UNESCO Convention on Protection & Promotion of Diversity of Cultural Expression; Policy & Legislative Review: briefing

Arts and Culture

07 November 2006
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Meeting Summary

A summary of this committee meeting is not yet available.

Meeting report

7 November 2006
Acting Chairperson:
Ms P Tshwete (ANC)

Documents handed out:
Briefing in the UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Culture Expression PowerPoint presentation
Heritage Policy and Legislation Review PowerPoint presentation
The Progress Report Arts and Culture Policy Review PowerPoint presentation
The Progress Report Arts and Culture Policy Review PowerPoint presentation – Executive Summary
Convention on the Protection and Promotion of Diversity of Cultural Expressions
Ratification of the Convention n the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expression - Explanatory Memorandum
Developing Culture, Developing our Nation

The Department of Arts and Culture briefed the Committee on the
UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Culture Expression, which would create conditions where all cultures could flourish and interact freely and to their mutual benefit.  The Department was very eager to be among the first thirty countries to ratify the UNESCO Convention, particularly since South Africa had played a critical role in its development.

The Department of Arts and Culture (DAC) briefed the Committee on the ten-year review and assessment of policies, linked also to the legislative framework. It invited the Members to attend a one-day workshop where the Committee could be briefed by the Department more fully. The briefing included the objectives of the process, the policy issues identified and recommended options. Particular attention was given to the heritage legislation. Questions by members on the Convention included the reasons for and the implications of the United States and Israel’s vote against adoption, the abstaining countries, the binding effect, the definition of cultural goods and services, the time frames and interaction between the Department and other Departments. Numerous comments and questions were made on the issue of indigenous languages and the need to promote them, the National Language Service’s functions, the status of language and sign language. Quality control for handicrafts to be exported, South African films and the funding structure were also addressed. There was a need to get the Local Government Association involved. Further questions examined the composition of the reference group, the White Paper, performance agreements of the CEOs, repatriation of fallen heroes, funding for Freedom Park and the Voortrekker Monument, funding for museums, the correct distancing of Government from interference in the arts, alignment between government and institutional priorities and reporting systems.

Briefing on UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of Diversity of Culture Expression.

Mr Ruphus Matibe, Deputy Director, Department of Arts and Culture, briefed the Committee on the background to the Convention as well as South Africa’s role in its development. He also detailed the aims of the Convention, which included creating conditions whereby all cultures could flourish and interact freely and in a mutually beneficial manner. The Convention required equitable access to cultural expressions as well as the appropriate means and dissemination of such access. Adv Anil Singh, Legal Advisor to the Minister, explained the legal technicalities around the Convention.

Briefing and Progress Report on Arts and Culture Policy Review
Mr Themba Wakashe, Deputy Director General, Department of Arts and Culture (DAC), said that at the ten-year mark all Departments were requested to do a review and assessment of their policies. The matter was discussed in the MinMec of February 2005, which gave Departments the mandate to proceed with the review. It was difficult to undertake a pure policy review without considering also the impact on the legislative framework, and thus it became important to consider an approach that would link the two. The Policy Review Committee was brought into being and consisted of representatives from the national and provincial departments of Arts and Culture.

Prof Itumuleng Mosala, Director General, DAC, had asked that Mr Wakashe invite the Committee to a one-day workshop where the Committee could be briefed by the Department and be given the opportunity also to interact with the Council of Ministers on the policy and legislative review process. A formal invitation would be forwarded shortly. The presentation today could be regarded as an introduction to the process.

Mr Mzukisi Madlavu, Chief Director: Coordination, Department of Arts and Culture then gave a briefing that provided a progress report on the national policy review process undertaken in 2005. It focused on objectives of the policy review process, the policy issues identified during the consultative process, which had involved numerous stakeholders, and the recommended policy and legislative options.

Briefing on Heritage Policy and Legislation Review
Mr Wakashe said that issues related to heritage consumed eighteen pieces of legislation. The presentation would focus mainly on heritage since that was where much of the legislative work would be done. The Department would be considering some Acts for the first time.

Mr Mazima Makubela, Director: Heritage Legislation, DAC provided the Committee with a background to the review, placed the Department’s legislation development in context and explained why a policy and legislation review was needed. Mr Makubela also detailed the process that had been made so far and said that draft amendments were expected to be complete by March 2007.

Ms D van der Walt (DA) wondered why the Department had taken so long before it approached the Committee for approval of the Convention.

Mr Matibe explained that other processes had been underway. The Convention had been with the State Law Advisor and the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), who had considered the legal implications of ratification by South Africa.  The Department had been waiting on the DFA to indicate that it was now ready to bring before Parliament.

Ms van der Walt and Ms Tshwete wondered why the United States of America and Israel voted against the adoption of the Convention

Mr Matibe said that the main implication of the ratification of the Convention would relate to a country’s economy and cultural industry measured worldwide. There would be fair, balanced trade relations, where each country’s cultural goods would be able to compete globally. Lack of resources and lack of capacity were two of the challenges that currently made it difficult for South Africa’s cultural goods to compete internationally. The Convention would unlock the resources for capacity building and quality assurance that would assist in having African products competing globally. He did not think that Israel had any particular objection but that they were merely “following what the master was saying”.

Adv Singh added that self-interest played an important role in the USA and Israel’s stance. Globally the Hollywood film industry exerted an overwhelming influence. The USA was not always in line with UNESCO. It had argued, when the Convention was introduced, that the Convention posed a threat to trade. USA was not ready to accept the Convention and wanted to stall it for a couple more years. The bottom line was that everyone realised that many countries did not have the ability to bombard American market with their television programmes in the same way that they would do into the developing world.  Adv Singh felt that the Convention was aimed a striking a balance.

Ms Ramodibe wondered what implications would arise from a refusal to sign by Israel and USA.

Adv Singh said that the USA had never had any intention of ratifying the Convention and they would not be bound to it. The USA’s agenda was contrary to the developing countries’ agenda. When the proceedings were underway at UNESCO the USA said that ratification would have serious negative implications for World Trade Organisation (WTO) negotiations. The USA had a long history of refusing to ratify many Conventions. The fact was that there were 30 other countries who ratified and thus demonstrated their support for the Convention. South Africa had played a leading role in the drafting and the development of the Convention.  Prof Kader Asmal, MP, had said that the Convention had the potential to be an African Convention that would have many benefits for Africa and the rest of the developing world.

Ms van der Walt asked which countries had abstained from voting when the Convention was adopted.

Mr Matibe informed her that Argentina, New Zealand, Australia and Guinea had abstained from voting.

Ms van der Walt requested that in future presentations the Department should take care to include explanations of the various abbreviations and acronyms it used. Not many members were familiar with the language used.

Mr M Sonto (ANC) wondered how binding the Convention was on member countries. Considering that contributions by member countries were voluntary he wondered how the coordinating structure of UNESCO would assess their commitment.

The Acting Chairperson agreed that if contributions remained voluntarily countries might never commit themselves.

Adv Singh felt that the coordinating structure would basically mean that those countries that had made the voluntary contributions would demonstrate a greater commitment. Generally contributions to UNESCO activities were limited in their scope and commitment. It was not possible to demand that countries make voluntary contributions because it was difficult to determine how cultural goods and services contributed to the gross domestic product. Greater contributions were encouraged from countries wherever possible. 

Mr Matibe added that the decision for voluntary contributions was taken after half a day of negotiations on how the instrument would be funded. It was difficult to demand that countries should contribute a percentage of the cultural industry’s contribution to culture within their own countries because the industry had to sustain itself as well. Funding of the arts in South Africa was a challenge and they could be assessed based on what they contributed, or on seed funding. awarded.  Mr Matibe added that if a compulsory amount had been requested progress would not have been made. Contributions must be voluntary, based on willingness and the important of the Convention to member states. The European Union had already indicated that they would ratify the Convention. South Africa then would definitely not fall within the first 30 ratifiers of the Convention.

A Member noted that there were 148 votes in favour of the Convention yet only 17 countries had so far ratified it. He wondered what methods were being used to pursue other countries so that they could also ratify.

Adv Singh explained that history showed that UNESCO was not eager to insist on compulsory contributions, and the voluntary contributions were a compromise. UNESCO was a voluntary organisation and political will would be demonstrated by member governments insisting that their countries made a contribution.

Mr Sonto sought clarity on ‘cultural goods and services’.

Adv Singh explained that the creative industry was sometimes referred to as the ‘cultural industry’ and included such diverse aspects as craft, music, film, and publications. ‘Cultural industry’ was thus an all inclusive term. Cultural goods had commercial value and were also an intrinsic part of national identities especially those of vulnerable groups.

The Acting Chairperson requested the Department to explain what was meant by the statement that ‘instruments shall be deposited with the Director General of UNESCO’.

Adv Singh explained that each country would have to produce a legal document containing its commitment to the ratification, which would then be submitted to the Director General of UNESCO.

A member wondered within what time period countries had to ratify the Convention.

Mr Matibe responded that there were no specified time frames within which countries or member states had to ratify the Convention. Processes of participation varied from country to country. South Africa’s public participation processes were very rigorous. A country could show its commitment to the Convention by being one of the first to ratify it.

Ms D Ramodibe (ANC) wondered whether the Department had interacted with other Government departments such as the Department of Trade and Industry (dti).

Mr Matibe confirmed that there had been a series of consultations with other Government departments including the dti.

The Acting Chairperson asked if the Department had embarked on any outreach programmes that would assist ordinary South Africans in understanding the aims of the Convention.

Mr Matibe responded that although the recently held conference had dealt more with Africa and the Diaspora it had made a recommendation that governments should make the Convention understood by the people. The outcome of this conference would be published soon. The Department would be calling a number of inter-governmental and public meetings so that people could understand the Convention and contribute to it.

Ms N Mbombo (ANC) thanked the Department for being so visible. She wondered how the Department proposed to address concerns around the many languages and cultures that were being marginalised.

The Acting Chairperson informed the Department that the Committee had recently been briefed by the Pan South African Language Board (PanSALB). One of the issues they had highlighted related to funding. They had requested the Committee to intervene and highlighted that there were no policies that protected languages. They relied on the MEC’s to come up with language policies. If languages did not feature on an MEC’s agenda the issue was largely ignored, so that there was no one tool to ensure multilingualism.

Mr Themba Wakashe informed the Committee that the Director General, Prof Itumeleng Mosala had been unable to attend this morning’s meeting because he was currently attending a meeting with the Deputy President on cultural industries. He said that the question of how to promote and protect African languages was vast. Some claimed that African languages had no economic value and some people felt that English, rather than African languages, would promote their children’s opportunities and development. He reminded members that one need only look at Afrikaans to see how a language could be nurtured and promoted. It had been vigorously developed and now had full capacity as a business and legal language. Development of other African languages could follow this example.

Mr Wakashe said that even universities said that the enrolment for study in African languages was declining. They ascribed this decline to lack of funding. While he did not deny the importance of funding, Mr Wakashe felt that funding should not be the only solution. Universities failed to leverage the technologies at their disposal to promote languages, such as computers and languages. Greater insight was needed as to how to unlock the value of these languages.
Mr Wakashe did not think that there were languages that made communication with the world impossible. The Japanese managed to communicate and have world trade, exposing their own culture at the same time.  It was necessary to come up with a new framework for how to do business in South Africa, using an understanding of ubuntu as a starting point.

The attitudes towards African languages also needed to be addressed. If there was no personal sense of value of one’s own languages and heritage it was impossible to expect that others should accord that value. He cited a young family relative who, although living in Gugulethu and speaking impeccable isiXhosa, could neither read nor write in his mother tongue. The challenges needed to be met at community level. There had to be a national conversation about what was meant by multiculturalism and a multilingual society, and how it could be realised and promoted.
Questions around resources would always exist at national or provincial level, and the approach to the challenges would be key to resolving issues.

The Acting Chairperson understood the dilemna of language as her own children had grown up in exile. They too spoke Xhosa at home with their parents, but were not taught to read or write it. She felt that the Department had a role to play in this regard.

Mr Sonto said that, either by accident or design, language was not mentioned as one of the cultural activities that would obtain recognition through the Convention. Every country in Southern Africa spoke one or other European language. He wondered when African countries would start regretting what they were doing to themselves and begin promoting their own languages. He agreed that the kind of rigour by which Afrikaans was developed should be used for other indigenous languages. He felt that the Departments and the lawmakers must address this matter. A firm stance was needed and projects must be developed to ensure that language matters were taken forward. 

Mr K Khumalo (ANC) felt that the development and promotion process to keep languages alive had to start with legislators and Departments, who had to express themselves in their own languages.

The Acting Chairperson pointed out that in the whole of the Eastern Cape there was only one sign language school. Very few programmes on television catered for hearing impaired persons.

Dr Nomso Mgijima ,Chief Director: National Language Service, DAC said that PanSALB had set up a national language body focussing on the development of South African sign language, which had been neglected in the past.  Very few institutions of higher education offered these studies and there were very few competent teachers in the field. She said that there were a number of special schools in the education sector but slow progress remained a concern. The University of the Free Sate was one of the leading institutions for research and development work in sign language. It was not a universal language and language research and development centres for each African language would be necessary. The Department was working with the University.

Ms van der Walt noted that although handicraft in South Africa was of excellent quality, there was some concern about quality controls, especially in the rural areas. People were not using the best materials for their crafts and would, for instance, lose customers if they used wood species that attracted bugs. She wondered what the Department could do to educate these very talented people on the best materials for their products, as many were losing out on the inclusion of their cultural goods due to lack of knowledge, certainly not to lack of talent.

Mr Matibe agreed that if South Africa wanted to compete globally issues of quality control would be critical. The Department did have programmes in place that tried to address these issues. These were linked to training opportunities, information on which materials were available and which could not be exported, and dialogue with communities and crafters on quality assurance.

He said that South African crafters were also represented at an Africa-Caribbean Forum in Santo Domingo. The goods were sold even before the stalls had been set up and the quality was superb owing to the interventions the Department had already put in place. By the time the Convention was ratified South Africa would be ready to exhibit and compete globally. Many of these interventions were done in partnership with MAPPSETA, the sector education and training authority for arts and culture.

Ms Mbombo remembered that at some stage there was mention that a local bead factory was to be set up but South Africa still bought its beads overseas at great cost. The Committee had visited Mozambique and saw the beautiful goods made with assistance from the Mozambique government. She felt that South Africa should be doing more for its people. She feared that foreign sales would predominate in 2010 if South Africa had nothing to show.

Mr Khumalo said that on DSTV’s channel 102 there was a programme that showcased films from West Africa. He wondered when South Africa would get to the point where it was showcasing its works en masse on television. He proposed that more funds be pumped into the National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF) so that they could produce more local films.

Mr Matibe said that one of the challenges the Convention would seek to address related to the flood of foreign products. Nigeria and India would be among the signatories. The Convention would minimise foreign imports and strike a balance for local and foreign products. He said that this not only impacted on the film industry but also on crafts, music, languages and food.

Mr Wakashe said that this point went to the core of the structure of funding. The cultural industry was one of the cost cutting areas. The NFVF received its allocation from the Department of Arts and Culture in order for it to promote the South African Film Industry. The budget was increased by R9 million in this financial year. However, the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) also played a critical role because it commissioned the products. The Department was out of that particular loop. At a recent meeting on matters related to the Accelerated and Shared Growth Initiative for South Africa (ASGISA), creative industries were identified as one of the critical areas for intervention. The creative industry was spread across arts and culture, communication, trade and industry and other players, including the private sector. The challenge was to map out the infrastructure of the funding for the creative industry so that everyone could begin to understand what they were dealing with. He added that it would be interesting to see what the attitude towards African content would be once countries started talking about cultural diversity as envisaged in the Convention.

Ms Ramodibe felt that there must be continued work between all spheres of Government. She asked what the DAC would do to ensure that the South African Local Government Association (SALGA) was also involved in the process, since much implementation took place at local government level.

Mr Sonto said that the whole process presented a golden opportunity to address all the matters of concern. It would be erroneous not to address complaints. If the White Paper from the National Assembly had not adequately instructed local governments what needed to be done, that was a challenge. Local government was closet to the people and was the place where all the rhetoric discussed at national level should be actioned. All spheres of government should all be involved. He felt that Schedules 4 and 5 of the Constitution were also pointers to areas of concerns. He urged the Department not to exclude stakeholders from the process. Seemingly SALGA had not been included in some of the discussions and they clearly needed to be involved.

Mr Wakashe fully agreed. One of the ongoing challenges the Department faced was that there did not appear to be a broad national understanding of the role of arts and culture in South Africa. In some cases the Department was seen as the “banqueting arm” of Government. Although it might be involved in some such activities, it was certainly not defined by them. He agreed that when the review was undertaken there should be conversation around the nature and the role of arts and culture in the society. There had not previously been broad discussion around the role of arts and culture in social cohesion, in nation building and in fostering national identity. There had been no investigation into what influences moulded a South African. These questions should be addressed by the outcomes of the policy review. South Africa had not managed to unlock the economic potential of the sector. The whole world complained about the huge impact American content had on their cultural industries.

Mr Wakashe noted that the White Paper, in the context of 1994, was quite inward looking as it had not considered what role culture played in South African diplomacy, or African Renaissance. The last ten years had, to a large extent, focussed on funding. It was now time to look at alignments between the Department and broader government imperatives such as economic development and social cohesion.

Mr Madlavu said that his colleagues had reminded that him that the Department had finally had discussions with SALGA, whose absence had not been intentional.

Ms Ramodibe wondered what the Department would do to ensure that council board members were in line with the budgeting and reporting cycle.

Mr Wakashe explained that the matter was being addressed through the new appointments to the boards, who would take office in the new financial year. The boards’ three year term was now finally linked to the Department’s medium term expenditure framework. The system of reporting would now coincide with the budgeting framework.

Ms Ramodibe asked who comprised the reference group that provided strategic support to the Department on the policy and legislative review.

Mr Vusi Ndima, Chief Director: Heritage, DAC said that the Department wanted to guard against making the policy review into a “bureaucratic affair”. The DAC wanted to include experts from outside. The reference group that Minister Jordan had constituted included the Chairperson of the Commission for Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Rights, who would be able to give the DAC a broad view of cultural, religious and heritage issues. It also included representatives from the Office of the Status of Women in the Presidency, to ensure that gender issues were addressed. The Youth Commission had also been brought on board. Other independent experts included Prof Oliphant from the University of South Africa (UNISA) and three provincial representatives. They would play a critical role in the crafting of the White Paper. The Department felt it important to include their institutional memory as they grappled with the new issues.

Mr Khumalo wondered what processes were followed for the performance agreements of CEO’s and Council members.

Mr Wakashe explained that the CEOs handled performance agreements with the boards. He said that the Department wanted the institutions to negotiate key performance areas within themselves. Hopefully those would then be translated into the performance agreements with the CEOs. This would at least provide for alignment in terms of delivery.

Mr Khumalo wondered who was responsible for the repatriation of heroes who had died overseas.

Mr Wakashe said that Minister Pallo Jordan had contacted political parties requesting them to delegate persons to look into the framework for the repatriation of the fallen heroes. He had not yet been able to convene a meeting due to different views and sensitivities on this matter.

A member said that the Committee had visited Freedom Park in Pretoria, which was busy with a major project but needed funding. He asked if DAC would be able to assist.

Mr Wakashe responded that the Department was looking in to the funding of Freedom Park, who had notified the Department that they were facing a possible shortfall. The Department had not been able to fund them in the current financial year. It had however approached National Treasury and the Medium Term Expenditure Committee. The reality was that there were limited resources. 

Mr Sonto wondered whether the Department could extend its funding of the Voortrekker Monument.

Mr Wakashe said that the Department had funded the Voortrekker monument this year. In addition to the normal allocation they received, the Department also gave funding from their transformation budget so that they could upgrade their infrastructure. He added that Voortrekker Monument also did a lot of its own fundraising. He added that museums in particular were over- reliant on funding from the Government, especially in comparison with other countries’ institutions. The policy review would, amongst others, be looking at patenting the research that these institutions were involved in. Although these institutions might be under performing they were national assets whose potential needed to be unlocked.

Mr Sonto wondered whether the Department had come across any hurdles during their review process and whether they had experienced any opposition from entities or other structures. He was concerned that distance between the policy making arm and other structures of the Department might lead to animosity.

Mr Wakashe said that much policy debate occurred over the correct distancing of Government and arts bodies. During the Apartheid era, Arts and Culture was used to divide and in some cases suppressed a great deal of culture. Currently there was concern that there should be no political interference in artistic content. However, as this notion was developed, the principle of lack of interference was even stretched to issues of accountability and the State was eventually used as a pure funding source.  The area of accountability needed to be reinforced. Mr Wakashe was most surprised when the National Arts Council had used its allocation, intended to promotion of arts and culture, to challenge the Minister in a High Court action. This, for him, represented the height of absurdity. Those speaking of democratic rights must remember that they also had democratic responsibilities.

Secondly, issues of non-alignment between government and institutional priorities also needed to be addressed. The R1,2 billion budget the Department had received was an investment in South African culture to ensure intellectual health. Reporting systems needed to be addressed. Mr Wakashe said that the Department could provide valuable indicators of the health of the nation. 

Ms van der Walt commented that South Africans had to become as patriotic as Americans. She felt that everyone in the Department should be aware of its mission and vision. She felt that a policy review might be necessary for all disciplines.
She commented that workshops on budgeting would not reach all people if they were not adequately planned and costed.

The Acting Chairperson wondered whether the difficulties that Mr Wakashe had alluded to related to the Department’s reporting to the Committee or the Department’s reporting to the people.

Mr Wakashe said that he was referring to reporting within the Department’s institutions. By the time the annual report was released this was done as a matter of formality, with no real interaction taking place. The reporting systems for strategic planning and annual reporting should interact and the mere formality of the annual reporting was not achieving much.

Mr Sonto agreed with Mr Wakashe that there could be no proper measurement of progress without a report on Departments’ strategic objectives.

Ms van der Walt said that the Committee would be very involved in the amendments proposed.
She wondered what progress the Department had been able to make on transferring the Castle of Good Hope to their portfolio, where she believed it belonged. She felt that the Department should make a committed effort to achieve this.

Mr Wakashe said that movement on this had been slow but the process for transferral from the Department of Defence to the Department of Arts and Culture was in place.

Ms van der Walt complained that the Department spent too much money on rendering a translation service. Much of this money could have been spent in other areas. She hoped that the Department would come up with a clear cut policy in this regard.

Dr Mgijima said that the Department was looking at the function of the National Language Service and was aware that the rendering of translation and editing services to Government probably did not sit appropriately with the national department, which should be involved primarily in issues of policy. It was proposed that a National Translation and Editing Agency be brought into being. Initially the Department would support it with seed funding. Possibilities for resourcing included an agency with inbuilt mechanisms for raising funds, such as charging for its services. This proposal had been discussed and put to National Treasury but unfortunately the Department did not have the resources to start the process in this financial year. She said that a number of countries, including Thailand and Canada, had such agencies and there was ample evidence that they were able to generate funding and employment.

Dr Mgijima said that language as a profession did not really carry much value in South African society. Internationally it was possible for other countries to make money from their languages, and she urged members to consider the potential funding in, for instance, demanding that multinationals use indigenous languages in their packaging.

The Acting Chairperson noted that the Committee had not been represented at the recent renaming of the International Airport in Johannesburg, and urged the Department to keep the Committee informed of the many events they held across the country. She believed that the proposed workshop between the Committee and the Department was a very good idea. 

Mr Wakashe said that the Director General had thought that it would be desirable if the Committee could meet with the MECs before the February MinMec so that there would have been some broader political consultation. This would also be an opportunity for the Committee to receive detailed briefings on the legislative framework and policy review. The workshop would probably be early in 2007.
The meeting was adjourned.



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