Department 2007/08 Budget: briefing & Pan South African Language Board; UNESCO Convention on Safeguarding of Intangible Heritage

Arts and Culture

13 March 2007
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Meeting Summary

A summary of this committee meeting is not yet available.

Meeting report

13 March 2007

Ms P Tshwete (ANC)

Documents handed out:
Budget Vote 13: Arts and Culture for 2007/08 presentation
Budget Vote 13: Arts and Culture for 2007/08
Pan South African Language Board (oral presentation)
UNESCO Convention on Safeguarding of Intangible Heritage (oral presentation)

Audio recording of the meeting

The Pan South African Language Board gave an overview on the current status of the board including highlights and challenges facing it. Among the latter were high staff turnover, low staff morale and a lack of funding, which were affecting some of the programmes. The highlights included the appointment of a new Chief Executive Officer, who assumed office the previous week, successful implementation of a school literacy programme and a university programme for chemistry to be taught in isipedi and isiZulu, and the publication of an isiZulu dictionary. An audit had also been carried out on the board to assess its needs. It stated that there was a need to access partners to promote multilingualism, particularly in the private sector but this was difficult as English dominated in the corporate environment.

The Department of Arts and Culture presented its budget for the 2007/08 financial year. It also outlined changes to the structure of the Department, and the proposals to promote arts and culture for the 2010 World Cup and its success in meeting transformation programmes.

The Department was not aware that it would be presenting on the ratification of the UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage, but gave an informal presentation. South African has not ratified the convention, despite the fact that it was instrumental in its drafting. The Department had consulted with the Department of Justice and State Law Advisors and there were no hindrances to ratification from a legal point of view.

Members raised concerns about the role of the language board; that it had not been converted into a Chapter 9 institution; that staff morale was low and that there was a high staff turnover rate. The Committee felt it was difficult to approve additional funding until the internal problems were solved. It also asked questions about bursaries for tertiary education in traditional languages, budget allocations for the implementation of legislation, the difference between national and community libraries, plans for the World Cup, the difference in the roles of the National Languages Services and the language board and why the Department was still financing entities that appeared to be in the red.

Pan South African Language Board (PANSALB) Presentation
Mr Edward Sambo (Senior Legal Advisor) gave an overview of the board’s challenges and performance. The board was not a Chapter 9 institution in terms of the Constitution. It had been appointed for a period of five years, which came to an end in 2007. The challenges included the high staff turnover, but steps were being taken to rectify this, one of which was that a new Chief Executive Officer (CEO) had taken office recently. In terms of administrative work the board was working well, but a request would be made to the National Treasury for additional funds as funding shortages affected some of the programmes. Financial constraints were restricting the board’s ability to language complaints to court.

Ms Ntombenhle Nkosi (CEO) started her presentation in isiZulu, but was advised by the Chair that translators had not been provided, which put some Members at a disadvantage. She requested the presentation continue in English. The CEO stated that a chief financial officer (CFO) had been appointed, but had resigned in the first month. The organisation was looking into the high staff turn over and why morale was so low. It was not all doom and gloom and the board had implemented several programmes including a school literacy programme in home languages, and an university chemistry instruction programme in isiZulu and isiPedi. An isiZulu dictionary had been completed, but more funding was needed. She gave the example of a request from the Department of Agriculture to provide funding for translators for a convention, which could not be met, as they had insufficient funds.

Mr Sambo stated that the board’s mandate was to promote multilingualism, but it could not do it alone. It had identified partners, but the private sector was a problem as all business was conducted in English or Afrikaans and multilingualism was not promoted. Members of Parliament should be made aware of these inadequacies and a slot given to the board to request Parliament for help. It was unfortunate that multilingualism was not promoted at high levels, such as Parliament. Awareness campaigns were in place, but until people changed their mindset towards mother tongue usage, these would not be enough.

Prof Mohlomi Moleleki (Chairperson) said the organisation had engaged an audit firm, Deloitte and Touche, to conduct an audit on its operations. It was worrying that there had been a decline in language usage complaints and research had to be done on why this was happening. Creating dictionaries were an important part of the board’s role as it allowed access to language.

Department of Arts and Culture Budget 2007/08 Presentation
Prof Itumeleng Mosala (Director General (DG)) explained that the budget proposed was provisional until the Minister presented his budget as allocations could change given the Minister of Finance’s budget speech and shifting priorities. Most of the budget would go to arts councils to manage libraries and art galleries, among other things. The Department’s allocations were measured by the performance of these entities. The Department had more than met its transformation and employment equity requirements. The Department currently had six programmes running, but was understaffed as it only had three departmental offices. A new structure to facilitate this had been signed off by the Minister.

The Chair asked, as time was short, whether the Members wanted to proceed with the presentation on the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) Convention ratification process or ask questions on the budget. The Members could not come to a decision, so the Chair suggested that the presentation should be given and questions asked afterwards.

Ratification of the UNESCO Convention on Intangible Cultural Heritage
Mr Irwin Langeveld (Director: Living Heritage) gave an informal overview on the problems holding up the Convention’s ratification. South Africa was critical of the draft convention although it had been instrumental in its creation. It had been ratified in more than 75 countries, mostly in the developing world where these issues were more important. It was one of the fastest conventions ratified worldwide. South Africa had to go through a consultation process before a final decision was made. It had already received approval from the Department of Justice and State Legal Advisors who stated that they could not see impediments to its implementation. However there was a compulsory consultation process with public interests, which would be addressed at a planned conference at the University of SA (UNISA). After that recommendations would be made to Cabinet.


 Mr B Pule (UCDP) asked why dictionaries covering all languages had not been completed.

Prof Moleleki said that four dictionaries were recently completed, as the other seven had been completed previously.

Mr M Sonto (ANC) said that in terms of Section 181 (2) of the Constitution, PANSALB was accountable to Parliament but it seemed to be underperforming.

Mr R Nogumla (ANC) asked for an organogram of the board. What was being done to fill the vacancies; why had the CFO left after such a short period and what was being done about staff morale?
Mr Sambo replied that an organogram would be forwarded to the Committee. There were 43 filled positions in the organisation and just six vacancies. The CFO position meant a five-year contract, but the appointee wanted a more permanent position, which had been offered by another state entity and had taken it up. The board had decided to offer the position to the second best candidate and the offer had been accepted.

Ms D Van der Walt (DA) commented that the board, after 13 years, was still faced with the same unresolved problems, namely funding. She asked about the muscle the board had in dealing with language complaints as she was aware of a complaint against the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) about sports commentary. Did the board have the capacity to take on a large organisation?

Mr Sambo replied that marginalisation of traditional languages was not unique to South Africa but was a global phenomenon, particularly regarding the international use of English. The use of traditional languages had to be addressed in homes. The board did have a financial problem in taking complaints to court, and rather used a mediation process, which normally proved successful. In terms of the SABC, the board had achieved several successes regarding language usage and in regard to the complaint mentioned by the Member, a meeting with the SABC had been called.

The Chair commented that the board constantly seemed to be changing staff and every time it met with the Committee there was another CEO.

Prof Moleleki replied that there had been only one CEO since 1996 and when that position became vacant, he had acted as CEO until Ms Nkosi’s appointment. In terms of staff morale, the board planned a strategic planning meeting based on the audit, which would also act as a teambuilding exercise. However this could only take place once most of the staff had been appointed. The board had also implemented an employee wellness programme as research had revealed that the high level of absenteeism was a result of stress in having to perform too many functions. The completion of dictionaries was a problem as resources were scarce; in one instance only R7000 had been allocated for dictionary development and this was not even enough to employ a member of staff. The National Lexicography Units (NLU) were scattered throughout the country and although they had to comply with PANSALB requirements, the board could only allocate two junior members of staff to monitor this for financial reasons.

Mr Sonto repeated his question in terms of Section 181 of the Constitution and the board’s accountability. The board had to be accountable to Parliament and the instability within the organisation had to be investigated.

Mr M Matlala (ANC) asked why there was a poor relationship with the private sector.

Mr H Maluleka (ANC) congratulated the CEO on her appointment. He felt there was a contradiction in the board’s report regarding good performance and poor morale. He asked whether the relationship between the members of the board was good. In his opinion the audit by Deloitte and Touche had come too late in relation to staff morale.

Ms D Kohler-Barnard (DA) asked why there was no interest in language and felt the future of the board was on the line.

Mr B Zulu (ANC), in a similar vein, said that translations in the public sphere were generally poor, even to the extent that people had been convicted in court through inaccurate translations. He pointed out that a survey on studying the official languages at universities showed it was declining.

Mr Sambo replied that there had to be a distinction between staff and the board for accountability purposes. In the case of the board it had been appointed by Parliament for a five-year tenure. The previous board had defined how PANSALB operated and in that process the lines between the Office of the CEO and the board had become blurred. The roles had to be clearly defined. The board could not interfere with the private sector, but could offer incentives to promote multilingualism, such as awarding tenders to preferred bidders, who showed a commitment to multilingualism. The growth in global information technology played a role in the dominance of English. In terms of accountability the board had to report to Parliament.

Ms Van der Walt mentioned that at a previous meeting it came to light that PANSALB staff did not have adequate job descriptions.

Mr Zulu said the question on the board’s relationship had not been properly answered. The Committee wanted to know how the individual members related to each other as this often had an impact on staff morale.

Mr Sambo replied the relationship was good.

Mr Nogumla asked if the board offered bursaries to study traditional languages.

Prof Moleleki said the board did not have the resources to offer bursaries, but there was a definite need.

Mr Nogumla asked why more books were not being published in traditional languages.

Ms Nkosi said research had shown that learners wanted to use their home language, but governing bodies determined the language policies of schools. She had this problem with her own children being instructed in their home language. PANSALB did not have the money to improve the quality of translators. This was exactly what happened when the board was approached by the Department of Agriculture. It just could not deliver because of lack of funds.

Prof Moleleki said the board needed the Committee’s intervention in its relationship with the Department of Education as some of their areas of operation seemed to overlap. The Department was also doing language development and the board was seeking legal advice on this overlap.

The Chair said that the discussion needed to be wrapped as the Committee still had to discuss the presentation from the Department of Arts and Culture. She was pleased to see a woman on the board, adding that the Committee was not happy with the answers on the internal problems of PANSALB and if it wanted the Committee to ask additional funds from the Treasury, it had to be satisfied that the board was getting its house in order. She thanked the board for the presentation.

Ms Van der Walt asking where the costs of implementing legislation were reflected in the budget.

The DG replied that this was included in the administrative costs and there was also a small allocation in the heritage budget.

Ms Van der Walt asked how museums were classified and whether the responsibility lay with the Department or the province. She provided an example of the South African Police Services (SAPS) museum in Hout Bay.

Mr Langeveld said he could not be sure about the SAPS museum, but museums were classified on different tiers. The Department was responsible for those institutions recognised as national museums and provinces for others.

Mr Sonto asked why there was a differentiation in the budget for libraries and community libraries.

Mr Langeveld replied that the Department was responsible for national libraries, and the provinces for community libraries.

Mr Sonto said the budget indicated that the Department was planning to employ more staff for the 2010 World Cup.

The DG replied that staffing had never been adequate since the Department had broken away from Science and Technology and it planned a “cascade down” approach to meet the needs for 2010.

Mr Sidney Selepe (Deputy Director-General) explained the Department’s plans for the World Cup. This included an initial phase in the run up to the event, which was already underway, what would take place during the event and the legacy phase, which included what would be done with the resources after the event. The Department had identified 11 pillars promoting arts and culture. Each host city would have a cultural village, which visitors could explore when games were not being played.

Ms Van der Walt said it was important that the villages where truly representative of all sectors of South African culture and not just focused on one part. If this was not done, the country could look foolish in the global community.

Mr Sonto asked for a definition of the roles of the NLS and PANSALB, as, the way he understood it, NLS was responsible for planning and development and PANSALB for monitoring.

Mr J Maake (ANC) asked a similar question relating to the allocation to the different bodies and who was responsible for what.

Mr Nogumla asked why PANSALB did not offer bursaries.

Dr N Ngijima (Chief Director: NLS) discussed the mandates of such bodies under the Constitution. They had been created as an interim measure to protect cultural rights while the Constitution was being developed, and as such time as deemed appropriate these would be converted to Chapter 9 institutions. At present PANSALB fell under the auspices of the Department, but language rights were a matter of state. A debate was needed on the roles of the various bodies including the Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Rights Commission (CRL). On language bursaries, the Deputy President launched a bursary scheme for postgraduates, of which there were 55 recipients. An additional scheme has been offered to undergraduates in the most marginalised languages.

Ms Barnard asked about certain entities being in the red and why the Department continued funding them.

The DG said this was not the case. If the performance was measured in terms of cash flow this could be how it is seen, but performance should be measured in terms of the ability to manage money and the balance sheets tallied. He admitted there were problems, but these were mostly technical. Robben Island had been told to rectify its problems. The accounting was subject to beneficiaries submitting a quarterly report to the Department; if this did not happen the funds were not released.

Mr Maake said he needed clarity on certain terms in the budget such as heraldry.

The DG answered that heraldry was related to national symbols.

Mr Maake said that most of the budget was spent on entities that held no interest for his constituency and many of his constituents did not even know what something like the National Symphony Orchestra was.

The DG said there were plans for the orchestra to tour rural areas and make it more accessible.

Ms Van der Walt said if language was a state issue, the CRL should not fall under the auspices of the Portfolio Committee on Provincial and Local Government.

The Chair ruled there was no more time for comments and questions and thanked the Department.

The meeting was adjourned.



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