SA State Theatre, National Museum, Bloemfontein, William Humphreys Art Gallery: briefings on Annual Report

Arts and Culture

20 November 2007
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Meeting Summary

A summary of this committee meeting is not yet available.

Meeting report

20 November 2007

Chairperson: Ms J T Tshivhase (ANC)

Documents handed out:
South African State Theatre Annual Report 2006/2007 Presentation
South African State Theatre Annual Report 2006/2007[Audit Report](email
National Museum, Bloemfontein. Report to the Portfolio Committee
National Museum, Bloemfontein. Annual Report 2006/2007[Audit Report] (email
William Humphreys Art Gallery, Kimberley. Report to the Portfolio Committee
William Humphreys Art Gallery, Kimberley. Annual Report 2006/2007 [Part 1][Part 2][Part 3]

Audio recording of meeting

The Committee received briefings from the South African State Theatre, the National Museum, and the William Humphreys Art Gallery, on these entities’ annual reports for 2006/2007.

The South African State Theatre noted the lack of support from large corporations for the productions of local works that it wished to foster. The Theatre acknowledged a high turnover of chief financial officers in recent years. The matters of emphasis raised by the Auditor-General were detailed and discussed. Members criticized the presentation as confusing and asked the delegation to explain further the Auditor-General’s Report. The turnover of chief financial officers indicated a serious lack of stability in the entity. Members were also concerned about the insufficiency of funding from the private sector.

The National Museum, Bloemfontein, noted its unqualified Auditor-General’s report; however, the Auditor-General had noted two items under emphasis of matter and two items other matters. The Museum was suffering capacity constraints, in particular, insufficient space. Members were concerned that the Museum’s Council did not reflect the demographics of South Africa and asked for an explanation. Members also asked for an explanation as to why the Museum had contravened Generally Agreed Accounting Practice.

The William Humphreys Art Gallery, Kimberley, received praise from Members for its contributions to job creation, poverty alleviation, and helping children from informal settlements, and encouragement for its overall efforts. A Member emphasised that everyone had a responsibility to promote social cohesion. There was an unqualified report with no matters of emphasis.

South African State Theatre Presentation
Mr Aubrey Sekhabi, Acting Chief Executive Officer and Artistic Director, South African State Theatre, said that the year under review had been saddened by the death of the Chief Executive Officer, Mr Michael Lovegrove; whilst the sudden departure of the Chief Financial Officer had placed a heavy burden on the new incumbents.

The Theatre had celebrated its 25th anniversary. The thrust of the Theatre’s programme lay in the presentation of South African classics that had never been presented at the State Theatre before because of the previous apartheid policies. The Theatre spent a greater percentage of its artistic funds and supported South African works. For diversity, the programme was supplemented with a variety of international ballets and musicals. These performed to over 75% attendance with more than 120 000 attending the Theatre. The venue had to be closed for four weeks to allow for intensive maintenance in order to restore the stage lifts to working order.

The internationally acclaimed Gumboots was presented as part of the 25th anniversary and youth month. In order for local productions to enjoy box office success, it was necessary to allow them to mature and develop as brands. Such productions should be showcased.

The Theatre received a grant of R23 million from the Department of Arts and Culture. The Japanese government had provided funding for the upgrading of the sound equipment in the opera theatre, amounting to R3 million. The National Lotteries Distribution Trust Fund once again contributed financially to the Theatre’s development programmes as well as to the State Theatre Residency programmes.

The Theatre had attracted paying audiences of 236 410 against a target of 300 000. It had succeeded in earning almost R10 million from the vigorous marketing of facilities and resources against a target of R8 million. Parking provision for 1 000 cars provided additional revenue, though management of this revenue had attracted adverse criticism from the Auditor-General. Rental of office accommodation also provided additional revenue.

The Theatre noted lack of support from large South African corporations for local productions, while it sought to attract black people to attend the Theatre. Further challenges included aging stage equipment and problems in finding replacement parts.

In 2006/2007 the National Lottery Board provided funds for the implementation of the 52 Seasons Development Programme and the Residency Programme. During this period, 12 artistic companies were selected to present their productions. These flagship programmes had received critical acclaim and continued to give hope to arts practitioners in South Africa. To ensure quality productions, the 52 Seasons Development Programme companies were assigned a mentor director from the Residency Programme. The joint work ensured that both the director and artists would have achieved new heights. The productions already presented under these programmes were listed.

Exchange programmes continued to take place with other cultural institutions such as PACOFS, the Market Theatre, Artscape, and the Baxter Theatre. The Theatre continued with its Adult Basic Education Training (ABET) programme. Training programmes for 2008 included basic computer skills, retirement planning and HIV/AIDS. Succession planning and skills development programmes were also being implemented, and there was a policy on HIV/Aids. The preparations for Learnership programmes had been completed and staff members sent to train as assessors.

The next three years would present the Theatre with interesting challenges and opportunities. 2010 was an opportunity to showcase South Africa’s inherent artistic talents to the world. A soccer match lasted for two hours; the rest of the time was left to artistic entertainment. The Theatre’s strategy should thus focus on the development of new work, audiences and special projects, that should be aligned to the holistic arts and culture strategy of the Department of Arts and Culture (DAC).

Ms P Tshwete (ANC) said that the presentation was very confusing. It was difficult to identify the challenges that the Theatre faced. She requested that Mr Sekhabi, to save time, should concentrate on the Auditor-General’s report on page 26 of the Annual Report. She asked in particular about non-compliance with the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) and with Treasury Regulations, and also the apparent lack of control of car-park income.

The Chairperson said that Mr Sekhabi had not addressed the challenges faced by his organisation.

Mr J Maake (ANC) queried the allocation of only 10% of the budget to artistic development. He asked if the Theatre conducted auditions or wrote scripts.

Mr M Bhengu (IFP) asked about the composition of the Theatre’s council, which had only two female members. He also asked how much each council member received per month.

Mr H Maluleka (ANC) asked for a briefing on the mentoring project.

Mr Sekhabi said that the Theatre was happy with the unqualified Auditor-General’s report. There had been problems with managing the heavy outward traffic flow from the parking lot at the end of performances. The Theatre was now charging R10 on entry. He admitted ‘sheer sloppiness’ on the part of the previous chief financial officer in relation to the controls.

Mr Sekhabi said that the Theatre’s core business was art, and to have only 10% of the actual budget for artistic matters was unsatisfactory. He said that corporate South Africa had not supported local productions. Support was more forthcoming for imported productions.

With regard to the composition of the Theatre’s council, members were nominated by the public, and appointed by the Minister.

Very few black people attended the theatre. The organisation sought to make theatre more attractive to black audiences.

Mr Bhengu said that the Theatre had not acted on the Auditor-General’s finding, in that a formal policy to govern the reporting against measurable objectives had not been drafted or implemented (paragraph 19, page 27 of the Annual Report). He wondered what action should be taken regarding non-compliance with the PFMA and Treasury regulations, since these were serious breaches. He asked the Theatre to address these matters urgently.

Mr Sekhabi said that the Theatre was working to resolve the matters raised by the Auditor-General. The previous chief financial officer had been under excessive pressure. It was hoped that the new chief financial officer would remain; Mr Sekhabi himself had been acting as chief executive officer for 20 months, and he looked forward to greater staffing stability.

Ms Tshwete said that a turnover of seven chief financial officers in as many years indicated a real problem at the Theatre and a serious lack of stability.

Mr Maake was worried about the lack of funding from the private sector. Also he said that he could not see sufficient evidence that the Theatre was addressing the cultural needs of the previously disadvantaged.

Ms D Van der Walt (DA) asked to what extent the National Lottery assisted the Theatre.

Mr Sekhabi said that the Lottery had paid the Theatre R1.8 million, but still owed R1.2 million.

National Museum, Bloemfontein: Presentation
Mr Rick Nuttall, Director of the National Museum, Bloemfontein, said that the Museum and its exhibitions provided heritage resources and an enjoyable experience to all peoples through high quality research, conservation, education and exhibitions. It incorporated a number of named satellite institutions. It was a Declared Cultural Institution under the Department of Arts and Culture and was governed by a Council.

The Museum embraced natural history, cultural history and art, and systematically and selectively collected examples and information relevant to those fields from prehistory up to the present. Its task was to document, preserve, conserve, restore, make available, study and promote such items, specimens, examples, collections and information. The Museum was committed to the needs of a diverse economy.

Although adequate accommodation for research collections remained a concern, collection holdings continued to receive curatorial attention of a very high standard. A total of 11 713 material units (specimens, objects, artworks, etc.) were added to the Museum’s diverse collections during the year. In addition to the artworks, 595 international art books and periodicals were also donated to the Oliewenhuis Art Museum. In an attempt to secure improved and appropriate facilities for the storage of collections, negotiations for the lease of alternative storage facilities had continued during the year.

Significant remedial conservation efforts by qualified conservators had been undertaken in the restoration of 35 easel paintings and 1048 items in the Museum Library. The Department of Arts and Culture supported the Transformation and Training Programme. This aimed to build capacity amongst Museum staff to perform a diverse array of practical conservation techniques relevant to the Museum’s collections. Twenty of the Museum’s staff had attended conservation courses.

The Museum continued to contribute to the global research effort, illustrated by the 51 scientific and semi-scientific publications contributed by its researchers, their attendance at conferences, their involvement in 42 co-operative research projects, and their collaboration internationally with various researchers and research institutions. Museum staff reviewed a total of 36 manuscripts for international and national scientific publications, theses and scientific reports. Eighty ongoing research projects in the natural sciences and human sciences continued to enable the Museum to execute fully its conservation, archival and inventory functions. An exciting development was the inclusion of oral history as a specific research focus.

The Museum conducted numerous educational and outreach programmes, involving children and adults. Special events, including temporary exhibitions, were arranged to coincide with the celebration of occasions such as National Science Week, Women’s Day, Heritage Day, African Origins Month and World Space Week.

A total of 187 426 visitors to the Museum and its satellites during the year included a large number of school pupils, street children, persons with disabilities, the terminally ill, youth offenders, the elderly, and children suffering from HIV/AIDS. Teachers and tertiary-level students also attended programmes.

Marketing and fund-raising activities enabled the Museum to carry out a number of projects, art workshops and activities involving learners from the Mangaung / Bloemfontein communities. Museum staff members were involved in the presentation of 220 separate media items on TV, radio and newspapers.

With funding from First National Bank, the Museum had produced an informational marketing DVD, and was in the final stages of developing a DVD aimed specifically at children. Both of these would be distributed widely to create a greater awareness of the Museum and its satellites, and the diversity of its collections and activities.

National TV news coverage was achieved by A Night at the Museum, a publicity event that echoed the film of the same name being screened in local cinemas at the same time; it attracted 550 visitors in a single evening.

Core-funding constraints continued to hamper the Museum’s ability to provide staff with competitive salaries and incentives. The Museum was grateful for continued grants from DAC. It had been possible to realign remuneration levels of a number of staff categories and fill key vacancies, a number of these with applicants from designated groups.

The Museum and its satellites provided professional research, conservation and educational services to a broad spectrum of the community, at the local, national and international level. As a consequence of heritage resources legislation, the cultural resource management services of the Museum’s archaeology department were increasingly in demand.

Educational policy and programmes were developed in line with school curricula and the Museum provided certain resource materials that were not available elsewhere. Facilities for workshops, courses, monthly society meetings, auditorium, and tea room were also available. There were some capacity constraints in information technology, with personnel qualified in other areas having to adapt themselves to the best of their ability in this essential field. An ever-increasing demand for cultural resource management expertise was placing increased demands on the limited capacity of the Museum’s archaeology department.

The Museum also experienced a shortage of space for the mounting of displays. First floor exhibition areas would soon be fully accessible to persons with disabilities as a lift would be available in the 2007/2008 financial year. Major maintenance, repair and renovation projects managed by the Department of Public Works were instituted at both the main National Museum premises and at Oliewenhuis Art Museum.

No public private partnerships were entered into.

Ms Erika Smit, Chief Financial Officer, National Museum, gave details of emphases of matter in the Auditor-General’s Report.

Mr Bhengu stressed the importance of strict adherence to the Public Finance Management Act and Treasury regulations.

Mr Bhengu also said that one of the core functions of the Department of Arts and Culture was to promote social cohesion. He was concerned that the Museum’s Council did not represent the demographic profile of South Africa.

Mr Maake asked if the local people trained in the interpretation of rock art were Lesotho citizens.

Mr S Opperman (DA) asked for further explanation on writing off of assets.

Mr Maluleka said that the Auditor-General had made some similar observations the previous year. He asked for an explanation of the contraventions on the General Accepted Accounting Practice (GAAP).

Mr Nuttall said that it was the Minister of Arts and Culture’s responsibility to nominate the Council. The Museum had little role to play in this. He said that he thought that the factors taken into consideration when constituting the Council had been the need for specialists in various fields. The process involved public nominations. One of the Museum’s objectives was to address nation building and national cohesion.

Mr Nutall noted that the Auditor-General’s findings reflected a strategic objective set in a previous financial year that needed to be reviewed. The strategic objectives had been revised and now included nation-building.

Mr Nuttall said that Lesotho nationals had indeed been trained as part of an international co-operative project. The Museum was also focusing on skills.

The short targeted courses in the table on page 60 of the Annual Report referred to the South African Museum Association (SAMA) courses. These courses had been found very worthwhile.

Ms Erika Smit said that the Museum had reported no stolen or lost assets, but in the case of a theft could claim from insurance.

William Humphreys Art Gallery, Kimberley: Presentation
Ms Ann Pretorius, Director of the William Humphreys Art Gallery, Kimberley, said that her organisation was a theme museum of the visual arts. The financial affairs of the organisation were sound. The organisation sought to continue its progress in transformation, to create jobs, and to contribute to moral cohesion.

As a national museum of art, the William Humphreys Art Gallery’s core function was to collect, conserve and celebrate the country’s artistic heritage. Its collections had been augmented during the year, though to a smaller extent than previously, since there had been less money available for purchases. There were, however, acquisitions of a number of significant and rare works by black artists not previously represented in the collection or by those poorly represented.

The Gallery’s single most important strategic objective was to collect, conserve, and hold in trust the artistic heritage of the people of South Africa as part of the national estate. The transformation ethic sought to address vast areas of deprivation in terms of arts and culture. The Gallery sought to direct its activities to a specific target group, which included unemployed black women form the informal settlements in and around Kimberley, female and male juvenile offenders from the Kimberley Correctional Centre, and mentally and physically disabled youths and adults from various institutions and places of safety in the community.

An amazing benefit of the above was the demonstrable raising of self-esteem of offenders, which gave them a better chance at reintegration into the community when they had completed their sentences.

The Department of Arts and Culture had paid for new equipment and refurbishment of the auditorium, which was now a wonderful facility that was being used for story telling by South African film producers, as part a youth development programme featuring the introduction of African cinema into the Gallery. It was hoped to counteract the overwhelming dominance of the youth by the culture of Hollywood. There were, however, still constraints. The Gallery had wanted to announce an African arts festival, but so far it had no success.

The Gallery also had a policy of partnership with other organisations. Its staff sought to assist, and make the Gallery a centre of excellence to serve South Africa in the Gallery’s field of expertise.

The Gallery was the second smallest organisation of its kind in terms of its annual allocation. It was unfortunately short of space and staff.

Ms Tshwete asked if there was co-operation with the Department of Labour in the training of staff in the Gallery. She also asked if there was co-operation with the Department of Correctional Services in the training of juvenile offenders. She asked if the Gallery extended its activities outside its immediate area.

Ms Pretorius said that the relationship with the Department of Labour relied on accredited training. In order to participate, an organisation had to be recognised and accredited as a training organisation. The Gallery had found it difficult to meet the requirements. Relations with the Department of Correctional Services were similar. Members of civil society made a contribution in their own fields of expertise in addition to the Correctional Services programme.

The Chairperson asked which of the Gallery’s problems were the biggest.

Ms Pretorius said that the Gallery’s staff complement was very small. It was difficult to pay adequate salaries, especially the supplement that should be paid for working in a rather remote outpost. Its collections were highly regarded but needed more space. The Library was too small. Carpets were worn out. The Gallery needed to establish a shop.

Mr G Lekgetho (ANC) said that he was well pleased with the Gallery’s progress in job creation, poverty alleviation, and outreach to children in informal settlements. He asked in what way the Committee could assist the Gallery.

Ms Pretorius said that there was an enormous disparity between the readiness for school of children from the informal settlements and those from the affluent areas. The former could not use pencils or scissors, could not cut out shapes, could not distinguish left from right, and had little spatial perception. The outreach programmes were conducted by an undergraduate who was not yet formally qualified but very successful in achieving the programmes’ objectives. Children from informal settlements who completed the programmes had a much better chance of success at school than their peers who did not.

Mr Maake asked how the Gallery calculated its assets. He asked if the figure represented the cost of the actual works of art.

Mr Lucas Stockenström, Chief Financial Officer, William Humphreys Art Gallery, gave some details of the Gallery’s financial status.

Ms Pretorius said that the value of art collections was market related. The basis of insurance was an agreed value, a compromise between for how much the insurance company was willing to insure the Gallery and what the Gallery could afford. While Ms Pretorius could mention a figure ‘within the confines of the meeting’, for security reasons, she explained, it was not the practice of art galleries and museums to disclose to the public the value of their collections.

Mr Opperman encouraged the Gallery and said that it should not think of its efforts as a mere drop in the ocean, but rather ‘see in every drop the ocean and in every grain of sand the earth’. He asked about the Gallery’s criteria for purchasing art work. He asked if the Gallery was going to correct its somewhat ‘skewed’ balance between its staff complement and special projects.

Ms Tshwete asked if the Gallery had a follow-up programme to market the skills of the women that it had trained.

Ms Pretorius said that the most difficult aspect of the project was developing the women’s business skills. When the women became accustomed to donations, they did not learn to cost their projects.

Mr Bhengu said that he wanted to encourage the Gallery and praised its involvement in outreach work. However, he said that the Gallery should be cautious in its approach to the strategic objective of building national identity since this was still somewhat controversial.

The Chairperson asked about co-operation with the Department of Education.

Ms Pretorius said that co-operation was informal, as with other departments. However, there was more formal co-operation with the Education Department at a higher level in so far as high school and university students used the Gallery’s library. Partnerships were at grass roots level.

Mr Maluleka asked about the location of the nearest university. He said that it was the responsibility of everyone to ensure social cohesion.

Ms N D Mbombo (ANC) asked if the Khoi people were involved in the Gallery’s programmes and if the Gallery staff were learning their language.

Ms Tshwete asked about travelling expenses detailed on page 31 of the Annual Report.

Mr Stockenström said that the Council members came from all parts of the country and often had long journeys by taxi and train, and needed hotel accommodation.

The meeting was adjourned.





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