Budget and Strategic Plan: Department of Arts and Culture briefing

Meeting Summary

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Meeting report


31 AUGUST 2005

: Mr B Tolo (ANC)

Documents handed out:
Department Strategic Plan 2005/06 at
Department Power Point Presentation

The Department of Arts and Culture (DAC) briefed the Committee on its objectives, goals, programmes, budget policy, and legislative programme. The Department wanted to be seen as a developer and implementer of policy, and a provider of strategic direction for institutions under its supervision. They provided translation services to government and other departments, and foreign language translation was in high demand. The Department was constrained by under-funding and insufficient resources to carry out its mandate.

Members asked for clarity on under-funding, empowering women, the role of the private sector in arts and culture, the working relationship with provincial and local government, why they had translated more foreign than local languages, and progress in translating maths and science dictionaries into local languages. The Committee made various suggestions including developing interest in museums at school level, a strategy to preserve the national anthem, developing computer-based programmes for translation, integration of arts and culture into the school curriculum and encouraging institutions to develop their own mechanisms for funding.

The Committee noted the challenges faced by the Department, and of particular concern was insufficient funding. They promised to engage the Treasury and to lobby for more funding for the Department to carry out its mandate effectively.


Department briefing
The Department Director-General, Professor I Mosala, said the Department aimed to conscientise government around arts and culture, and to resist attempts to purely treat them as entertainment. Their existence was aimed at ensuring that the nation had a common identity and could self preserve. Central to its goals was the promotion of the official languages. 27 institutions had been created and worked closely with provinces and municipalities. It was responsible for archives and national libraries. 60% of the national Department’s budget went to the heritage branch. R195 million had been set aside for capital infrastructure.

Professor Mosala mentioned that it was the first time the Department had a budget for running the Ministry. Its strategy for 2010 was to provide opportunities through arts and culture and also to ensure that the policies of government were mainstreamed to arts and culture. Progress in language planning and development had been slow; however tremendous work had been done. A culture of reading was an important concern. The Department had provided translation services to all departments; although as a matter of policy for the promotion of multilingualism all departments were supposed to have their own language translation. French, Portuguese, Spanish and German were four languages in high demand for translation.

Cultural development and international co-operation had played a vital role in connecting South Africa to the rest of the world. The budget for films was inadequate even for the production of one film, and as a result the Department was working closely with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and other institutions to raise additional funding internationally and locally for the production of local films.

The Department had played a leading role in the Asian Alliance of Culture and had also participated in the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) conference. It was in the process of ratifying the UN Cultural Convention. It had played an important role in 29 sessions of the World Heritage Committee meeting, which lead to the establishment of the heritage fund to enable sites in Africa to have an independent existence. Heritage institutions had been under funded and the Department had established a Heritage Council to oversee funding. The challenge was how to capacitate institutions to achieve a high level of governance. The Freedom Park project was ambitious; however priority had been given to ensure its completion.

Professor Mosala was of the opinion that geographical re-naming was taking too long due to insufficient resources. Overall the Department’s work was highly challenging, however they did not have sufficient funds and resources.

A Member wanted clarity about the reasons for under-funding. Was it due to the fact that there was no previous guideline now that it was a separate Department, or that their spending capability had not been proven yet?

Ms F Mazibuko (ANC) commented that most issues raised in the presentation were thought provoking. She wanted clarity on the Department’s budget in comparison to other Departments because she was of the opinion that the budgets of local government far exceeded those of the provinces. She also wanted clarity on the issue of empowering women because she was of the opinion there was not enough investment. How had they contributed to transformation in the second economy? What was the number of staff in the Department? What other working relations did they have with provincial and local government? She also commented about the ageing nature of museums and the people, especially the youth, were not visiting them, and asked what was being done to make them more accessible. She also wanted to know the role of the private sector in investing in arts and culture. What was being done to preserve the Market Theatre and integrating young people in its programmes?

Mr L Govender, A Member of the KwaZulu-Natal Parliament and Education Portfolio Committee, commented that it was important to use arts and culture to empower people especially with the focus on 2010, and priority should be given to local artists to perform at international events to assist them in becoming independent. He was of the opinion most local artists were poor. Mr Govender felt the different ways of singing the National Anthem had caused division and that perhaps one style should be adopted and taught at primary school level. It should be sung at every important event. He also wanted to know if the Department had a computer programme for translation. Interest in museums should be developed at school level. Adequate funding was necessary to preserve institutions.

Professor I Mosala agreed that the National Anthem was a vulnerable area and was of the view that flexibility had opened it up for both good and bad. However, there was a need for a campaign to educate people. The National Symbols Campaign was one such way to preserve history. He appreciated the comments on translation, and a deliberate campaign to make museums more accessible.

He felt they were being under-funded because of poor understanding of the nature and work of the Department, and its first campaign had been ‘selling the Department to government’. Provinces were poorly resourced because of the lack of appreciation of arts and culture. Local government was involved in organising major cultural activities and events, which had the effect of not promoting culture. The Department had partners and the private sector played a big role. Women made up 45% of senior management. Overall gender representation was 195 women and 161 males, which he felt had exceeded the norms of government. They had a cluster campaign on youth. The Market Theatre was safe and would not be abolished and a new Chief Executive had been appointed to oversee operations.

Mr S Selepe, Acting Deputy Director-General: Language and Society, added that the Market Theatre had never been under threat, and had never benefited from state funding until recently.

Mr X Mfaxa, Director: Language Unit, added that the Department was doing important work in human language technology used for the development and translation of languages; however it was faced with the challenge of funding. It cost R40m per annum. In collaboration with the Universities of Cape Town, Free State and Pretoria, they had developed small tools for translation. The success rate was 40-50% for English language translation. They did not have such technology for African languages; only spell checkers with a success rate of 80-90%.

Mr I Mosala responded that the Department functioned through MinMEC. Provincial and local government had their own structures. Together they had oversight responsibility for heritage sites.

Mr S Selepe added that post 1994 saw the discontinuation of funding of state theatre and the establishment of the National Association of Culture. The effect of this policy decision was the availability of resources to all art forums, including orchestral companies. As a result the last ten years had seen a transformation of orchestras and opera. He felt it was attractive to young people in the second economy. Consideration was being given to refunds through all levels of government. There had been huge development in orchestras to the extent that the Minister had cautioned against large-scale orchestras and the need to build new smaller ensembles in different initiatives.

Ms M Madlala-Magubane (ANC) expressed concern about the translation of foreign languages to the total neglect of local languages. She wanted to know how far they had progressed with the establishment of a Council for PENSA and its role. What was their relationship with provinces on museums? Did the Indigenous Knowledge System include food and teaching the youth about healthy eating? She felt it was imperative to encourage institutions to develop their own mechanisms for funding.

Ms J Masilo (ANC) commended the Department on the Mmabana Cultural Centre initiative and felt it was important to implement it in all provinces. She expressed her disappointment that the Select Committee was not invited to the World Heritage Committee meeting and wanted to know their strategy on the Jazz Festival?

Mr T Setona (ANC) said it was important to foster consciousness on the challenges of arts and culture. The government decision to have arts and culture as a separate department was an expression of political will. He was not sure the Department had clarified their role in government transformation. Arts and culture should form part of the schools curriculum. The strategy of the Department should be to promote community heritage. Heritage was "anything declared". There were important historical sites in communities, which lacked leadership and awareness. Provincial capacity problems were to be taken up with the Department of Provincial and Local Government. He proposed a close working relationship with the World Cup Committee and to mobilise them for the challenges of 2010. Mr Setona also wanted clarity on why they had translated more foreign than local languages.

The Chairperson commented that if it was a matter of policy for all Departments to have a translation unit, why did they require services from the Department and who was funding it? Why were publishers reluctant to publish local content and what could be done? The Department had not done enough to promote local content. Limpopo had accomplished a lot in terms of geographical naming and he felt the national department and other provinces had to do more. Most departmental projects had not been aligned with Integrated Development Plans (IDPs). He asked about the extent to which the Department could align their projects to IDPs. The performing arts were lagging in Mpumalanga and they were important for spiritual fulfilment. He asked for clarity on the Timbuktu Manuscripts and progress in translating maths and science terminology into local languages.

Ms F Mazibuko asked about investment in infrastructure and tourism sites such as Robben Island and wanted to know who had oversight responsibility. She felt they needed to engage the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) to start producing more local content, because television (TV) played a big role in promoting culture.

Professor I Mosala responded that discussions were ongoing with the Director-General of the SABC about content and it was a concern. He agreed on the role of TV in promoting culture and said a strategy was being developed; however the problem was funding. Robben Island was a heritage site under the supervision of the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism only because they were responsible for the legislation. The Department was responsible for upkeep and maintenance. It was a declared cultural institution because it was barely making enough money to maintain itself. Translation of foreign languages was based on demand and they had provided the service to mainly government departments and embassies. There was not enough demand for local languages. A policy on translation existed for the promotion of multilingualism in all departments; however there was no law to enforce it. Government had favoured a non-legal instrument. They had to hire people to translate for other Departments at a cost to the Department. The Minister was working with some writers to write and produce in local languages, and was also looking at methods to create a demand for it.

Mr X Mfaxa added that maths dictionaries had been finalised for grade one to six and would appear in all eleven languages. The Department of Education had printed and distributed 25 000 copies. Some terminology in science had been translated. An HIV/AIDS terminology list was being compiled and would be launched in 2006. An Information technology text would also be finalised next year. Geographical names were a matter of political will. The Department could not take the initiative, but could only receive submissions and process it through the Council. The Minister could then take the initiative. It depended on the politicians and communities.

Professor Mosala added that local government used to be in charge of institutional resources like libraries. Libraries and museums used to get funding from financial institutions; however the new Financial Institutions Management Act did not allow funding of institutions not under its supervision. The Department was working on changing the legislation, which had been on the agenda for the past three years. Indigenous Knowledge Systems included the promotion of indigenous food during Heritage Month. He felt intervention by the Department in assisting poor artists was being misunderstood as trying to take away their independence. Professor Mosala said the challenge was changing the model of funding by investing in artists rather than giving them grants. Mmabana Cultural Centre would serve as a model for Community Art Spaces. The Department was struggling to align its projects to the IDPs of the municipalities and this would be raised in a cluster meeting.

The Timbuktu Manuscript project was a presidential project that was highly technical. It was a 14th-century manuscript of maths and science that was being restored and translated. Mr I Langeveld added that it was on the world heritage endangered list of manuscripts and a decision had been taken to restore it to a better condition and to remove it from the endangered list. He was not sure whether the World Heritage Committee invitations list included the Select Committee. However they would revisit and update it to be all-inclusive. The Department did not have a proper strategy for the Jazz Festival.

Mr S Selepe added that the Mmabana Cultural Centre was the first theatre established in the old dispensation to serve the Transvaal. A programme was underway to establish one in all provinces. He felt provincial and local government support was necessary because it had big financial implications. They welcomed the proposal to engage the World Cup Committee on their 2010 strategy.

Mr T Setona felt it was wrong for the Committee to determine a policy for the Department, and felt they should re-prioritise.

The Chairperson added that the Department should have a common policy for both the Portfolio Committee and the Select Committee.

Mr X Mfaxa added that the Minister appointed PENSA board members and the council would be charged with the responsibility to regulate the language profession and their work.

The Chairperson said the presentation and discussion pointed to a number of challenges and under-funding perhaps because outputs were abstract. The Committee would support the Department and engage with Treasury to provide more funding.

The meeting was adjourned.


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