Nelson Mandela National Museum; South African Library for the Blind: Annual Reports

Arts and Culture

19 October 2005
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Meeting Summary

A summary of this committee meeting is not yet available.

Meeting report

19 October 2005

Acting Chairperson:

Mr H Maluleka (ANC)

Documents handed out:

Nelson Mandela National Museum: Annual Report 2004/05 (PowerPoint Presentation)
Nelson Mandela National Museum Annual Report 2004/05
South African Library for the Blind: Annual Report 2004/05
South African Library for the Blind Report to Arts & Culture Portfolio Committee 19 October 2005
[documents available here shortly]

The Nelson Mandela National Museum delegation explained that after South Africa’s democratic breakthrough in 1994, it was possible to tell the full story of Nelson Mandela. Mr Mandela had been given gifts from all over the world, which he gave to the nation to be shared for generations to come. These were looked after in the form of the museum whose mandate it was to tell the story of Nelson Mandela in a way that would benefit people and contribute to conservation, culture and economic renewal, and also contribute to nation building, national cohesion, patriotism and the concept of legacy concept. Financial statements showed that the museum was running well financially. A major challenge was the lack of security, anticipated to cost approximately R7 million.

The second briefing was from the South African Library for the Blind. The library worked on the basis of providing a free library service for people with print disabilities or who could not handle a book physically.
One of the achievements of the past year had been the publishing of a novel in both Braille and audio format at the same time as the novel appeared on the bookshelves. A major challenge was to provide a national library service in all eleven languages. The Library’s financial report was shown to be sound.

The Committee elected Mr P Maluleka (ANC) as Acting Chairperson.

Briefing by the Nelson Mandela National Museum
The Chairperson welcomed the delegates from the Nelson Mandela National Museum. The delegates were Mr V Jarana (Council Chairperson), Mr K Mpumlwana (CEO), and Ms A Vikilahle (Finance Commission Chairperson).

Mr Jarana stated that in the past it had difficult to share the wider story of Nelson Mandela, however, this was now possible due to the democratic breakthrough in 1994. Mr Mandela had been given gifts from all over the world, which he had given to the nation to be shared for generations to come. These were looked after by the museum. The museum’s three arms were Bhunga, comprising of gifts and "Long Walk to Freedom"; Qunu, the home of the Youth Heritage Centre; and Mvezo, an open air display and cultural centre. The museum’s mandate was to tell the story of Nelson Mandela in a way that would benefit people and contribute to conservation, culture and economic renewal, and also contribute to nation building, national cohesion, patriotism and the concept of legacy; and for the effective stewardship of heritage resources linked to Nelson Mandela for present and future generations. These also had to reach and benefit the lives of the local community.

The museum had facilities for the community to use, enjoy and entertain tourists with. All programmes run by the museum had a social impact. The challenge faced was one of how to deal with ablution facilities and running water when the community did not have these, so a standby facility was provided for community use.

Governance was performed by an inaugural council, constituted in 2000. The council was not gender balanced and had been appointed by the Ministry.

To date, Bhunga had been upgraded. Its phase 1 housed the "Long Walk to Freedom". In phase 2, auditoriums were outstanding, though still on plan and ready for launch next year. The completion of the Mvezo cultural centre was also still awaited. The agreed budget was R2 million, with an understanding that this figure would grow.

Further challenges facing the Nelson Mandela Museum initiative were battling for resources, poor funding, poor coordination between institutions handling the Mandela legacy that lead to frustration lack of a clear strategy for funding of the heritage sector, and how to leverage the museum for Wild Coast socio-economic development.

Mr Mpumlwana highlighted that, on the positive side, the museum had experienced five years of service delivery with clean audit reports, improved visitation numbers, a community impact, good public programming and had placed an emphasis on indigenous knowledge and empowering the people through education.

The story of Mandela had been told in ways that benefited people and promoted economic opportunity. The primary focus of the Qunu site was on learning from the legacy and representing the rural component of Nelson Mandela while interfacing with the modern. The mandate had been to identify memorable quality experiences and promote sustainable enterprise. There was a need to build capacity within the local community to produce products that could be bought by visitors to the museum. This would benefit both the museum and the community.

Ms Vikilahle said the Annual Report listed opportunities. Since the museum had opened, 80% of procurement had been from the local economy and training in tourist development had taken place for 25 people. Approximately 185 people from different households had been trained in skills such as light fitting and craft production, as part of the building of the centre. The community was thereby positioned in a better light and young people were given something to look forward to.

Ms Vikilahle displayed slides of the Youth and Heritage Centre and urged the committee to visit. In terms of strategy and operation, there were facilities for restaurants and shops employing local caterers. Good governance was essential and human capital depended on the skills and knowledge of people. A paramount concern was the recruiting, development and employment of people. In partnership with the Department of Tourism, training had taken place on catering skills and developing and the making and marketing of craft products. It was planned that the museum would consist of a multi-skilled work environment, comprising of approximately 37 posts, of which only 14 had been filled. Recently, at least two senior management posts had been filled.

The museum’s strategy included marketing and enterprise development and security. Huge resources were being devoted to security as the museum contained highly valued items. Other challenges faced were the securing of adequate baseline funding for establishment costs, the access and retention of competent committed people, and the generation of own-income. The major expense was security, for which R7 million from grant funding had been spent.

Mr Jarana said the way forward was to continue to leverage Mandela’s legacy for nation building and to optimise avenues for income generation, to strengthen programming and to complete the Qunu project.

Ms S Motubatse-Hounkpoatin (ANC) thanked the presenters for the progress made and expressed a concern about the ruralness of the area, feeling that a small infrastructure could be overloaded. Some of the work done had been outside the brief, for example, the training people to make bricks and how to fit lights. She felt that although the need was there, the focus should remain on the museum. The Eastern Cape had very rich elderly people who could donate funds, that is, people who had grown up with the same history. She questioned whether they could be used to assist the museum. She was also interested in the tourism aspect, and asked how many of the visitors had been from overseas, and how many from schools in the Eastern Cape. She remarked that there had also been a missing link concerning Stella Sigcau and enquired whether that had been corrected.

Mr M Sonto (ANC) felt the Human Resource strategy was outward looking and questioned what the tangible outcomes of the strategy were. He also asked what the state of progress was on the capital works programme for the Heritage Centre.

Ms D van der Walt (DA) said that the financial statements proved that the museum was running well. She asked if the grants were all derived from the Department Arts and Culture. Clarification was requested on how a non-profit organisation could provide for staff loans.

Mr B Zulu (ANC) was concerned about the security in a mostly rural area. He asked whether an inventory was kept of all items and how the museum could be protected in an area without police and where things were being stolen out of schools.

Mr G Lekgetho (ANC) asked how the trained members of the community were being kept busy.

Ms N Mbombo (ANC) asked her questions in Xhosa.

Mr Maluleka was interested in knowing if elderly people who had known Madiba (Mr Mandela) were being invited to the museum as local storytellers, and whether young people were being trained as curators.

Mr Jarana responded to the issue of overloading and the training of young people. Training people to make bricks was part of a contractual agreement. The museum was not responsible for the actual training but performed a project management role, thus increasing leverage and driving the partnership. Museums were usually viewed as a place where old things were kept, however this museum was dedicated to a living person. In order to develop a new audience, comprising of young people, the museum would be competing with other entertainment, such as the movies, so in some way it had to make the museum attractive to them. There was a need to educate South Africans on their legacy. The Human resource strategy had been initiated before the museum had been established. A resident of Qunu had put together a programme training young people, whom the museum had used as volunteers. The Department of Trade and Industry were responsible for coordinating the women and the museum’s role was to act as a catalyst.

On grant question, Mr Jarana informed the committee that a foreign government was currently at an advanced stage of processing a grant for equipment. There were also other grants but the museum was generally not doing very well. The National Lottery had committed at least R8 million. The Department of Environmental Affairs & Tourism had agreed to appoint consultants and the processing of Lotto money was ongoing.

Regarding tourism statistics, these had been set out in the report. Numbers were not what they should be, but diversity was at the correct levels.

Mr Jarana clarified that the museum was well secured by the community, but this should not make for complacency in terms of security. Technical issues should be addressed, beginning with the use of TV cameras, guards, government security agency and a risk management plan. Artefacts had been stolen, and although police had investigated, no progress had been made.

Mr Mpumlwana, responding to the question of staff loans, said that these were a carry over from the previous year, during which policies had not been in place. The Council had since halted the practice but its effects continued to be reflected due to the recovery process.

Ms M Mdlalose (NADECO) commented that a museum that was also a community development was something to be proud of.

In thanking the delegates, the Chairperson stated that realising something new in a rural area was not an easy task and that the Committee would like to visit the museum in the future.

South African Library for the Blind
Mr Maluleka welcomed Adv J Roos (CEO) and Ms W Ling (Chief Financing Officer) of the South African Library for the Blind.

Adv Roos related that Josie Wood, a missionary from the Eastern Cape, had started the Library for the Blind in 1918 with 100 Braille pamphlets. There were now in excess of 25 000 titles available in Braille and audio format. The library provided a free library service for people with print disabilities or who could not handle a book physically, or who suffered from a reading disability such as dyslexia. Most people had some elementary understanding of Braille, which was a bulkier medium of print and used more paper. Today, a computerised process generated Braille. The challenge focused on how to present information in Braille in a way that made it more understandable to the reader.

One of the challenges facing the Library was the shortage of resources, for which the government had to provide in terms of parameters laid down by constitution in terms of the right to access to information, human dignity and the right to basic education. Another challenge was having to provide a national library service for all eleven languages. This was difficult as Braille used a system of the alphabet and contractions. The system of contractions worked on the basis that one would only contract on a high word frequency or a high letter group frequency. Eleven languages would therefore require skills not only necessary for the eleven languages but for each of the contraction systems as well.
The serious cultural and transformation challenges had been achieved. In terms of human resources, the institute was still maintained the apartheid era formulation of whites in senior positions and the poorly paid staff all black. This challenge was interesting, as the skills necessary were not easily come by.

One of the successes of the past year was the publishing of a novel in both Braille and audio format at the same time as the novel appeared on the bookshelves. Usually blind people had to wait a long time for the release in Braille of a new novel. This was achieved by using the files the publisher had used for the printing process, thus eliminating the need for the Institute to first obtain a hardcopy of the book and then load it into a computer and then process it into Braille, a procedure that took months. Publishers were generally not extremely uncomfortable about allowing access to their electronic files. This was regarded as a breakthrough enabling the Institute to use government money to good effect.

The issue of copyright was also a challenge. To make a book available in an alternative form requires permission, which needed time. This was especially the case with African language material where the publisher had disappeared, or had an excess of thirty books and could not find the holder of the copyright any more. A collaboration between the Department of Arts and Culture and the Department of Trade and Industry would assist in providing access. Through an amendment of the South African Copyright Act, the producers of alternative format materials would be allowed the use of materials to provide for people with print disabilities.

Ms Ling dealt with financial issues. The financial statements were set out in the Annual Report. The library was asset intensive as a lot of equipment had to be imported. A single Braille printer cost R350 000. The subsidy from the Department had covered approximately two thirds of the annual expenses of the past year. Of the total budget for the previous year, if there had been sufficient resources to do everything required, the subsidy would have amounted to about 45% of the annual budget. The total expenditure for last year was about one third more than the subsidy, which fell considerably short of what was needed.

Mr Maluleka said the purpose of interaction was so that the government could provide money, questioned the future plans of the Library and the challenges faced.

Adv Roos responded that the challenge concerning the production of materials in all African languages meant that more staff would needed to be employed in Braille production, audio production and extra libraries in order to process materials produced. Two possibilities had been investigated – 1) opening a satellite production unit in Gauteng for access to languages, and 2) to generate synthetic voices to read different language and record synthetic renderings of the text and generate books by a computerised process.

Another challenge was that audio books were recorded onto cassette tapes which were being phased out and therefore required that the entire collection of 10 000books be transferred into digital format, such as CDs. In future, books would have to be produced in digital rather than analogue form.

The excess budgeted for was directed at appointing extra staff to help with Braille codes and buy equipment to transfer from cassette to digital format. Equipment was acquired and staff training started. A huge project was introduced transferring existing analogue collection into digital format, which would become far more accessible and contribute to the system of inclusive education. Donations went to transferring from audio to digital so still short for production of Braille in eleven languages, of which English, Afrikaans and Xhosa was quite good.

DiscussionMr M Sonto (ANC) thanked Adv Roos and Ms Ling, remarking that the area was one which members were not familiar with. Two thirds of the funds was subsidised from the government, with one third coming from donations. With membership came from all over the world he questioned how overseas members used the facilities of the library and whether it was a burden to take on people from around the world.

Mr Lekgetho (ANC) enquired what the population of blind people in South Africa was, out of a total population of 44 million.

Mr B Zulu (ANC) asked whether, since the library was providing for all eleven languages, it would be taking the library to the people in each and every province. He questioned if there were bursaries for blind people, and commented that he knew of several people in rural areas whom he would like to assist. He also asked how many schools in the country were helping blind people.

Adv Roos responded that there was a debate about the figures of blind people in South Africa, which depended on how one defined blindness. There was a large segment of the population who would benefit but would prefer not to be called blind. He estimated that the South African National Council for the Blind worked with approximately 250 000 people. Total membership was a fraction of that, partly because many blind people had not receive basic education in the past. Only 10% of blind people were employed.. By contrast, in the United States it was estimated that 70% of people who could read Braille had a job. South Africa could not make similar estimates. The literacy issue was serious.

Adv Roos continued that the reason users from other countries were not turned away was that books were sent to people by post. Postage within South Africa was free. There was an international agreement that enabled literature for the blind to be send by free post. Foreign members didn’t distract from local people. As the only organisation for the blind in Africa, the Library could not turn away their brothers and sisters.

In respect of other available services, the Library could not provide bursaries but could refer interested people to other organisations that could assist. Last year’s annual reports had only been sent out to readers with a high reading frequency. Consequently, a blind had person arrived from Mount Fletcher, having taken four taxis to Grahamstown, to ask for help obtaining work or a bursary and the Institute had been able to refer him to an institute in Port Elizabeth. The person in question had received a matric education but was unable to do any work, and was only kept together by his ability to read.

There were about 30 schools that took in blind children or children with disabilities. Government policy was that children could now go to the school of their choice, but schools were unable to supply these children with their most basic needs. The library was in touch with most of the schools and got them to sign up their learners as members of the library, as well as forward their addresses to enable the library to remain in touch with them.

Mr Zulu asked whether it would be possible for an older person who had lost his sight to be educated to use these systems.

Adv Roos replied yes, people in their sixties had learnt Braille. The problem was that the system of contractions was a serious literacy barrier, but the system could not be abandoned as it would disempower people from being able to read books produced in other countries.

Ms N Mbombo (ANC) said that most blind people were good musicians and asked who wrote the music for them and why were they so talented.

Adv Roos replied that not only were blind people talented, but that sheet music, maths and science could be written in Braille.

The Chairperson thanked Adv Roos and Ms Ling for the very good and educational presentation and stated that members of the committee would love to visit the library in Grahamstown.

The meeting adjourned.



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