Freedom Park Trust: briefing

Arts and Culture

15 March 2005
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Meeting Summary

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Meeting report

15 March 2005


Mr S Tsenoli (ANC)

Documents handed out:

Freedom Park Trust briefing: Strategic Plan for April 2005- March 2006



The Freedom Park Trust briefed the Committee on their progress, current problems, strategic objectives and priorities. Members highlighted the importance of the Park being inclusive for all South Africans, the instability in the Trust’s management and Board, and the need to start construction as soon as possible.


Freedom Park Trust briefing

Mr J Nkwana (Acting CEO) stated that the vision of the Freedom Park Trust was "to be a leading national and international icon of humanity and freedom". Likewise, their mission was to provide a "pioneering and empowering heritage destination that challenges visitors to reflect upon our past, improve our present and build our future as a united nation." The mandate, in its broadest terms, was to build the actual park.

Six strategic objectives had been set forth. First, they intended to contribute to nation-building and reconciliation. Second, they wanted to establish Freedom Park firmly in the hearts and minds of stakeholders and wanted to become an institution that embodied national identity. Thirdly, they intended to finish Freedom Park within the time frame and budget that had been set out. Fourthly, they promoted and protected Indigenous Knowledge Systems (IKS) as a science and as a cultural practice. Fifthly, they would manage Freedom Park effectively and efficiently as a heritage site in compliance with all relevant legislation. Their last objective was to mobilise the continent and international communities behind Freedom Park through, "the African Renaissance and Global Stability".

Mr Nkwana then briefly laid out the strategy, resulting output, and service delivery indicators for each of the six strategic objectives. He continued that Freedom Park was meant to serve as a "centre of knowledge" for foreign tourists and for the South African population. He added that this was a project for the people and for that reason they were seeking input from all strata of society. Input had been received from people such as traditional leaders, the youth, academics and participants in the liberation struggle.

They wanted to strengthen Freedom Trust’s internal controls because they used public funds and it was therefore important to be as effective as possible with their budget. They had also commissioned research that pertained to the goals of Freedom Park. This effort was a means to enhance the knowledge that was available to the public.

He conceded that Freedom Park Trust, as a young organisation, was still in the process of building its infrastructure. To this end, they had appointed a service provider that had started working for them in February of this year. They had also recently opened an office in Cape Town, which continued the process of networking.

Currently, Freedom Park Trust had appointed consultants to finalise the design process and pave the way for the actual construction. He added that even in the early phases of building the park, such high profile persons as former President Kenneth Kaunda and the Prime Minister of Turkey had visited them.

Mr Nkwana pointed out some of the challenges that faced the Freedom Park Trust. One challenge was that the extensive consultations that they sought resulted in delays. However, he stated that they intended to finish the intermediary phase of construction by March 2006. They also faced the challenge of proving that they were not associated with the ANC. The Freedom Park Trust was not part of any one political party, nor was it part of any one segment of society. Rather, they sought to be a National Park in the largest sense.

The myths about cleansing and healing also provided a challenge to the Trust, but they remained steadfast in the belief that these practices were important exercises. Lastly, the Trust faced a challenge in building its capacity. Their original Board had been appointed by President Mbeki, however, retirements and deaths had depleted the Board. They had also suffered from depletion at the level of management.

The Freedom Park Trust’s annual priorities were derived from these challenges as well as the strategic objectives. It was their goal to finalise their project design, and Mr Nkwana said that this would be done as early as the end of this month or next month. The Trust also wanted to pave the way for the construction to begin. They wanted to build Freedom Park Trust’s capacity and measures had been put into place to accomplish that goal. It was also a priority to begin the final phase of the project by March of 2006.

Financially, their priority was to find new ways to fund Freedom Park once the project to construct it had concluded. They also wanted to ensure that the Park was inclusive to all political parties. Efforts to build a collection of art and research materials had commenced as had the effort to establish networks with other social organisations in South Africa and other Southern African countries.

Ms D Van der Walt (DA) asked if the dates that had been mentioned in the presentation had been met, and if not why. She added that clarity on this issue would give the Members a better idea of the progress that was or was not being made.

Mr M Sonto (ANC) inquired about the number of phases in the project and when these phases were to be completed. He also asked if the challenges that President Mbeki had made impacted on the processes of the Freedom Park Trust. Lastly, he wondered if, given the challenges like the depletion of the Board, the overall project could be completed on time.

Mr C Gololo (ANC) warned that the Trust must be mindful that they did not spend too much on the conceptual part of the process at the expense of not having the money to complete the physical construction. He asked what strategies were being implemented to attract other social or political groups and what, if any, role the Freedom Park Trust was playing in the homecoming campaign for those that had been exiled during the struggle. Specifically, were these returning exiles being cleansed and healed as well?

Mr Nkwana responded first that their lack of capacity had resulted in the previous delays.

Ms Van der Walt asked specifically if the Chief Executive Officer’s programme would be met on time.

Mr Nkwana said that as of now he saw no reason why that project would be delayed.

He continued that the Trust was very mindful of commercialisation of the Park. They did not want to commercialise the Park because it must be accessible to all South Africans. In their funding strategy they were looking at alternative ways to fund the Park rather than high ticket prices.

The project as a whole consisted of three phases. The first phase was the completion of the basic infrastructure, such as the roads leading to the park. After this first phase was completed, President Mbeki challenged the Trust to build a memorial that would show the names of those that had fallen in the struggle for liberation. The impact of this challenge was that it changed the time frame in that they had to create the intermediary phase. This is the phase the project was currently in and the one to which the six strategic objectives applied. The third phase consisted of building the actual offices and the park itself. As had been mentioned, they planned to finish the intermediary phase in March 2006 and the final phase would be done in 2008.

He admitted that Board depletion was a major problem in slowing the process and causing delays. This negative impact was also felt at the staff level, where vacancies made time frames impossible to meet.

He did not feel that the Trust was spending too much money on consultants. The project required the input of electrical engineers, civil engineers, industrial architects, landscapers, etc. The trust had no other choice but to use these people as consultants. The Trust had terminated the management consultant, but viewed the other consultants as necessary.

The issue of attracting other racial and political groups was a problem, but it was being dealt with by their strategic objectives for this intermediary phase. The Trust had not played a part in the role of homecoming exiles. However, they did visit other countries where people had fallen in the struggle. So far they had been to Lesotho and Swaziland, and they planned to go to Zambia.

Mr S Tsenoli (ANC) asked why people were leaving the project. He also asked why the initial Board had included twenty people and if that many were really needed.

Mr Nkwana replied that the President had established the initial Board. Since they had been dealing with a very sensitive issue that touched on many different aspects and areas, they required a large Board that consisted of people with varying types of expertise. Therefore, the large Board was a means of ensuring enough diversity of expertise.

He said that the people that had been appointed were highly respected and notable people with high levels of expertise. Yet, this meant that these people were highly sought after and were therefore extremely busy. The Board’s depletion was due, in part, to the fact that many of the members simply could not find time to be there for the Freedom Park Trust. So the high turnover stemmed from the instability of the Board.

Mr S Siboza (ANC) asked why the Marketing Manager had been suspended and then had resigned. He also commented that he had been approached by a group of people that claimed to be working for Freedom Park Trust and that this group asked him for the names of people he knew had fallen in the struggle. He believed that this strategy for information gathering would cause serious logistical problems.

Ms N Mbombo (ANC) asked what the Trust was doing to encourage school children and school field trip organisers to visit the Park.

Ms Van der Walt added that the Trust should focus on attracting children in South Africa prior to expanding to other countries.

Mr Nkwana said that the Marketing Manager had been suspended and resigned because of misconduct. He asked the Members if that was sufficient, and the Members indicated that it was. He moved on to say that they had indeed commissioned groups of people to collect names. They did this because they wanted to be sure that they were inclusive. Previously, they had attempted to get names by issuing ads in the print media, but those ads were expensive and not as effective as they had hoped. Therefore, they had decided to put people on the ground and provide them with transportation and an allowance of R200.

He stated that the Trust was extremely focused on mobilising the youth of South Africa. They were going to put out media ads for free visits for school children and other types of discounts for the youth. They had already networked with the Provinces and so to that extent, they had focused on South Africa first, which was why they were now expanding to other countries.

Mr R Nogumla (ANC) asked for a definition of "healing and cleansing" and how these practices were implemented. He inquired if this process was based on what was done in local communities or how other countries had done it. To that end, he asked why healing and cleansing had working in some countries like Zambia and why it had failed in countries like Angola.

Mr Nkwana argued that cleansing and healing had not failed in Angola. Rather, the process had only just begun in Angola and after they had completed their work in Zambia, they would be moving to Angola.

Cleansing and healing was deeply rooted in African culture, if one could assume that there was one African culture. It served as a type of death management for Africans, in which one closed the chapter on someone that had passed away. Cleansing and healing as a process consisted of three parts. The first part was coming to terms with the loss. This was followed by a symbolic ritual, and finally there was a celebration to commemorate the closing of that chapter.

The Trust had seen the need to bring back the "spirits" of those who had fallen outside the country. These "spirits" were not at rest in a foreign country and so they needed to be brought back to South Africa. The Trust went with families to foreign countries where the person had died and performed a cleansing and healing ceremony that would serve to bring the spirit back to South Africa and put his/her family’s minds at ease.

Mr Tsenoli asked if that process was very inclusive. Mr Nkwana replied that they made every effort to be inclusive. The ritual was performed by all religious groupings. Christians prayed, traditional religious leaders and healers performed traditional rituals or chants, and so forth. Thus, the process was an inclusive one. However, the people that had taken advantage of this offer thus far had been black.

Mr Tsenoli responded that the Constitution protected everyone including atheists. Given that, he asked how a religious ceremony could be inclusive to everyone.

Mr P Maluleka (ANC) asked if the ritual was done with the consent of the family or if they just went to these places and performed the ceremony.

Mr Nogumla asked if the leaders of the political parties were involved because the people that had ended up outside the country were led there by political leaders.

Mr Nkwana said that when they went to heal and cleanse in a country they invited everyone that had lost someone in that place. Once people came forward to the Trust, they consulted with them and determined what they needed and what they wanted. He added that the Freedom Park Trust was not an arm of a political party, so they appealed to everyone that wanted to be cleansed and healed in relation to a particular death. However, he admitted that they had not been very successful in getting people from outside the ANC.

Mr Gololo asked if they covered people that had fallen outside the country due to an accident or natural causes.

Mr Maluleka inquired if the Trust covered Afrikaner families that wished to be cleansed. Mr Nkwana pointed to a case where an Afrikaner family had approached the Trust for help in this area.

Ms Van der Walt said that she thought that Freedom Park was going to be something new for South Africa and that was an extremely good thing. She asked if they considered including information and services that would pertain to the Anglo-Boer Wars and other past struggles. In doing so, the Trust would be making the Park more inclusive because it would also be a place for Afrikaners to go and reconcile with their own past.

Mr Tsenoli listed some of the wars and struggles that were important to South African history such as the Pre-Colonial Wars, the Liberation Struggle and Apartheid, World War1 and World War 2, the Anglo-Boer Wars, slavery and colonisation.

He added that Freedom Park was a great idea because it was general and it would speak directly to the people. He wanted the Trust to deal with its issues of management and suggested that the Committee reconsider the composition of the Board.

He concluded that the Committee had run out of time to make the proposed amendments to the National Library documents. They would take up that issue at their next meeting.

The meeting was adjourned.



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