der Walt (DA) asked the Department whether the old procedure of lending items to other countries was still in place and how much of the allocated budget had been used and on what. She asked if the Department had recovered any of the stolen items.
Mr Ndima answered that the lack of co-ordination was an oversight by the Department. Legislation was in place that would ensure that customs officers checked that no heritage items left the country illegally However no concerted effort had been directed to making it effective.
The Department had noted there was an overlap in its institutions and admitted that it did not want a situation were bodies with the same interests were fighting over turf.
On the causes of theft the Department stated that it was a combination of all the reasons highlighted. There was however a need for more employee training and infrastructural development to provide the necessary security to prevent theft or detect it early.
In response to the question by Ms Mdlalose, the Department stated there was a need for a standardised approach as this was an issue that could not be approached in a piecemeal fashion.
The Department was unable to provide the exact amount of money spent but was happy to make the information available to the Committee as soon as it looked at its records. Mr Ndima told the Committee that so far nothing had been recovered from the Nelson Mandela Museum theft.
Ms N Mbombo (ANC) asked the Department whether these thefts took place at a particular time and how the Department got its information on stolen items.
Ms D Van der Walt (DA) asked whether items got lost while on exhibition in other countries.
The Chief Director responded that the Department had no knowledge about the timeframes of the thefts and this was why there was a need for a co-ordinated effort. In the past years the Heritage Resources Agency and the Department had been working alone and that explained the lack of success in combating thefts.
Mr Ndima explained that the museums told the Department of all thefts or when items went missing. He also stated that most of the losses occurred on site at the museums in the country and the Department was not aware of losing any items while they were on exhibition outside the country.
Mr B Zulu (ANC) asked the Department whether it reported its losses or thefts to the police.
Mr Ndima replied that the Department reported all thefts to the police who in turn informed Customs and Interpol.
Ms D Van der Walt (DA) stated there seemed to be reliance on Customs and Interpol when the items could possibly be going to personal collectors thus making SAPS the most effective body in dealing with such cases.
Mr Ndima answered that it was unfortunate that he had not emphasised SAPS involvement but assured them that SAPS played an important role in security matters.
The Chairperson summarised the general concerns of the Committee on security. These mainly revolved around a need for proper risk management, co-ordination of strategy among the institutions in the Department such as between SA Heritage Resource Agency and SA Museum Association. The Chairperson called on the Department to take the initiative in reporting to the Committee and give the Committee timeframes on improved governance and co-ordination between the institutions.
Provincial Geographical Names CouncilOn the provincial names backlog, the Chairperson noted that the backlog was the Department’s priority. He stated that if the Department wanted to impose on local government then the Department had to be responsible for footing the bill.
Ms D Van der Walt (DA) stated that in her experience, local government was involved and she asked what was the status of local governments involvement in establishing the council. Concern was also expressed that some provinces were not participating.
Mr M Sonto asked the Department how much leeway it was giving to communities because the reality was that some communities had developed histories around those offensive names. What would the Department do in such circumstances.
Mr Ndima conceded the issue of offensive names was an important point and the issue of intervention by the Department was critical not only for public landmarks but also private property. The Committee was told that legislative amendments would address the concerns raised and beyond that there was still much consultation across the three spheres of government that needed to take place.
The Chairperson asked the Department to give a description of how each of the provinces was dealing with the backlog. He also advised the Department on creative ways in which it could involve community radio stations in developing community awareness and involvement.
Mr K Khumalo (ANC) stated that although it was not on the agenda he looked forward to feedback from the Department on transforming its institutions to involve women, young people and the disabled.
Mr Ndima gave the Committee a picture of how the provinces were doing. Limpopo and Mpumalanga were playing a leading role in taking on-board name change backlogs. However, Kwazulu-Natal was showing much promise, while the North West Province, Free State, Northern Cape and Eastern Cape had not done well. The Department told the Committee that it would be going back to its technical committee to work on addressing the problems.
Mr L Zita (ANC) asked the Department about community involvement in the Legacy Projects.
The Chairperson asked if District 6 Museum had approached the Department for support and what support it had provided. It was also noted that Pretoria and Johannesburg had several buildings of historical significance that could serve the communities through tourism. It was important the Department ensured that this happened.
Mr Ndima responded that the whole idea of Legacy Projects was community birthed and most of the current project councils had community representation to ensure community patronage.
The Department stated that District Six Museum had approached it three times already and it did provide support whenever it was able to and there was a Committee in the Department that dealt with such projects. The Department noted that the District Six Museum had a wealth of ideas and methods that the Department lacked and could benefit from.
On the historical buildings in Gauteng the Department noted there had been no concerted effort and it was something which the Department could seriously look into.
Mr L Zita (ANC) asked the Department what South Africa’s best international best practice was.
Mr Ndima replied that for the purposes of international best practice, the Department took heed of proper research, national goals and longevity.
Mr L Zita suggested that it would be useful to look also at what other countries were doing. Countries such as France could be useful reference points.
The Chairperson suggested the Committee visit Pretoria with the South African Heritage Resources Agency and the Department since Pretoria and Johannesburg were the country’s ‘face to the world’. Urban renewal should also take on board cultural heritage.
The Chairperson stated that it was important that history was not ‘sanitised’ and that both history and heritage took their rightful place. The Department was reminded to take the initiative in reporting and to make documents available as early as possible to ensure proper oversight by the Committee.
The meeting was adjourned.
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