Annual Report briefings: National Film and Video Foundation and National Museum of Bloemfontein

Arts and Culture

01 November 2005
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Meeting Summary

A summary of this committee meeting is not yet available.

Meeting report

1 November 2001


Ms L Jacobus (ANC)

Documents handed out:
National Film and Video Foundation: Annual Report 2005 [available at]
National Film and Video Foundation: Presentation to the Portfolio Committee on Arts and Culture (PowerPoint presentation)
National Museum of Bloemfontein: Annual Report 2004/2005 [available at]
National Museum of Bloemfontein: Presentation to the Portfolio Committee on Arts and Culture
The Performing Arts of the Free State: Annual Report 2005 [please email
[email protected]]

The National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF) chose not to brief the Committee on its Annual Report and rather concentrated on its strained relationship with the Department of Arts and Culture. The NFVF made a statement to the Committee that the relationship between the NFVF and the Department had lead to the NFVF Council passing a resolution in July 2005 declaring a state of delivery crisis. This was due to the Department cutting the funds allocated to the NFVF by R12 million which had reversed all the good work done by the NFVF in the past four years The NFVF had tried a number of times to communicate with the Department but had received not response. This situation needed to be resolved and it looked to the Committee to aid the NFVF to do so.

The Committee agreed with the NFVF that this situation had to be resolved immediately. However, it felt it had to hear the Department’s side of the story before it could make an assessment of the situation. An extraordinary meeting would be organised before the Committee adjourned for the year. Both the Department and the NFVF had to attend this meeting so that the Committee could solve the differences that existed between these two parties.

The National Museum of Bloemfontein briefed the Committee on its Annual Report and its Annual Financial Statement. The Museum had been involved in a number of activities during the past financial year. One of the main challenges facing the National Museum was the inappropriateness of some of its storage facilities it was leasing through the Department of Public Works. Another challenge was that due to a lack of funds the Museum could not offer competitive salaries to its staff members and members were also stretched in their work. It was also extremely difficult to identify people that had the skills needed for the Museum’s specialized field of work.

The Committee was concerned about the problems surrounding the storage facilities and enquired whether there were no norms or standards these facilities had to comply with. Committee members were also concerned that the Museum’s activities were local in nature although the Museum was a National Museum and they wanted to know how the Museum planned to get rural communities involved in its projects. The Committee also wanted to know if the Museum had any plans regarding the training of people in order for them to acquire these specialized skills. The Chairperson stated that it was important that National Departments begin an audit of skills within their fields of work.

Statement by the National Film and Video Foundation
Mr E Mbalo (Chief Executive Officer of NFVF) stated that due to time constraints the NFVF would not brief the Committee on its Annual Report as more pertinent issues needed to be addressed. The Annual Report celebrated the achievements of the NFVF and the Film Industry in the last financial year that included the large number of film awards that had been won internationally. The film industry was currently moving towards a rapid growth phase. It was therefore important that certain necessary items were put in place.

What was most worrying was the relationship between the NFVF and the Department of Arts and Culture. The Council of the NFVF on 28 July 2005 took a resolution declaring a state of delivery crisis. If action regarding this relationship was not taken soon a crisis of delivery would continue to exist and the repercussions would take much longer to rectify. The crisis situation had also led to a reversal of the gains the country had achieved in the last four years.

The NFVF had sent a number of letters to the Department in the past and these documents would be referred to later in the briefing. The NFVF felt that a number of issues had to be dealt with otherwise there was the risk that the public would see institutions including the Committees of Parliament as toothless. It believed that this Committee had the authority to take action when it was necessary such as the current crisis situation in the NFVF.

He called on Mr M Vundla (Chairperson of NFVF) to make a statement to the Committee on the current situation regarding the relationship between the NFVF and the Department of Arts and Culture.

Mr Vundla made a formal report that the Council of the NFVF declared a state of crisis in respect of the national service delivery of the NFVF. During the 2005/2006 financial year, the budget allocation of the NFVF had been reduced by R12 million notwithstanding every attempt made by the NFVF to comply with the NFVF Act and the fiscal requirements in terms of the MTEF Review and other budgetary processes.

The NFVF had formulated a strategy together with a business plan and had presented it to Parliament and the Department of Arts and Culture. The Department declined the business plan and cited that the plan was too sectoral. The NFVF had done a number of presentations to the Department to show that the business plan complied with the micro-economic reform strategy that had been approved by the Cabinet in 2002 as well as with the cultural industry strategic framework of the Department itself.

The current state of affairs compromised the NFVF in carrying out its mandate as per the NFVF Act. The NFVF made a plea to the Committee which stated that the NFVF had acted with good will and in good faith; however the Department had not reciprocated. The Council of the NFVF pleaded that the Committee call the Department to explain the reasons for the withdrawal of the Feature Film Fund and how it planned to rectify the untenable situation.

The funding of the NFVF was legislated in terms of Section 18 of the NFVF Act. Section 18(1) stated that two funds had been established namely the Film and Video Initiative and the Film Development Fund. Section 18(3) stated that the purpose of the Film and Video Initiative was to provide funding for feature films and future projects. Section 18(4) stated that the purpose of the Film Development Fund was to provide funding for entry level producers and first time directors to provide bursaries for study in film making, short and specialised film productions and script developments. Section 16(2)(a) stated that the NFVF would utilize its funds to defray expenses related to the performance of its functions provided that at least 75% of funds were distributed as grants for the Film and Video industry unless a contrary situation had been approved by the Minister.

In June 2002, a once-off amount of R5 million was given for a three-year provision as a stop gap for the Feature Film Fund. The understanding was that by the time the NFVF strategy had been completed the Feature Film Fund would be a permanent feature of the NFVF Budget in order to comply with the NFVF Act. In 2003 the Department of Arts and Culture, the Department of Trade and Industry and the South African Revenue Services collaborated in formulating the Content Industry Strategy. This Strategy recognised the need for a sectoral approach and the role and allocation of the NFVF was in accordance with the business plan the NFVF had submitted to the Department. The Content Industry Strategy had been approved by the Cabinet in 2003. It therefore had come as a surprise to the NFVF when the Department deviated from the sectoral approach.

All over the world the Film Industry had been prioritised as an economic growth area. It was for this reason that many governments had increased investments in this sector as part of positioning their countries in the sphere of global competitiveness. World trends for co-productions and leap-frogging the previously disadvantaged communities and individuals in South Africa had created the conditions for the rapid growth of the film sector in South Africa and therefore the need for an appropriate budget.

The current crisis had severe implications. It had caused serious uncertainty in the NFVF and within the Film Industry as a whole. The NFVF could not commit grants to the production community. If the unenviable situation was not addressed, South Africa stood to lose the competitive position it had built over the past four years. Confidence in South Africa as a predictable film investment destination as well as the creation of skills and jobs in the Film Sector was at risk.

Mr Mbalo then reviewed the resolution taken by the Council of the NFVF. It was important that this resolution was mentioned as the Council of the NFVF was appointed by Parliament and was therefore accountable to it. It was therefore important that Parliament was aware of the opinions of the Council of the NFVF.

He referred to a letter dated 24 March 2005 which was sent to the Minister as a resolution taken by the Council of the NFVF. The Director General of Arts and Culture had informed the Council that the NFVF Budget Allocation for 2005/2006 would be R24 609 million. The Council opposed this allocation and declared a state of service delivery crisis until such time that it could be resolved. The Council further resolved to communicate the resolutions that had been adopted to the Minister. The Council also resolved to appeal to the Committee through the Chairperson to mediate between the Department and the NFVF in order to resolve the state of service delivery crisis that was faced by the NFVF as a consequence of the budget allocation.

The basis for the above resolution was the following. At a meeting in March 2005, the NFVF Council had adopted a business plan for the financial year 2005/2006 in compliance with the requirements of the Public Finance Management Act and the Medium Term Expenditure Review of November 2004. The budget allocation for the financial year 2005/2006 had not been informed by the business plan submitted to the Department. The Department had not engaged the NFVF on fund allocation notwithstanding a number of attempts by the NFVF to engage the Department on the proposed business plan.

The grounding principles of the resolutions were the following. It was the fiduciary responsibility of the Council to ensure that the strategy and business plan were adopted. Appropriate resources had been allocated for the implementation of the strategy and business plan. The resources requirements of the NFVF were stipulated in Section 16 of the NFVF Act. Section 16 stated that the NFVF would utilize its funds to defray expenses related to the performance of its functions provided that at least 75% of funds were distributed as grants for the Film and Video industry unless a contrary situation had been approved by the Minister.

It was important to note that the NFVF had already written to the Minister requesting that he allow the institution to go over the 25% limitation for administrative purposes. The Minister had granted this request.

The restructuring of the NFVF should further be guided by the following considerations. The Film and Video Initiative Fund had never been a permanent feature of the NFVF budget allocation. A once off allocation of funds over three years had been made in 2002. By the time this lapsed the NFVF would have submitted a strategic budget to the Minister. The strategic plans had been prepared in good time for the MTEF review and were submitted to the Minister. The current allocation was no longer sufficient to cover the 25% administration requirements needed by the NFVF during the rapid growth phase. It was an administrative requirement that the NFVF and the Department engage one another on the budget allocation. The NFVF had done everything in its power to engage the Department. The Department had not honoured this responsibility.

The NFVF therefore resolved that a state of delivery crisis had occurred. The NFVF Council was no longer in a position to fulfil its statutory obligations. An urgent audience with the Minister was needed in order to correct the situation.

As the NFVF communicated this resolution to the Minister it also issued a statement to the media informing the public that the NFVF was not in a position to consider any further allocations for the rest of the year. This was caused by the fact that the Feature Film Fund had lapsed and the NFVF was R12 million short of what it had had in the previous year.

Lastly, another distressing event happened as the NFVF published its Annual Report. This was regarding the matters of emphasis contained in the Annual Report. The NFVF Audit Committee had engaged with the Auditor General particularly around the matters of emphasis. The NFVF had believed that it and the Auditor General had a common understanding of what was meant by the matters of emphasis. The Auditor General had given the NFVF a clean report which meant that since its establishment the institution had enjoyed an unqualified Audit Report and it was proud of this achievement.

The NFVF was therefore distressed by a letter it had received from the Director General (DG) of Arts and Culture. The NFVF believed that this letter was a total misinterpretation of the law raising the issue of matters of emphasis. In this letter the DG declared that the NFVF had not complied with the PFMA because of the issues of emphasis that were raised. The NFVF disputed what had been written in a letter sent to the DG However, what was most disturbing was that the DG had also imposed sanctions in the form of withholding ten percent of the funds. It was common knowledge that R200 000 of the payment received in October had been withheld. The NFVF had responded to this in the harshest possible way and had said that the DG’s response to the issue of matters of emphasis in the Annual Report had shown that he had not applied his mind to the facts nor given reasonable consideration to the issues. The DG had taken a decision arbitrarily and capriciously.

The Auditor General had given the NFVF an unqualified report and the Auditor General had stated that the matters of emphasis simply needed to be taken note of. It therefore did not warrant sanctions imposed by the DG. Instead of requesting that the NFVF and the DG have a constructive meeting, the DG had rather acted with prejudice against the NFVF and the Film Industry. By withholding funds without proper consideration the DG had disrupted the good work of the NFVF and had sent a negative message of his approach to the Film industry and those institutions involved in this sector. This letter was sent on 4 October 2005 and no response had been received from the DG.

The Chairperson stated that the Committee needed to get the statements that had been made by Mr Vundla and the NFVF Council in order for Members to look at these documents more closely. She argued that it would only be proper for the Committee to hear the side of the Department before it interacted with the statements that had been made by the NFVF. The Department had to at least provide an explanation which the NFVF had also not received. She enquired if any Members had questions regarding the two statements above before questions were asked regarding the NFVF Annual Report.

Mr C Gololo (ANC) also felt that the Committee needed to hear the other side of the story and to then call both the NFVF and the Department to try and resolve the current situation as soon as possible. It was important that the Committee supported the NFVF as it played an important role in the South African Film Industry.

Mr M Sonto (ANC) agreed that the Committee needed to hear the Department’s side of the story. He then asked where the current situation placed the NFVF.

Mr Vundla replied that the current situation the NFVF found itself in was a dire one. This was largely due to the members of Council of the NFVF being outstanding citizens in their own right. These members were leading attorneys, members of the banking community and members of the film industry who had all been asked by the Minister to help develop the Film Industry. These members had accepted this responsibility. These members were now in the course of exercising their duties in evaluating projects and making appropriate grants.

When these duties were compromised by the capricious behaviour of the DG it led to members wondering why they were sitting on this Council as its legitimacy had been decapitated by the behaviour of the DG.

Additionally when looking at a project like Khwega harbour which involved large scale investment, one could see that large consequences occurred when funding for this project was merely stopped by the DG. This gave the idea that South Africa was an unpredictable investment destination.

Mr Vundla had also been approached by his previous entertainment lawyer whom he had last seen in 1981 when he had been living in New York. The lawyer had hoped to re-establish ties with Mr Vundla. However the disturbing fact was that the lawyer had only heard that Mr Vundla was Chairman of the NFVF due to an article that had been appeared in a New York entertainment newspaper that had reported that the South African government had cut back funds to the NFVF.

The damage had therefore spread beyond South Africa’s borders and meant that countries were rejecting South Africa as a filmmaking destination and were rather looking to its competitors such as Brazil, Argentina and Turkey. Therefore the current situation had decapitated the legitimacy of the NFVF.

Mr Mbalo also had two examples that portrayed the effect the situation had on the NFVF. Firstly, in August 2005 the second Film Industry Indaba had been held at Gallagher Estate in Johannesburg with many participants taking part. The Acting DG of Trade and Industry as well as the Deputy DG of the Department of Communications addressed the Indaba. However, not one person from the Department of Arts and Culture attended. Even the Minister of Arts and Culture had flown from Namibia to address the industry at the dinner of the Indaba.

The second example was that the Department continued to fund film projects itself therefore competing with institutions like the NFVF instead of fulfilling its function of overseeing these institutions. The NFVF was launching the National Film and Video Awards this weekend and it had received a call from the Department who had requested information as it wanted to invite the media to the launch. The NFVF were the organisers of the event and they would obviously invite the media. This contest between the NFVF and the Department caused a huge problem with people even approaching the Department directly to receive funding as the NFVF had no resources due to the lack of assistance from the Department.

The NFVF had rather been engaging with the Department of Trade and Industry on its programmes due to this Department establishing a cultural industry. Though the NFVF had obligations to the Department of Arts and Culture this Department also had important obligations to the NFVF. The NFVF did not have access to Cabinet or the Clusters or a number of other institutions. It therefore relied on the Department to represent the NFVF and it had not done so up to this point.

The Department of Trade and Industry had also stated that the Department of Arts and Culture had told it not to sign a service level agreement with the NFVF. The contest between the NFVF and the Department of Arts and Culture meant that ordinary people were being used a pawns which was unacceptable. Parliament should not allow this contest.

Mr Mbalo’s view was that if the Department did not want an institution like the NFVF it should close it down as it was a waste of money to be merely running this institution. The staff complement of the NFVF was severely stretched with people doing two to three jobs at a time due to the 25% limit. Two Senior Mangers had already left and although both of them denied it the NFVF knew that it was because of the low salaries its staff received. Senior Managers of the NFVF were paid less than Directors of the Department. These low salaries made it extremely difficult for the NFVF to compete in the market place in order to acquire skilled people.

However, despite these challenges the NFVF had managed to maintain financial discipline and were therefore proud of its Financial Report despite the matters of emphasis that existed. However, the integrity of the individuals working in the NFVF could not be questioned as many of them had been asked to volunteer their time and effort. Yet the Department continued to compete with the NFVF and tried to undermine everything the institution did.

Mr H Maluleka (ANC) stated that the current situation had been dragging on for quite some time and the Committee had to intervene as soon as possible. He acknowledged that in his statement Mr Mbalo had suggested an urgent audience with the Minister. Had this suggestion been conveyed to the Minister or had a meeting taken place?

Mr Lekgetho (ANC) said that it was urgent that both parties be called to a meeting so the Committee could intervene as soon as possible.

The Chairperson acknowledged that a dire situation existed between the Department and the NFVF. She had attended a MINMEC meeting the previous week and one of the issues discussed was the problem of double-dipping. Mr Mbalo had mentioned this problem as he had discussed the growing competition between the Department and the NFVF. If institutions had been created to deal with certain issues these institutions should be left to deal with them. This came up as a challenge at the meeting and had to be addressed in the future.

The Committee had to resolve to secure a meeting with the NFVF and the Department as soon as possible. There were many questions that needed to be directed to the Department and could obviously not be directed as the Department was not present at the meeting. However, their side of the story was needed in order for the Committee to make an assessment of the situation. The one aspect the Chairperson could not understand was the basis on which the Department accused the NFVF of non-compliance with the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) if an unqualified Audit Report had been issued.

This would have to be an extraordinary meeting as the Committee only had two more meetings on its agenda before it adjourned for the year. The Committee needed to write to the Minister and the NFVF in order for both parties to give alternate dates so that one could be decided on that was suitable for the Department, the NFVF and the Committee to meet. In the meantime the Chairperson requested that the Committee receive the statements made by the NFVF in order to become more acquainted with the position of the NFVF.

She then requested that Members pose questions regarding the Annual Report of the NFVF. She acknowledged that Mr Mbalo had mentioned the service level agreement in his statement. The Annual Report had also mentioned that the service level agreement should have been finalised in March 2005.
Had there been any movement by the NFVF to try to draft this agreement as it appeared to not exist?

Mr Mbalo responded that the NFVF had given the Department a draft of the service level agreement more than a year ago. There had been no response or movement after this point. This service level agreement was critical. Another factor that was also outstanding was the regulations that governed the NFVF as only the NFVF Act was in existence. It was the NFVF’s understanding that the Department was required to come up with these regulations together with the NFVF Council. This had not occurred.

The Chairperson asked what the NFVF’s staff complement was at the present moment.

Ms K Son (Chief Financial Officer) answered that the institution’s current staff compliment was fifteen.

Mr Mbalo added that he was proud to say that 80% of the staff compliment was women.

The Chairperson enquired whether the NFVF wanted to highlight any issues from the Annual Report it felt should warrant the Committee’s attention.

Mr Mbalo responded that firstly, the NFVF sought that the Cabinet adopt the Charter it had drafted as a program for the development of film in the country. During the Indaba in 2005 the film industry had endorsed this Charter; therefore all that was needed was for the Government to adopt the Charter as the program for the industry. The reason for this was the NFVF believed that the Charter would begin to inform other government departments and the provinces to work towards one program. A the present moment the Department of Trade and Industry was doing its own thing while the National Lottery Fund was not being guided by any national strategy.

The NFVF believed that the Charter would become the main program and would galvanise all parties to work together. The institution was keen to be placed at the centre of this program as it was the only institution established by Parliament to develop the film industry in the country. The NFVF had to be at the centre of this development. The Department of Communications in the fields relating to broadcasting had made an impact. The Department of Trade and Industry, and local and provincial government all had an impact on the work of the NFVF. The NFVF had therefore started government protocol and inter-governmental relations that said that all parties should be working together. There had to be an integrated approach to service delivery.

The NFVF believed it was in the centre between the state and society and it hoped that this position would be asserted in the future. Only Parliament would be able to assert this position and it was why regulations like the Charter became important as it meant that activities could be regulated around the country as film festivals and training programs had been springing up all over the place.

The issue of the National Film School had still not been addressed. The NFVF had enquired about the progress of the National Film School in its last meeting with the Department. The Department had allocated money for this School; however this money had not been given to the NFVF to begin the process as agreed in the past between the Department and the NFVF. The development of the National Film School had therefore been held back by the Department. Mr Mbalo felt that the above situation was criminal as there were continuous discussions about capacity and new entrances yet no training had occurred.

At the current moment the NFVF had 74 students at film schools around the world. The NFVF had also been in London two weeks ago to open a cinema at the South African High Commission. At the same time the NFVF had launched a scholarship fund in the United Kingdom. This fund was named after Trevor Jones, a South African who had excelled in music composition for films. This fund would enable previously disadvantaged students to study at a Masters level at the National Film and Television School in the United Kingdom. The London Film School had approached the NFVF as it hoped to launch a similar program.

The NFVF had been unable to create scholarship funds in America and the United Kingdom due to the high cost of living in these areas. However one could see above that scholarship funds had been created in partnership with other universities so that money was raised in these countries to cover the living costs. The NFVF still tried to pay for the flights and part of the study fees.

The British television channel, Channel Four had also invited the NFVF to share its experiences on how it has used digital technology to make films as it was the reason why so many films had been made. Different international countries and groups had been approaching the NFVF as they wanted to learn from the institution. The NFVF was therefore making inroads worldwide. However the situation in South Africa had been backtracking due to the contest between the Department and the NFVF.

The NFVF had also established a relationship with the University of Southern California who would aid the institution in acquiring new digital technology. The NFVF’s strategy was that after the World Cup it planned to set up facilities in the rural areas and townships to showcase its work. This would be possible due to the existence of new technology as at the moment the main impediment to broadcasting of film in the townships was the high cost of print and the transportation to the rural communities and townships. This was not an issue with the new digital technology as a simple press of a button meant a movie would start at the same time countrywide. The University of Southern California had said it would assist the NFVF which meant it would have access to this technology. At the present movement the South African film "Forgiveness" was being reworked at the University of Southern California. Once this process had been completed it would be the first film ever done in this new technology.

The NFVF felt it had to be proactive due to the many opportunities discussed above. It had hoped to take advantage of the Extended Public Works Program workshops. However, the first workshop was a waste of the institution’s time but had given the impression that there were many billions in government funding that could be allocated to projects. The NFVF had therefore worked on a number of projects which it then presented at the second workshop only to find out that there was no money available.

This was the current state of affairs. The NFVF had created a number of opportunities for itself and the South African Film Industry worldwide. However, as mentioned above the issue of the National Film School was critical. The establishment of the National Film School was stated in the NFVF Act and this Act had been operating for five years already. The Act stated that the NFVF had to work in partnership with both the Departments of Arts and Culture and Trade and Industry in advising government on the establishment of the film school.

The NFVF had signed a number of co-production treaties with countries like Germany, Italy and Canada. The NFVF had taken the responsibility of managing these treaties and funds had been allocated to do so. This added extra strain on the NFVF.

The Chairperson after listening to the issues that had been raised wondered if the Minister and Deputy Minister were aware of some of these issues. Had the NFVF taken the opportunity to communicate these matters to the Minister and the Deputy Minister?

Mr Vundla affirmed that the NFVF had communicated these problems to the Minister. It had written to the Minister a number of times. Most recently the NFVF had met with the Minister while opening the cinema at the South African High Commission in London and had talked about the problems it was facing.

The NFVF along with the Department of Trade and Industry and other institutions had the opportunity for South Africa to really be competitive in the international film industry. South Africa could compete with a number of countries and legislation had been put in place by government such as the NFVF Act to do this. The NFVF should therefore just be able to get on with the job that had been given to them. This job was making more films and developing the country’s people through training and work as there was a great deal of talent in South Africa. It was extremely upsetting that the NFVF had to approach the Committee as games were being played by other parties.

Mr G Lekgetho (ANC) highlighted the fact that the NFVF had said it had a staff compliment of 15 people with 80% of them being women. However, its Annual Report stated that it had a staff compliment of 17 people. What had happened to the other two staff members?

Ms Son responded that two of the staff members had left to pursue other interests within the film industry. It highlighted the challenges the NFVF faced which Mr Mbalo had already mentioned. It was extremely difficult to retain skilled people when one had limited resources and capacity to do so.

Mr Mbalo invited Members to the launch of the National Film and Television awards. This award ceremony was planned for April 2006 and would be the first of its kind in the country. The Sithengi Film and Video Festival and the Cape Town International Film Festival would run from 11 to 20 November. Members could approach the NFVF if they wished to gain special entry to any of the events occurring during these festivals.

Lastly, the NFVF also felt that the Committee had to intervene in the National Lottery. Around R400 million was lying in the National Lottery Fund and had not been distributed; yet many institutions were struggling to survive. The Act that governed the National Lottery stated that the Ministers of Arts and Culture and Trade and Industry had to determine how Lottery funds would be allocated. This had not occurred. However, after discussions with the Minister of Trade and Industry he seemed very keen to begin allocating these funds.

The Chairperson thanked the NFVF for the invitations and was certain that Members would make appearances if their schedules allowed them to do so. The names of Members who wished to attend these events would be forwarded to the NFVF by the Committee Clerk. She also thanked the NFVF for bringing some of these issues to the Committee’s attention. She hoped that the Committee would intervene so that the problems could be solved but no promises could be made. However, a meeting would be called with all three parties so that some of these problems could be dealt with. As already mentioned this would be an extraordinary meeting; therefore Members would be counted on to actually attend this meeting.

Briefing by the National Museum of Bloemfontein
Mr Nuttall briefed the Committee on the Annual Report of the National Museum of Bloemfontein and its Annual Financial Statements for the year ending 31 March 2005. The mission of the National Museum was to provide heritage sources and an enjoyable experience to all people through quality research, conservation, education and exhibitions. It was a diverse institution as it focused on natural sciences, human sciences and the fine arts and had a number of satellite museums and research stations including the Oliewenhuis Art Museum to fulfil its mission. A worrying factor was the inappropriate storage accommodation for a number of the Museum’s collections which were leased through the Department of Public Works.

The Museum had been involved in a number of activities during the previous financial year. These included collection and conservation, research and education and public programmes. One of the main public programmes was the Guinness World Record Attempt for the largest "Finger Painting" which had involved the entire community and had raised money for HIV/AIDS education. Special Projects included Macufe 2004, the Sculpture Park Project, temporary exhibitions and marketing and fund-raising activities. The Museum had also established an audio tour of the Museum for visually-impaired visitors and this was available in English, Afrikaans and Sesotho. The National Museum had a staff compliment of 107 people; however funding constraints meant that it was extremely difficult to provide competitive salaries. It was also a challenge to identify and employ people with the necessary skills needed for the Museum’s specialized employment fields.

The National Museum’s audit report was unqualified; however the audit of the computer environment had revealed certain internal control weaknesses relating to the information technology system. The total funds received by the National Museum amounted to R17, 793 million while the total income generated was R972 000. The Museum’s operating expenditure totalled R15, 326 million while its capital expenditure totalled R684 000. The Museum had received a total of 181 928 visitors during the 2004/2005 financial year.

The Chairperson stated that the audio tour the National Museum had planned was an interesting idea. She asked if the National Museum had interacted with any other Museums around the country to share this innovative idea so that they could also start these audio tours. Secondly, she noted that many members of disadvantaged communities visited the Museum. However, were there any plans to take the Museum to members of the outside communities as many of these communities were not able to visit the Museum? She sympathised with the National Museum with regards to their inappropriate storage accommodation for some of their art works. However, she had noted that these facilities were leased through the Department of Public Works. Were there any acceptable norms or conditions that facilities had to abide by due to the precious nature of the cargo being stored? If there were norms or conditions, the facilities would have to be upgraded in order to prevent large amounts of money being lost due to artefacts being destroyed. Had the National Museum approached the Public Works Department regarding the upgrading of facilities?

Mr Nuttall replied that as far as he knew the only other Museum that had audio tours was the Slave Lodge in Cape Town which had created an audio tour in English. Recently, Bloemfontein had hosted the National Conference of the South African Museums Association and the National Museum had introduced its audio concept to all the participants. The audio tour concept was introduced and discussed and participants had the opportunity to take the audio tour home with them. Various heritage sites also used audio tours. However, this was relatively new technology and the National Museum would definitely as part of its marketing strategy continue to promote and publicise the audio tour concept across the country as an opportunity to include new sectors of the community.

The National Museum was in the process of developing a mobile museum by transforming its budget funding. The intention was to spread a diversity of exhibition material to rural areas within the central region of the country. Another aspect that should be mentioned was the idea of an interactive website. Many rural communities were beginning to gain access to the internet due to partnerships with the private sector. This interactive website was part of the Museum’s transformation project and would be the equivalent of a virtual tour of the National Museum thereby providing access to communities who were unable to actually visit the Museum.

With regards to the inappropriate storage of some of the National Museum’s collections, it was not the case with all the collections. There were certain minimum standards that needed to be applied to the storage of collections and these were not being met by some of the storage facilities. This would be one of the major factors in the National Museum’s submission to the Department requesting advice on how to proceed with this matter.

Ms N Mbombo (ANC) asked three questions. Firstly, she also asked if the National Museum had planned to take its work to the people who were unable to visit the Museum. Secondly, was the National Museum doing anything to improve the scarcity of skills and if they were, how were they doing so? Thirdly, were there any community art centres in the Museum’s area which it could use to train people and to gather communities in the same area without incurring great costs?

Mr Nuttall responded that the scarcity of skills was a challenging issue. The National Museum was grateful for the funding provided through the Transformation Budget as it enabled the initiation of mentorship programs and training to try to increase specialised training in the Museum’s fields. The Museum also had a number of projects that had taken off in the current financial year, for example training in the preparation of fossils in its palaeontology department. The Museum currently enjoyed the services of one of the greatest fossil preparators possibly in the world and definitely in South Africa. This preparator was post-retirement and had been employed by the National Museum on a one-year contract basis for the last few years. The idea was to bring in two people who he could mentor before he finally retired. These people would then hopefully play an active role in the Museum.

However, it was difficult to identify and attract people with the necessary skills in a number of other areas. A person had also been appointed on a two-year contract who was doing a Master’s degree in Anthropology. He was coming into direct contact with skilled people and the Museum hoped that a positive skills transfer would occur. He was already proving to be an asset to the National Museum.

A critical aspect that needed to be addressed was the Human Resource capacity of the Museum. Many of its staff members were doing two to three jobs at one time and were therefore extremely stretched. To add a training component to the work of these people who were already stretched to the limit was extremely challenging and was actually impossible to do.

Mr Nuttall was aware of only the Mabana community arts centre in T’Banchu which was not that close to Bloemfontein. He had no knowledge of community art centres closer to the Museum which could be linked to train people from the communities. Workshops were arranged at the Oliewenhuis Arts Museum in which people from the communities were invited to attend and transport was even arranged if it was needed. However, the Museum still had a long way to go in this skills transfer process. For the National Museum as a whole there was also limited application in this process but the Oliewenhuis Art Museum did play an important role in the art community. The Museums had also launched Macufe as part of the Mangaung Cultural Festival and this was in direct consultation with the Mabana art centre and was therefore a step in the right direction.

Mr G Lekegetho (ANC) enquired where the Museum’s 107 staff members were situated. Where were these staff members’ offices? Secondly, the National Museum had stated that money had been raised from the Guinness World Record attempt. How much had been raised and how much of this had been handed to the Life Skills HIV/AIDS Education Organisation. Lastly, how did the Museum intend rectifying its problems regarding the leasing of facilities through the Department of Public Works.

Mr Nuttall answered that the offices of the National Museum were dispersed. The majority of staff members worked in the main National Museum Building in the city centre in Bloemfontein. The Oliewenhuis Art Museum was a few kilometres away and it housed around ten staff members. The Florisbad Quaternary Research station was situated in Soutpan and it employed around twelve people. Most of the assistants that worked at the research station were from the local communities. The research staff commuted to the station and sometimes stayed over. There were a number of other satellite museums that had an extremely small staff component usually only consisting of curator staff or a caretaker. These satellite museums were mostly in the city centre of Bloemfontein.

The amount of money that had been raised through the Guinness World Record attempt was just under R2000, which was not much. The Department of Education had provided the National Museum with R28 000 to organise the project.

Mr Nuttall acknowledged that difficulties had been experienced with the Department of Public Works regarding the leasing of storage facilities. It had been difficult to get the owners of the buildings to make the necessary adjustments that were needed for the preservation of art works. However, the National Museum had been in constant contact with the local Department of Public Works and it was important to highlight that the Museum had a good working relationship with this Department. It was an ongoing process and the Museum’s approach would be from a compliance point of view where it hoped to address these issues.

Mr Lekgetho responded that he was worried that the staff compliment was only situated in the Bloemfontein area as this did not reflect the National Museum. The National Museum should be taken to all the provinces as this would help spread the Museum and for it to be representative of all South Africans.

Mr Nuttall commented that the National Museum had been established in 1877 and it had represented the constituency of the nationalist feeling of the Boer Republic. The name of the Museum was somewhat of a misnomer and it would therefore not be practical to undertake a huge project to move the Museum to the other provinces just because of this name. There are a number of Museums that were regarded as falling within the national ambit and there were those that were regarded as being national as they fell within the Cultural Institutions Act. A number of these Museums were national in nature yet they were only situated in specific provinces. An example was the Northern Flagship Institute based in Gauteng.

Mr M Sonto (ANC) enquired about Mr Nuttall’s comment that it was difficult to find people with specialized skills especially from the previously disadvantaged communities. What was the Museum doing about this problem and what training arrangements was it planning especially around the area of curatorship? Secondly, he noticed that in the Sculpture Park Project a large part of the artists that had been commissioned were from Bloemfontein. However, the institution was a National Museum and therefore should have included more artists from other provinces. Had this been an oversight on the Museum’s part? Lastly, the National Museum’s audio tour was conducted in three of the official languages namely, English, Afrikaans and Sesotho. On what basis did the National Museum decided to use these three languages? Was it based on the language used by the visitors who visited the Museum or on a provincial arrangement? The institution was a National Museum so should actually include all eleven official languages.

Mr Nuttall noted that Mr Sonto’s first question had already been dealt with. Regarding the commissioning of artists in the Sculpture Park Project, the National Museum had gone through a rigorous selection process. A thorough process of advertising the project and requesting commissions had been followed and a shortlist of applications had then been drawn up. A total of 58 artists from around the country sent in applications. There were artists from Bloemfontein but there were also artists from Gauteng and from the Limpopo province which was an indication that the eleven artists that were finally commissioned were in fact from quite a spread around the country. The Museum did have a national focus but it also had a strong central interior focus in terms of research and the projects it was involved in. The Museum’s time was taken up mostly with the management of the work it did in the central interior and with providing a service to the communities situated in this area. It was a challenge to expand this focus more widely.

Mr Clementz (Deputy Director of the Art Museum) commented that the selection panel that chose the artists to be involved in the Sculpture Park Project was also national in nature.

Mr Nuttall stated that the three languages that had been chosen had been based on the National Museum’s visitor profile. The cost implications of adding additional languages to the audio tour would be considerable and would not be justifiable if it were only to include a small minority of individuals who visited the Museum. The funds that were allocated to the development of the audio tour had been limited and the Museum therefore had to decide which languages would be most effective on the basis of its visitor numbers.

Ms D Van der Walt (DA) highlighted that the National Museum had spoken of Venda and Limpopo in its briefing but these now fell in the same province. She complimented the National Museum on the presentation of its Financial Statements as the notes on this Statement were self-explanatory and easy to read. She commented that the storage problems the National Museum faced were of a great concern. Did the Museum in its training programs address the matter of creating a keen career interest amongst the young people who were visiting the Museum as she often heard that there were not many people studying in the Museum direction? Lastly, was the National Museum planning to reattempt the setting of a new Guinness World Record for the largest "Finger Painting" in the future?

Mr Nuttall highlighted that it was important to note that the Oliewenhuis Art Museum had proper climate control facilities and the main National Museum building had also undergone various changes to meet the standards required to exhibit art. The National Museum’s actual exhibition buildings were therefore not a concern in terms of meeting the standards to exhibit pieces of art. The National Museum had also created an underground exhibition space under a reservoir that had had a few water leaks but these had been dealt with. He therefore wished to allay any fears the Committee had as the art within the art museum were extremely well protected and looked after.

With the National Museum’s employment of the new Head of Education, Mr Tebogo, tremendous skills and opportunities had been brought to the Museum. Mr Tebogo had previously been involved in the Mark Shuttleworth Foundation and was a former science educator. The Museum had already in the new financial year been involved in Department of Science and Technology initiatives relating specifically to creating an awareness of the palaeontological heritage South Africa had. The Museum’s approach was to create programs geared specifically towards school children and a large component of these programs concentrated on career guidance. Here information on career opportunities and how to develop careers within this sector was given by the Museum. The staff of the National Museum, particularly the female researchers had also given presentations to visitors on their careers and their own experiences of how they came to be where there were.

It was difficult to try to reattempt the setting of a new Guinness World Record due to the fact that the National Museum had no knowledge of the events that occurred in other parts of the world. When it attempted to set the Guinness World Record, the Museum’s 531.8m/2 would have been enough to break the record. However, in the interim a new record had been set which was over 600 m/2 and the National Museum had not been aware of this event. The National Museum still believed that it had been a wonderful opportunity to develop new partnerships with a range of stakeholders.

Mr C Gololo (ANC) asked if the National Museum charged visitors an entrance fee when they visited the Museum.

Mr Nuttall answered that the main building of the National Museum charged a minimal entrance fee of R5 for adults and R3 for children while the Oliewenhuis Art Museum entrance was free. The Museum also had special entrance rates for school groups where learners were charged R2 and educators were charged R4. However, the Museum would waive entrance fees if it was needed to do so as it was not a major income generator and it would much rather have people coming to the Museum to enjoy the Museum experience than preventing them from doing so if they could not afford the entrance fee.

Ms N Mbombo (ANC) commented that the National Museum had been one of the only Museums not to complain to the Committee about missing Museum objects and theft of objects. Were there any problems surrounding this issue or did the National Museum have proper security facilities? Secondly, the National Museum’s delegation that had briefed the Committee consisted of two young white males. This was not a reflection of the population of the country and she therefore sought clarity on this situation.

Mr Nuttall replied that fortunately theft had not been a problem during the past financial year. There had been a situation in the previous financial year which was currently being investigated. The National Museum had loaned historical farming equipment to the Glen Agricultural Museum which was managed by the Free State Provincial Museum Services. This Museum had experienced major problems with regard to capacity. Permission had been granted to a staff member of the Glen Agricultural Museum to remove scrap metal from the Museum site. However, during this removal it seemed that two implements of the National Museum’s equipment had also been removed and destroyed. The National Museum was awaiting a report on this situation from the Museum Services. Apart from this situation the National Museum had experienced no other losses of its artefacts which it was extremely happy about. It therefore assumed that its security measures were adequate and it had also recently installed close circuit television in the Oliewenhuis Art Museum and hoped to do so in the main National Museum building in the future.

Mr Clementz added that the National Museum had also gone through a process of identifying high risk, market and scientific value items owned by the Museum. The objects that had been identified would be subjected to a full audit annually over and above the usual random audit conducted by the Museum. This would be an added precautionary measure to protect the heritage displayed by the Museum.

The process that had been followed in both the appointment of himself and Mr Clementz had been transparent processes that had tried to identify people with the relevant skills needed by the Museum. In terms of his appointment it was important that the person appointed had Museum experience particularly within the National Museum sphere. Mr Clementz did not have a museum background but had financial, human resources and marketing expertise. Mr Nuttall had tried to manage the National Museum on his own without these skills and there had therefore been a real need to acquire these skills. This post had been advertised nationally and a shortlist had been compiled. >From this shortlist an appointment had been made that was deemed to be the most appropriate for the job.

In terms of taking the Museum forward a new exciting chapter had been embarked on by the staff of the National Museum. There was now a movement away from a highly conservative Museum with predominantly white staff members. However, there would always be a challenge to involve middle management staff in the actual management of the institution and the National Museum was currently in the process of doing so.

The Chairperson asked if women and the disabled had been included in the Museum’s staff compliment of 107.

Mr Nuttall answered that 46% of the 107 staff members were male while 54% were female. Two of the Museum’s staff members were physically challenged. The Museum had the opportunity of employing another physically challenged person a year ago; however this person had turned down the offer to take a job elsewhere. The specialized nature of the work of the Museum meant that the administrative section provided greater opportunities to employ people who were physically challenged. It was much more difficult to find physically challenged people who had the necessary skills needed for the specialized work of the Museum.

Mr M Sonto (ANC) also pointed out that the National Museum had been using the term "handicapped" when the terms "disabled" and "physically challenged" were more appropriate.

The Chairperson concluded the meeting by stating that it was important that every Department began conducting an audit of skills needed in the sphere of work that fell within these Department’s. Once this had been done funds needed to be made available to train young people in these skills. It was vital that this audit of skills be discussed at a national level. The National Museum and the Committee had to take this issue up with the relevant Government Departments.

Mr Nuttall highlighted that a number of training workshops had been run in the past. The Department was therefore aware of the need for skills training and had responded positively. It was important that the steps taken by the Department were acknowledged.

The Chairperson thanked the National Museum for its briefing.

The meeting was adjourned.



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