National Heritage Council, War Museum of Boer Republics, Afrikaans Language Museum: Annual Reports & Strategic Plan

Arts and Culture

22 May 2007
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Meeting Summary

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Meeting report

22 May 2007

Acting Chairperson: Ms P Tshwete (ANC)

Documents handed out:
National Heritage Council presentation
National Heritage Council Annual Report 2005/2006
National Heritage Council Ubuntu Report 2006
War Museum of Boer Republics presentation
War Museum of Boer Republics Annual Report 2005/06
War Museum of Boer Republics pamphlet: "Honour our duty: Russia in the Anglo-Boer War"
War Museum of the Boer Republics Financial Statements for the year ended 31 March 2006 Auditor General’s Report
Afrikaans Language Museum: Accounts for Financial Year 2007/08
Afrikaans Language Museum: Strategic Plan
Afrikaans Language Museum: Annual Report 2005/2006
War Museum of the Boer Republics website

The Committee heard presentations from the National Heritage Council, the War Museum of the Boer Republics and the Afrikaans Language Museum. Each entity highlighted its core focus and functions, set out some of the achievements during the past year and described the strategic objectives and key priorities for 2007/08.

The National Heritage Council had mandates concerning co ordination and management of heritage, transformation, advice to the Minister, repatriating resources and protecting living heritage. It made grants and sought funding for heritage management. The seven main priorities were set out and achievements were detailed. The Heritage Transformation Charter was intended to be delivered in September 2007. The Council sought support from the Committee for better funding, and had proposed a heritage levy. There was a need to promote greater youth awareness. The budget for 2007/08 was R37.1 million, and it anticipated a surplus of R458 000. Questions by members addressed the matters of emphasis raised in the 2005 audit report of the Auditor General, and the necessity to send full and correct figures, the criteria for funding, the filling of staff vacancies, and the programme for 2010 and beyond. 

The War Museum of the Boer Republics was essentially a theme museum with a specific mission was to collect, curate and display items relating to the Anglo-Boer War of 1899-1902 and the Rebellion of 1914. It also undertook research and publications and cooperated nationally and internationally on projects designed to depict the suffering of war in order to promote negotiation. It had been studying previous neglected information about the involvement of black people in the war. The Museum suffered from capacity constraints. Its activities aimed at raising revenue, publications, its profile, sales and improving human resources were tabled. It aimed to have a fully computerised database by 2010. It would be improving permanent and temporary exhibitions. It was concerned at lack of facilities for disabled. Members asked questions on staff transformation, identification of black people involved in the 1899-1902 War, and the premises.

The Afrikaans Language Museum was a living monument to the Afrikaans language, and sought to help members of the community learn about each other’s culture and traditions, promote reconciliation, and break down negative concepts. It was in the process of transformation. It promoted community involvement in its activities, was seeking to improve its facilities, run outreach programmes and generate a higher income. The medium term strategy objectives and objectives were tabled, but not expanded upon. The core staff was drawn from disadvantaged groups. The financial statements showed income of R3.2 million and a small surplus of R174 000. There had been a qualification in the audit report, which was explained. Questions by Members related to the terminology used when describing other languages, the joint project for the study of isiZulu in Richards Bay, and successes in breaking down misconceptions about Afrikaans.

National Heritage Council (NHC) Annual Report 2005/06 Briefing
Adv Sonwabile Mancotywa, Chief Executive Officer, National Heritage Council, outlined that NHC emanated from the White Paper on Arts, Culture and Heritage and had been mandated by the National Heritage Council Act, No 11 of 1999. NHC was launched on 28 February 2004. Its mission was fully set out, and included coordination of management of heritage, setting a transformation strategy, advising the Minister of Arts and Culture, repatriating resources and protecting living heritage, particularly indigenous knowledge systems. It also aimed to establish strategic partnerships with heritage stakeholders and role players abroad. Its objectives were in line with this mission.

Functions, powers and duties of the NHC included advising the Minister of Arts and Culture on national policies on heritage matters, indigenous knowledge systems, living treasures, restitution, and other relevant matters, and on the allocation of core funding to declared cultural institutions. It was also required to make grants to promote and develop national heritage activities and resources, and to co-ordinate institutions involved in heritage management NHC was also to lobby for funding for heritage management and create greater public awareness of the importance of South Africa’s national heritage.

The seven strategic priorities of NHC were set out as advising on policies, enhancing the role of ubuntu in nation building, equitable redress and inclusiveness, improving the co-ordination of the sector, positioning the heritage sector as a significant contributor to socio-economic development, public awareness, education and stakeholder relations, and the institutional development of the NHC and heritage organisations.

The NHC’s achievements and interventions had included the development of the Heritage Transformation Charter, on which consultative public hearings were to begin shortly, with a view to delivering it by September 2007, the launch of programmes aimed at reviving of Ubuntu for Nation Building, the young heritage ambassadors programme, the youth cultural exchange programme, and the training of young South African artists in indigenous art. It had a memorandum of understanding with the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) and trained media personnel in reporting on heritage matters.

Adv Mancotywa asked for the Committee’s support for obtaining more resources for heritage management. The NHC believed that heritage should share in the income raised by the tourism levy, and had proposed a heritage levy. Heritage sites were expensive to maintain and there had been an unfortunate deterioration at some sites.

Adv Mancotywa also expressed concern that young people did not know enough about their country’s own heritage. This was in part the result of high admission fees to such institutions as Robben Island. It was vital to find ways to make South Africa’s heritage sites more accessible to the general population. NHC was piloting new world heritage sites, including the Liberation Route in the Eastern Cape, in collaboration with the provincial government of the Eastern Cape and with the Department of Arts and Culture (DAC).

The budget figures for 2007-2010 were fully outlined. A breakdown was given across all programmes and it was indicated that the total budgeted income was R37.1 million. NHC was budgeting for a surplus of R458 000. Comparative figures for 2004 and 2005 expenditure were tabled, showing a surplus of R7 million, for which permission was obtained to retain the funds as they were committed to projects. These had been fully utilised in the 2006/07 year. The funded projects were listed and a full breakdown was given of heritage projects. 

The Acting Chairperson thanked Adv Mancotywa for tabling complete and comparable figures. She asked what was the policy of NHC towards entities that could not account for themselves or did not use all the funds that had been allocated to them.

Ms D Ramodibe (ANC) asked about the extent to which the NHC had been able to rectify the problems such as disparities over leave provision and non-compliance with section 51(a) of the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) that were previously emphasised by the Auditor General (AG).

Adv Mancotywa responded that the NHC had appointed a monitoring and evaluation unit to diagnose and solve such problems.

Ms Thandile Ngethu, Chief Financial Officer, NHC, added that internal auditors had been appointed.

Mr Thendo Ramagoma, Company Secretary & Head, Legal Services, NHC, emphasised that the matter had been resolved. .

Mr C Gololo (ANC) asked what criteria the NHC used to determine how it should fund an institution or entity, and asked about progress with the Transformation Charter.

Adv Mancotywa said that the NHC had consulted with the Minister and had held an indaba concerning the Heritage Transformation Charter. A major concern had been to ensure that NHC had enough experts and researchers from the historically disadvantaged communities. There would be public hearings. It was hoped that the Charter would be ready for presentation to the Minister by September 2007.

Ms D Van der Walt (DA) asked, with regard to the disputed figures for annual leave, why the NHC had not resolved the problem before sending the figures to the Auditor-General. It was necessary to be absolutely accurate and unambiguous and convey numbers in standard, formal accounting language to avoid any possibility of confusion.

Ms Van der Walt commented that the increase of the human resources budget by R4 million in one financial year was drastic, and asked which of the vacant positions had been filled.

Adv Mancotywa said that NHC would send through the information on posts and grades. He said that heritage was a knowledge institution.
Mr M R Sonto (ANC) and Ms Ramodibe commented that the style of the presentation was difficult to follow.

Mr Sonto asked what role NHC could play in protecting South Africa’s value systems, of which the key was ubuntu, given the context of South African cultures being diluted by the foreign cultural influences.

Mr M Matlala (ANC) asked if the NHC had a realisable and achievable programme for the 2010 World Soccer Cup event and beyond.

Adv Mancotywa said that NHC had a comprehensive range of programmes planned for 2010 event and beyond. Participation in 2010 preparations included the holding of a national indaba that focused on heritage contributions to 2010. NHC attached special importance to the Ubuntu project, which embraced the whole question of values and their revival.

The Acting Chairperson ruled that any further questions must be submitted and answered in writing. She noted that all entities that were to appear before the Committee should send their documents one week before the meeting so that Members could acquaint themselves with all relevant facts and information.

Adv Mancotywa noted the comments on the style of presentation but noted that it would have been useful to have some indication of how he should prepare.

War Museum of the Boer Republics Annual Report 2005/06 Briefing
Colonel Frik Jacobs, Director of the War Museum of the Boer Republics (the Museum), noted that Government funding for the Museum was based on political goodwill. He explained that the Museum was essentially a theme museum, and that its specific mission was to collect, curate and display items relating to the Anglo-Boer War of 1899-1902 and the Rebellion of 1914; to research and publish on these events and co-operate with other organisations, nationally and internationally, in order to develop those themes. Its broader mission and vision was to depict the suffering of war to create an anti-war mentality culminating in the realisation that the answer to conflict should be sought not on the battlefield but at the conference table.

The collections comprised paintings and sculptures, photographs, textiles and household goods of the period, handcraft by prisoners of war, a philatelic collection, fire-arms, databases and documents and books. Over the last ten years the Museum had initiated a study of the previously neglected facts of black people’s involvement in the 1899-1902 Anglo-Boer War. The British had used black people as logistic support, and many had been placed in refugee and concentration camps. The war essentially was fought for gold and by the end of the war black people were being forced into the mines.

The ‘Suffering of War’ project locally and internationally embraced not only the impact of war on humanity but also its consequences for animals and ecology. It was launched locally Bloemfontein in October 2003 with an international launch in Moscow in June 2004. Copies of the exhibition had been presented in all nine provinces of South Africa and in seven foreign countries. It was targeted especially at countries involved in the current military intervention in Iraq.

Col Jacobs said the Annual Report 2005/06 was self-explanatory, and contained no negative information. However, he specifically pointed to capacity constraints and noted that the Auditor General had raised three items under emphasis of matter. The accumulated surplus was to provide for retirement benefits as required by National Treasury.

A key objective of the strategic plan for 2007-2011 was to increase the revenue generated by visits to the Museum by 10%, using active promotions. The Museum was considering increasing entrance fees for adults but was reluctant to increase entrance fees for children. It would unofficially waive entrance fees for children from disadvantaged communities. It also aimed to increase the sale of publications by including bookstores in its marketing and aiming to increase book sales by 15%. In order to utilise investments to the maximum, the Museum was being stringent in expenditure policy and hoped for a 10% increase in interest on investments per annum.

The percentage of the state subsidy spent on staff maintenance was high and the Museum planned to lower this by improving human resource management and implementing performance measurement.

The Museum was developing a project to complete the upgrading of its record keeping system for the collections, and had a target of computerising 40% of records by the end of the year and full computerisation by 2010.

A further key objective was to support publications and research for books by external publishers by identifying manuscripts and supporting research. It aimed to be involved with the publication of at least two books each year.

The Museum sought to identify shortcomings and continuously improve permanent exhibitions in order to develop new audiences from previously marginalised communities. It also sought to identify and stage temporary exhibitions that would support the national strategic initiatives, for example, medical conditions in warfare, children in armed conflict, and the suffering of non-combatants. It also aimed to develop outreach programmes to teach the history of the 1899-1902 war. It further promoted the museum as a suitable venue for cultural activities.

The Museum was deeply concerned at its lack of facilities for disabled visitors and staff, and had been threatened with legal action over the point. It had requested assistance from the Department of Arts and Culture but had not received even an acknowledgement.

The Acting Chairperson asked about employment equity.

Colonel Jacobs replied that the Museum had a staff establishment of 50, but only 26 people were in its employ. There was a very low staff turnover. Financial constraints prevented the Museum from filling vacancies, but one black historian with a master’s degree had been appointed recently. The Museum was sensitive to employment equity issues but currently was not in a position to fill vacancies.

Mr Gololo asked if the Museum had any artefacts from the 1975 war between the South African Defence Force and MPLA.

Colonel Jacobs referred Mr Gololo to the Museum’s mission statement. The Museum’s most recent weapon in its collection had been manufactured in 1896.

Ms Van der Walt asked who owned the Museum’s building.

Colonel Jacobs said the building was owned by the Department of Public Works.

Mr B Zulu (ANC) asked if the Museum had identified black people involved in the 1899-1902 war.

Colonel Jacobs said that black people’s involvement in the 1899-1902 War was a neglected subject. It was estimated that at least 23 000 blacks had died in the British concentration camps, but only two or three thousand of these blacks had been identified and listed.

The Acting Chairperson said that the Committee should visit the Museum to learn more of this ‘hidden history’. 

Afrikaans Language Museum presentation
Ms Isabeau Botha, Marketing Manager, Afrikaans Language Museum, said that the Museum was a living monument to the Afrikaans language, and sought to help members of the community learn about each other’s culture and traditions, promote reconciliation, and break down negative concepts. Afrikaans, contrary to a common misconception, was derived from sources in Africa, Asia and Europe. It was the mother tongue of 6 million South Africans.

The Museum had existed for 30 years. It was in the process of transformation. It promoted community involvement in its activities, was seeking to improve its facilities, and generate a higher income to enhance its sustainability. It had recently achieved a record number of visits from groups of schoolchildren. As South Africa did not have a popular culture of visiting museums, it aimed to promote visits to museums as an educational and leisure activity.

The medium term strategy objectives and objectives per programme, as also the service delivery improvement programmes were contained in the presentation document but were not presented due to shortage of time.

Ms van Wyk noted that understanding language was essential in order to learn about culture. The Museum had instituted a transformation fund and a transformation project. The Museum’s core staff of 14, was extensively drawn from disadvantaged population groups. It had active educational programmes. There were constraints in working conditions. The staff organogram was characterised by a flat hierarchy and Ms Botha said that the Museum tried to promote internally to any vacancies.

Ms Van Wyk tabled the financial statements, with comparisons from 2003 to the current year. The income had been R3.2 million, and the expenditure R3.1 million, with a small surplus of R174 000. She noted that the Auditor General had qualified the report, but this qualification was based on a private trust donation. All receipts had been properly recorded in the Museum’s register. The Museum had complied with Department of Arts and Culture Guidelines. To try to avoid recurrence of the problem the Museum had now requested that monies be sent to it by electronic transfer.
Mr Sonto said that the Auditor-General’s qualified report was serious and needed attention.

Mr Sonto commented that the terminology used had been careless and that ‘Xhosa’ and ‘Zulu” had been used instead of the correct forms ‘isiXhosa’ and ‘isiZulu.

Ms Botha apologised for this oversight.

Mr Zulu asked how many people had enrolled at Richards Bay to study isiZulu under the Museum’s joint project with a museum there.

Ms Botha noted that DAC had been involved in the project at Richards Bay. The Afrikaans Language Museum had been asked to support the project by the Richards Bay Museum. Co-operation was planned with comparable museums concerned with other languages.

Ms N Mbombo (ANC) asked if Ms Botha and Ms Van Wyk considered that the Museum was succeeding in its aim to break down misconceptions over the history and role of Afrikaans.

Ms Botha replied that there was success through educational programmes, which sought to present material from the pupils’ perspectives, cultural and linguistic standpoints. For example, an educational programme in Afrikaans and English had been translated into isiXhosa.

The meeting was adjourned.



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