National Arts Council, Blind SA, PanSA Language Board Annual Report 2006/7

Arts and Culture

06 November 2007
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Meeting Summary

A summary of this committee meeting is not yet available.

Meeting report

06 November 2007

Chairperson: Ms T Tshivhase (ANC)

Documents handed out:

Blind SA Annual Report and Audited Financial Statements 01 April 2006 - 31 March 2007
National Arts Council of South Africa Presentation
National Arts Council of South Africa 2006/2007 Annual Report
Briefing by PanSALB on 2006/07 Annual Report Hearings
PanSALB Annual Report 2006/2007
Projected Budget for twelve month period from 1 April 2008 to 31 March 2009

Audio recording of meeting

The Committee met with delegations from Blind SA, the National Arts Council of South Africa, and Pan South African Language Board to hear briefings on these entities' annual reports for 2006/2007.

The Committee supported Blind SA in its efforts to achieve greater recognition of its problems, especially the great deficiencies in education and availability of reading materials, and appreciated its extended efforts to produce, at great expense, reading materials in Braille. The needs of the blind in rural areas were especially noted. The blind were strongly encouraged to write books. Members asked questions on the accessibility and affordability of Braille material, to what extent blind people could use libraries, and to what extent Blind SA distributed Braille material to libraries, progress in providing services to blind people in the rural areas, and services in mother tongue languages, whether Blind SA had a union, what it could do to assist blind voters, sponsorship, the drop in the bursary applications, and the classification system. 

The Committee commended the National Arts Council South Africa on its receipt of an unqualified audit report. However, Members questioned the Council’s criteria for allocating funding, and it was explained that it was developing a new South African funding model. Highlights for the past year had included winning of a bid to host the World Summit on Arts and Culture in 2009. Further questions were asked on the composition of the National Arts Council Board, steps to fill the vacancies, the Cape Town International Jazz Festival application for funding, progress in transformation, staff morale, the surplus and the budgeting for a deficit, the needs of people in the rural areas

The Pan South African Language Board emphasised, as a supplement to its presentation, its draft Strategy and Implementation Framework 2008-2011 for which it urgently sought funding. Members were concerned about the difficulties with the Provincial Language Councils and expressed the necessity to protect mother tongue education and deliver translation services at community level. Further questions by members addressed how the Board was dealing with challenges, clarity on sign language, the problem of low staff morale, the policy towards minority non-indigenous languages, and the progress of negotiations with Microsoft for indigenous language software. 

The Chairperson welcomed the delegations, and welcomed the diversity of delegates who were strong in upholding their culture.

Blind SA Annual Report briefing
Ms Cathy Donaldson, President of Blind SA, gave her presentation, noting that she was honoured to present and was proud of Blind SA. It was a not-for-profit organisation, that had to find its own funding and keep itself going. Blind SA was a national body that had ten member organizations. Blind SA provided a number of services to its consumers, and had the interests of all levels at heart. It offered various services. The Department of Arts and Culture (DAC) gave Blind SA a grant towards its Braille services. Braille provided the possibility for blind people to read. Without the Department's funding, there would have been 2 500 people in South Africa who would have been unable to read at all. More than 3 million Braille pages had been printed and distributed in South Africa. However, this was still a big problem for Blind SA as education was part of its function. In the schools that Blind SA had visited, there was a great lack of Braille books and textbooks, with the result that blind children were lagging behind their sighted peers, because of lack of material. Moreover, they did not get their textbooks on time. Blind SA was therefore seeking more funding in order to increase the availability of such materials. It was also seeking R2.5 million to make the building more accessible to blind people. She thanked the Department of Arts and Culture for its support.

Ms Karin Gouws, Public Relations Officer, Blind SA said that she concurred with Ms Donaldson, and emphasised that blind students deserved access to the same materials at the same time as their sighted peers, so that they could learn on the same level and at the same rate. Although South Africa was making great strides in enabling the previously disabled people, there was still much lagging as far as literature was concerned.

The Chairperson thanked Blind SA for its short but succinct presentation. She was aware, from her previous position as Chairperson of the Social Development Portfolio Committee, of the difficulties that blind people faced in obtaining access to facilities in order to fulfil themselves.

The Chairperson asked why the Director-General had not given the presentation.

M Donaldson responded that she was not sure why the Director General was not presenting the Annual Report. She had received a message only the previous Thursday that she should attend today's meeting to present the Report. She had been unable to communicate with the Director General herself.

Ms D Van der Walt (DA) thanked Blind SA for its presentation and asked how accessible and affordable was material in Braille across the country.

Miss Donaldson responded that Blind SA distributed four magazines, including some for Government Communications and Information Systems. 2 400 members in the rural areas received the Trumpet Magazine, which was also sent to the libraries. These magazines were distributed free of charge, so Blind SA was seeking more funding to support their production and distribution. The cost of printing one single page was very high, around 54 cents. One Braille book would cost around R6 000. For the individual blind person, Blind SA subsidised that book 99%. She observed that the majority of Members present at the meeting were from Limpopo.

Mr H P Maluleka (ANC) asked to what extent blind people could use libraries, since Arts and Culture was encouraging people to use libraries, and in his constituency there were efforts to encourage people to use them. Further, he asked to what extent Blind SA distributed Braille material to libraries around the country for their members to be able to access them.

Ms Donaldson replied that Blind SA was a production unit. There was a difference between a production unit and libraries. The SA Library for the Blind at Grahamstown was a library for the Blind and they circulated books. Blind SA printed books and magazines for the learners. That was why she had said in her presentation that Blind SA could not meet the need for sufficient books and magazines in braille, especially for schoolchildren.

Mr George Lekgetho (ANC) asked if the challenges that Blind SA had briefed the Committee about were reflected fully in Blind SA's Annual Report.

Ms N Mbombo (ANC) asked, with reference to the Committee's last visit to Blind SA, about progress in providing services to blind people in the rural areas, and services to speakers of such languages as isi-Xhosa. She asked if isi-Xhosa speaking people could communicate with Blind SA in their own language, or if they were obliged to use English all the time.

Miss Donaldson said that Blind SA did much work in the rural areas. She referred to the Annual Report, in which there was mention of various member organisations in the rural areas, for example, in Limpopo and Mpumulanga. Blind SA was forming a new organisation in East London.

Blind SA also had translators who translated for members who did not understand English. Blind SA would use the languages that consumers required and ensure that translators were available. There was no differentiation between languages as far as Blind SA was concerned. Blind SA was the only production unit in South Africa that translated Braille into 11 languages.

Ms Donaldson added that Blind SA lacked capacity in terms of machinery, production capacity, and the building, and lacked the capacity to meet the demand. Distributing of books, she stressed, was not in the mandate.

About two years ago Blind SA had discovered that education for blind people had deteriorated in several respects. In spite of electronic aids, policies of education for blind learners were deficient; the blind were not being taught music, and lacked the opportunity to participate in sport. Schools lacked libraries and textbooks in Braille. The conditions in hostels were poor. Blind SA was seeking an appointment with the Executive Director of Education in Pretoria, and would table a memorandum setting out the concerns once again. Blind SA was trying hard to fulfil its goals and uplift blind people.

Mr S E Opperman (DA) asked, in view of Blind SA's objective as a pressure group, if it had a union. Secondly he asked how Blind SA coped during election times.

Ms Donaldson said that Blind SA had formed the pressure group to address education. Blind SA did not have a union. It was a nonprofit organisation. Since 1993 Blind SA had had many problems with the Electoral Act. Blind SA was working on these problems again in readiness for 2009. There was a new template that had been designed, and the official was working with the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) to see whether Blind SA could use that template to assist a blind person to vote on his own. The legislation had been changed several times to enable a blind person to nominate another trusted person to vote on his or her behalf. Except for this, Blind SA had not made as much progress as it would have liked.

Ms Van der Walt asked if Blind SA had made any progress towards obtaining sponsorship for the magazines that it produced.

Miss Donaldson said that it was always difficult to find funds, but Blind SA was stretching its resources to maintain that service to blind people.

The Chairperson said that the number of qualified applicants for study bursaries had dropped, and asked how Blind SA was addressing that issue.

Miss Donaldson said that the reason for the drop in the number of applicants for bursaries was that the quality of education for the blind was not of a sufficiently high standard to provide a pool of suitably qualified potential applicants. Not enough people were writing the grade 12 examinations. In the last financial year 53 bursaries had nevertheless been allocated.

Mr George Lekgetho asked for a follow up to Blind SA's projected presentation of a memorandum to the National Department of Education, so that this Committee would know of progress that had been made. 

Ms Donaldson confirmed that Blind SA would provide the Committee with a follow-up as requested.

Mr Opperman asked about one of his constituent who had lost 90% of his eyesight, and whether he could be classified as blind. He commented that the blind often had special talents and would like to encourage blind people to write of their experiences.

Ms Donaldson explained that Blind SA determined blindness using the Snell tests and accepted classifications.  She concurred with Mr Opperman's encouragement that blind people write books and appreciated his comment.

The Chairperson assured Blind SA that the Committee's 'doors were always open' for Blind SA to come and present their requirements and update the Committee on progress.

National Arts Council of South Africa (NACSA) Annual Report briefing
Mr Nicholas Motsatse, Chairperson, National Arts Council of South Africa, stated that he came before the Committee with a great sense of achievement in that NACSA had obtained an unqualified audit report with no matters of emphasis. Previous years had been difficult, when audit reports were continually qualified, but this year the NACSA looked forward to its annual visit to the Committee. There were continuing challenges, one being the high vacancy rate. Another was the lack of a permanent chief executive officer. Although there was a temporary CEO on a fixed term contract at the moment, a search was in progress for a permanent CEO. Mr Motsatse believed the NACSA was now beginning successfully to address the issues of arts and culture in the country

Mr Kiran Isvarial, Chief Financial Officer, NACSA, outlined the vision and mission, its legislative mandate, its financial basis, and the background to the year under review. He explained the functions of the Council (board) of the National Arts Council. The National Arts Council had operated without a Council for 18 months and a new Council had been inaugurated only in September 2006, six months into the year under review. He then explained the National Arts Council's statement of changes in net assets for the year under review, followed by the National Arts Council's statement of financial position, for the year under review (see attached presentation).  He summarised the audit report history for the past four years. The unqualified audit certificate was evidence of a comprehensive turnaround.   

Mr Isvarial explained funding allocations per discipline and province (see page 13 of presentation) He then explained the reasons behind the accumulated surplus. Some applicants did not claim their allocations because the organisations became defunct or the projects for which they had applied were no longer viable. Some allocations were withheld due to contractual non-compliance and he surplus was also accounted for by interest earned, rental income and savings on administration costs.

Mr Isvarial set out the NACSA projected three year strategic budget from 2008 to 2010.

He then explained some of the highlights for the 2006/07 year, which had included allocations of R48.2 million to arts entities, 78% of appropriation as grants to the arts, and the awarding of the bid to host the world summit. He set out some of the challenges, which included the need to provide leadership in the sphere of public funding, the need for equity and balance of funding, the need for interventions on arts at the sectoral level, and the need to identify and deal more efficiently with stakeholders. 

The projected budget was outlined briefly.

The Chairperson congratulated NACSA on its turnaround, especially in regard to the Auditor-General's report. She queried some figures in the budget, which Mr Isvarial clarified.

Mr George Lekgetho (ANC) asked about the composition of the National Arts Council Board. He asked if all the provinces were represented among the nine provincial members of the Board (Council).

Advocate Brenda Madumise, Deputy-Chairperson of the National Arts Council, said that for the North West there was a vacancy, but otherwise all provinces were represented.

Mr Lekgetho asked about the steps being taken to fill the vacancies. The Government had pronounced that unemployment and poverty must be addressed and alleviated by 2014, and the filling of vacancies was important.

Mr Motsatse said that a new chief executive officer was expected to be appointed on 01 December 2007. An offer had been made to a candidate for the position of manager for research, but the candidate had withdrawn because of a counter offer from a private sector company.

Ms D van der Walt (DA) queried some financial figures which differed in the presentation from in the Report.

Ms van der Walt referred to the recent visit of the Cape Town International Jazz Festival management, whose delegation had said that they had never received replies to their funding requests to the National Arts Council when they had applied for funding. She asked if that were true, and, if so, what had been wrong with the Festival's application.

Mr Isvarial responded that the budget was very limited. Moreover, NACSA had to work within its guidelines. Its limited staff complement had delayed responses.

Mr M Bhengu (IFP) asked about the steps that the National Arts Council had taken to improve staff morale and asked about progress in transformation.

Mr Isvarial said that there had been no Council (Board) for 18 months. Now the National Arts Council was making progress in both staff morale and its public image. In terms of the Act, the National Arts Council had no direct links to the provincial arts councils. This led to some duplication of resources and some frustration for those seeking funding.

Mr J Maake (ANC) asked about the type of assets owned by the National Arts Council.

Mr N Lakha, Chairperson of the Audit Committee responded that there was an analysis of the assets on page 33 of the Annual Report.

Mr Maake asked why money was carried over from one year to another.

Mr Maake asked about the allocations per province. He said that it was not acceptable that Gauteng obtained almost half the allocations (41.6%), and suggested that there must be advocacy to increase the number of applications in underrepresented provinces. People in the rural provinces were ignorant of the existence of the National Arts Council. This was question that had to be asked year after year.

The Chairperson also emphasised the need to accommodate the needs of people in the rural areas.

Mr Motsatse responded that the apportionment of funding per provinces was a function of the number and quality of applications for funding. The National Arts Council was revising its funding model

Mr Maake asked about the allocations per discipline, and what criteria were used to determine, for example, that crafts would be allocated less than music.

Mr Motsatse said NACSA had had a meeting with the Minister. It was important to address the funding issue in a clear and proper manner and avoid 'a knee jerk reaction'. Funding was done according to discipline. The National Arts Council, recognising the weaknesses of its present model, was trying to develop a new South African funding model.

Mr Maake could not understand why NACSA had apparently budgeted for a deficit for three consecutive years. He asked how National Arts Council budgeted for money that it did not have. He observed that National Arts Council was going to host the World Summit on Arts and Culture and asked what would be the gains to the National Arts Council and the expenses it would incur, and the wider benefits of hosting the World Summit on Arts and Culture.

Mr N Lakha noted that NACSA had allocated 86% of its funds to grant recipients and the remainder had been allocated for the operating expenses. He explained that the surplus was the result of various factors – including applicants who did not claim their grants, the withholding of funds in case of non-compliance, and organisations that had closed down. In addition, the Chief Financial Officer’s good cash management was a major factor. In addition there had been R3 million earned as interest, and significant rental income from spare office accommodation. There were also savings on administrative expenses. The National Arts Council had however budgeted for a deficit because it would use those surpluses over the next three years. The surpluses would be treated as a reserve fund to fund the deficits.

Advocate Maduise said that NACSA wanted to put arts top of the agenda, and to give an African perspective. 500 to 1000 individual delegates were expected from all over the world for the Summit. South Africa was the only country with a fully functioning arts council. It wanted to assist other African countries to establish similar bodies and sought to raise an extra R3 million in addition to the Department of Arts and Culture's grant of R2.5 million towards the cost of the Summit.

PanSouth African Language Board (PanSALB) Annual Report Briefing
Ms Ntombenhle Nkosi, Chief Executive Officer, PanSALB, explained that her presentation would be in two parts: firstly, on the 2006/2007 Annual Report, and, secondly, on PanSALB's strategic plan to explain how it would use additional funding if allocated.

PanSALB regretted the lack of positive response by some departmental officials and provincial legislatures in the reconstitution of Provincial Language Councils whose terms of office had expired, because this led to delays in establishing new Provincial Language Council structures. There was some misinterpretation of the Act and difference of opinion in interpretation. For example the Eastern Cape had been without a Provincial Language Council for the past four years; the North West Provincial Language Council should have been instituted in March 2007; Gauteng Provincial Language Council should have been instituted in March 2007 (here an interim council would operate from 01 November 2007) and in KwaZulu-Natal there was an interim council operating whilst the MEC was finalising the reconstitution process. 

Mr Lovell Sing, Chief Financial Officer, PanSALB, explained that the qualification that PanSALB had received from the Auditor-General related to the failure to submit audited financial statements from the Councils, which were Section 21 companies.

Ms Nkosi continued that the issue of low staff morale was being addressed with team building and performance management system training. Human resources were being overhauled.

Mr Vikule, Finance Director detailed the matters of emphasis set out in the report (see detailed presentation) and explained that PanSALB did not own buildings but rented them.

Ms Nkosi said she that she was pleased to report PanSALB's compliance with objectives, an issue raised in previous reporting. PanSALB wished to engage with Parliament on the PanSALB Act and to promote awareness of the organisation.  A priority was to review human resources capacity and performance information systems to meet the requirements of the Public Service Act. People who were participating in the Provincial Language Councils were not of the quality needed; this was largely because of remuneration deficiencies. Stakeholders did not appreciate the work of PanSALB because it was not monitored.

Ms Nkosi then showed selected slides on proposed staff structures, from the final draft of PanSALB's 78 page Strategy and Implementation Framework 2008-2011, which PanSALB had drawn up in response to a previous request from the Committee.  

She noted that there was a public perception that PanSALB's service delivery was insufficient to meet the people's needs.  Parliament and people had no clear perception of PanSALB. The President, in his 1999 State of the Nation address had emphasised the importance of language. However, local councils were largely unable to communicate effectively to the public in the indigenous languages. PanSALB therefore highly appreciated the recent July Cabinet decision that required government departments to translate official documents into all indigenous languages, and would appoint language inspectors to monitor implementation, but had no legislated powers to enforce compliance.

The proposed staff structure (organogram) included a records manager, directors for legal services, risk management, records management, human resources, language development, and legal services, and a monitoring and evaluation unit. Currently, PanSALB lacked sufficient staff to support such a staff structure.

The Chairperson asked if PanSALB was really faced with challenges or with problems.

Mr Maake asked what powers PanSALB had in the provinces. He asked why the Committee and PanSALB appeared to have no oversight role in regard to languages in the provinces. He also asked how PanSALB was addressing the quality of Provincial Language Council members appointed by the MECs, since the quality of such appointments left much to be desired.

Mr Matlala asked what action PanSALB was taking to meet the challenges faced by the Provincial Language Councils in all the provinces. 

Ms Nkosi responded that, according to the relevant legislation, PanSALB had under its auspices Provincial Language Councils nominated by MECs. However, PanSALB's powers were very limited. Ms Nkosi said that it was necessary to remunerate the Provincial Language Council members at a level commensurate with those of PanSALB Board members to ensure quality.

Mr Maake asked for further clarity on sign language. He asked how far had there been progress towards making sign language an official language, stating that in his view official recognition of sign language was long overdue.

Ms Nkosi said that PanSALB had submitted recommendations and discussed with the Minister of Arts and Culture the issue of recognition of sign language as an official language. PanSALB had had a meeting with Deaf-SA to negotiate a collective viewpoint, but the latter body had not come forward with a unified proposal.

Ms Van der Walt asked about human resources and the problem of low staff morale. She noted that in previous annual reports, job descriptions had been non-existent, and the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA) had questioned that discrepancy, so she asked if that discrepancy had been rectified.

Ms Nkosi replied that the current lack of a Board hampered her work. She was happy to report that PanSALB had completed its job descriptions and that staff morale was now high; this was indeed a turnaround. There was a workshop in March 2007 and also a programme of leadership training in July and September 2007; moreover, there was a turnaround strategy.

Ms van der Walt asked about PanSALB's policy towards minority non-indigenous languages such as Portuguese, German and Hebrew. She had asked about that before and not received a satisfactory answer. She asked what could be done to obtain recognition for such languages.

Ms van der Walt asked where people who felt that their indigenous and minority language rights were not being recognised should send their complaints.  There was never a more important time than now to insist that people had the right to use their own language and protect their own culture. The issue of minority languages was crucial. Only Tshwane municipality had translations into other languages at service delivery points. In the National Assembly chamber translations were available, but translations were not available in the Committee rooms. Ms Nkosi's recent Sunday Times statement had been noted.

Mr Opperman said that it was essential to protect mother tongue education and expressed agreement with Ms Van der Walt that it was essential to deliver translation services at the level of the communities. He asked what action PanSALB was taking to that end.

Ms Nkosi noted that in view of the great difficulties faced by speakers of indigenous African languages and the slow progress in providing for them, those languages had to be given priority. Without another specific budget PanSALB could not possibly divert resources to the non-indigenous minority languages that Ms Van der Walt had mentioned, even though the Constitution referred to minority languages. Moreover, the minority languages were supported in their countries of origin. French was an obvious example. Raising the level of the indigenous African languages was crucial to national security and identity and most definitely had to be PanSALB's overriding priority, especially in the light of its financial limitations. Cabinet had allocated R6.1 billion to combat illiteracy, and PanSALB needed the Committee to help it obtain still further additional funding. Next year PanSALB would have language inspectors to visit the municipalities, provided that PanSALB obtained the budget that it had requested.

Ms Nkosi told Mr Opperman that the Minister of Education had announced that there would in future be mother tongue education from the first year of schooling through to grade 6.

The Chairperson asked about progress in negotiations with Microsoft for indigenous languages to be accommodated in computer software.

Ms Nkosi said that Microsoft had merely been displaying what PanSALB had initiated. It was PanSALB's concern that the African indigenous languages should be accommodated by computer software. 

The Chairperson said that she felt that black people had been left behind in software development and needed to be empowered.

Ms Nkosi said that the higher education institutions needed to change their curricula to enable black people to study information technology through the medium of indigenous African languages, but PanSALB could be effective in promoting such change only when it achieved sufficient authority and financial resources.

The meeting was adjourned.




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