Robben Island Museum & Pan South African Language Board Budgets

Arts and Culture

13 May 2008
Chairperson: Ms T Tshivase (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

Delegations from the Robben Island Museum and the Pan South African Languages Board briefed the Committee on their budget requirements and strategies.

Committee Members found it necessary to repeat some questions in order to obtain answers to their satisfaction. The Democratic Alliance commented that it was highly dissatisfied with the Museum's performance, and could not understand its claimed inability to take an accurate count of the fauna present on the island.

In response the Museum stressed its Department of Correctional Services inheritance and under funding.

There was debate as to the extent to which other government departments should support the Robben Island Museum, alongside the Department of Arts and Culture, since, besides its core heritage function, the Museum, of necessity, had to maintain a school, a clinic, water and sanitation, and roads, for its resident staff and families.

PanSALB persuasively defended its ambitious strategic vision. It sought amendments to the PanSALB Act to give it the necessary authority to fulfil its mandate to restore the status of the languages used by the people of South Africa and enforce compliance with government’s language polices. Through its provincial languages councils, PanSALB was engaging with municipalities for recognition of the languages that the municipalities served. Noting the closure of African studies departments, it encouraged students to study African languages at universities by providing student bursaries. PanSALB sought partnerships with the private sector to raise funds for capital projects, so that it would not have to depend solely on government funding. This was to fulfil Cabinet’s directive on the matter. It was necessary to ensure that PanSALB had the authority to enforce compliance with language policies. The Committee undertook to raise PanSALB’s request for additional funding with the Department of Arts and Culture without making any promises as to the outcome.

Meeting report

The Chairperson welcomed the delegation from the Robben Island Museum (RIM): Mr Naledi Tsiki, Chairperson of the council; Ms Estelle Randall, member of the council; Mr Paul Langa, Chief Executive Officer; Mr Shoni Khangala, Senior Manager, Marketing; and Mr Mortimer Daniels, Production Unit Manager. The Chairperson noted that Mr Khangala had been her former student.

The Chairperson welcomed the Pan South African Languages Board (PanSALB) delegation led by Ms N Nkosi, Chief Executive Officer. Ms Nkosi was accompanied by Mr Chris Swepu, Deputy Chief Executive Officer; Mr Lovell Singh, Chief Financial Officer; and Mr Vukile Mblini, Financial Manager.

Robben Island Museum presentation
Introducing the Integrated Conservation Management Plan, Mr Khangala said that Robben Island was located 9.6 kilometres north of Green Point and had an area of about 520 hectares. He explained the village environment of Robben Island, which included a school for the families who lived permanently on the island, a post office, a clinic, and a lighthouse of critical importance for shipping, which was under the direction of Portnet.

Mr Khangala said that the Museum was grappling with the major challenge of managing the Island’s natural environment. This was heightened importance in view of its status as a World Heritage Site. There was an urgent need to reduce the population of rabbits, estimated at 4 000, devouring the vegetation needed as a food source by other animals, and had had to resort to culling. It had also been necessary to cull fallow deer and introduce supplementary feeding, since there was not enough veld area for antelopes. Trapping of feral cats had been unsuccessful; the Museum had obtained the reluctant agreement of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) to shoot cats, with the result that the feline population had been reduced from about 117 to about 12. 

The natural environment was of crucial importance to Robben Island, Mr Khangala said, but ‘nature takes no account of even the most reasonable human excuses’, he said. The ICMP was essential in demonstrating the commitment of the Museum to maintaining the natural and cultural environment of the Island for posterity.

Mr Langa continued the presentation by saying that Robben Island was 'a city in the middle of the water' that had inherited its infrastructure from the Department of Correctional Services. The Museum found it necessary to supplement its budget with revenue from ticket sales to tourists.

Mr Langa explained the legislative framework of the Island and the problem of ‘unfunded mandates’.

Mr Langa said that the Museum had only one cargo vessel, which was also a ‘heritage’ vessel. Spare parts had to be imported from overseas.

Mr Langa said that the Island was ‘our pain, our history, and our space’. 

Ms D Van der Walt (DA) said that the Robben Island Museum was a difficult body for the Committee to work with. She had with her six press cuttings, and many more in her office, illustrating her point. It was wrong for the Museum to deny that it could not perform an accurate count of the fauna on the island. Many game farms larger than the Island succeeded in counting their fauna, and the Museum could do so if it applied its mind to the job. She asked the Museum please to explain what is was doing to implement a better strategy so as not to risk the island's losing its World Heritage Status. The Museum had failed hundreds of tourists because of insufficient capacity of the Island's fleet of ferries. It could not put all the blame on the age of its boats and on the City of Cape Town. She asked how much longer the Museum would continue to be preoccupied with its inheritance from correctional services.

Mr Langa said that all the Members' questions were genuine. He explained the dialogue that the Museum had conducted with the SPCA on the management of the feline population. The SPCA had in the beginning disallowed shooting and recommended trapping. However, only four cats were trapped. The SPCA then allowed a combination of trapping and shooting, which was more successful. He admitted that this was an emotive issue which appalled cat lovers. It was not easy. The rabbit population was estimated at 4 000, but of course many rabbits were underground.

Mr Langa elaborated on the many other challenges that confronted the Robben Island Museum, including the controversial financial deficit and the problems that had arisen from the loss of revenue from delays in commissioning the new passenger ferry.

Mr Khangala said that it was difficult to count rabbits.

Ms Van der Walt insisted that the Museum could at least count the larger animals.

Mr Khangala said that the Island’s World Heritage Site status was not directly related to the Museum’s capacity to receive tourists, but the Museum strove to provide the best possible facilities.

Mr Khangala said, by way of defence, that the Museum had not had a council for a long time. This had put a strain on the management

Mr Langa said that the Museum's older vessels had failed, and the Museum had had to appeal to Government. There would always be a constraint on ferry capacity. Mr Langa appealed for the Committee's help.

Mr S Opperman (DA) said that the Chief Executive Officer was asking for more money. He asked what was in place to assure the people of South Africa that the Museum would improve its financial management.

Mr G Lekgetho (ANC) asked how the Museum managed its 'unfunded mandate'. Secondly, he asked about the size of the island's human population.

Mr Langa said that there were about 112 families, whose members worked in various capacities, on the Island.

Mr B Zulu (ANC) asked if the Museum was receiving its budget only from the Department of Arts and Culture.

The Chairperson asked for comment on the role of the private sector in contributing to the upkeep of Robben Island. Other departments should also be involved in the upkeep of Robben Island, not Arts and Culture alone.

Mr Tsiki said that every single government entity needed to be examined and its relevant competencies determined to see what budget it needed. This had not been done from the first day with Robben Island Museum. The council was new. There were many functions that did not belong to the heritage function, such as the school, the clinic, the water supply, and the roads. He noted that thus far the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism had shown willingness to co-operate and contribute to the budget. The Museum also sought the support of the Department of Public Works, and the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry in bringing their own budgets. Robben Island was prepared to seek funding also from the private sector.

Ms Van der Walt said that there was no need to discuss the involvement of other departments. Any such involvement should be done as a matter of routine. She said that if Robben Island consumed services provided by the municipality, it must pay the municipality for those services, just as Members of Parliament who lived in Acacia Park had to pay the municipality for water and electricity. She asked about the investigation into the loss of R31 000 at the Robben Island Museum Shop.

Mr Tsiki responded to Ms Van der Walt. R31 000 had been stolen by an employee on probation. This matter was now being addressed by the police. The offender was in prison.

Ms N Mbombo (ANC) asked how the Robben Island Museum catered for the religious needs of its diverse resident population.

In response to Ms Mbombo, Mr Langa said that religious matters were not a core function of the Museum, but the Museum did its best to accommodate diverse religious needs. He mentioned the kramats on the island, and the large numbers of visitors to those kramats.

Mr Lekgetho asked for clarification about the non-core business of Robben Island Museum – the 'unfunded mandates'. He asked further how and when the Museum was going to bring in other stake-holders, such as the departments of Public Works and Health. It was important that the Museum could concentrate more on its core mandate.

Mr Langa said that Robben Island Museum was unique and differed from all the other museums on the mainland.

Ms Mbombo asked about the age range of the school. She also asked about learners from other countries studying at the school and who paid for them.

Mr Langa replied that there was a kindergarten and a creche. Fees were payable. This was an unfunded mandate. It was a challenging factor to provide food for the pupils. The Museum paid for one teacher; the government paid for the other. The school took pupils up to grade 7 (standard 5). He spoke of the Robben Island training programme.

Mr H Maluleka (ANC) congratulated the new council. He was confident that with the new leadership some of the concerns would be adequately addressed. He said that irrespective of the number of various animals on the Island, it was vital that the natural environment was managed sensitively and carefully. He said that it was a great honour to South Africa that Robben Island had been selected as a World Heritage Site. He expressed the hope that the Committee would have the opportunity to revisit Robben Island in the near future.

Mr Tsiki extended on behalf of the Robben Island Museum’s council and management a cordial invitation to the Committee to visit the Island again. He welcomed the Committee’s readiness as public representatives to interact with the council and management and would be sure to give the Committee a progress report on a quarterly basis. If the council and management should err, they would apologise; if uncertain, they would ask the Committee’s guidance.

The Chairperson replied with an isiVenda greeting.

PanSALB presentation
Ms Nkosi applauded the Portfolio Committee’s invitation to PanSALB to present its strategic plan for 2008 to 2011 and the organisation’s current budgetary requirements, in which PanSALB strongly appealed to the Committee for its assistance in addressing these requirements. PanSALB sought as an outcome that these requirements would be addressed seriously. 

Ms Nkosi briefly reviewed PanSALB’s legislative mandate. PanSALB was especially concerned to witness implementation of language policies at all levels of government, and ensure appropriate research on language development. 

PanSALB also sought to promote dialogue to change the mindset of the public with regard to South Africa’s languages. In terms of PanSALB’s service delivery, if one examined the initiatives that PanSALB had undertaken as a board, one could appreciate that PanSALB was exerting itself to fulfil its mandate. Of particular importance were the multilingualism awards that were aimed at uniting the nation by promoting multilingualism; the awards also involved PanSALB’s stakeholders so that they would see the effects of multilingualism in society. PanSALB had co-operated with a number of institutions and corporations such as Microsoft and StatsSA with which it had signed a memorandum of understanding. Currently PanSALB was conferring with the National House of Traditional Leaders, and had signed memoranda of understanding with the Eastern Cape Department of Education and with the home languages project.

However, PanSALB faced various challenges.  For example some municipalities were not accepting the use of the languages preferred by the communities that they served. This failure violated South Africa’s Constitution.

As an organisation, PanSALB had grown, with the appointment of 13 senior language practitioners and deployed them in provincial offices: PanSALB regarded this as a major advance.

Mr Swepu introduced PanSALB’s 2008/2009 operational plan, highlights of which included a determination to strengthen itemised budgeting within the organisation, following PanSALB‘s introspective review of itself.  Through PanSALB’s legal unit the organisation was preparing, for review by its board, and subsequently by the State Law Advisor, and ultimately by Parliament, recommendations for amendments to the PanSALB Act to ensure compliance and enforcement.

Mr Swepu emphasised that limitations on funding had adversely affected PanSALB’s delivery of services. PanSALB’s strategic objectives included paying special attention to raising its public profile, monitoring of implementation of language policies, language development, enabling access of previously disadvantaged language groups to mainstream economic and social activity, and empower users of the previously marginalised languages, including sign language.

Currently PanSALB’s staff complement was 58, but after the organisation’s review of the staff structure, PanSALB determined that it required 552. A service provider had assisted PanSALB with a review of staff grading, dissatisfaction with which had led to low staff morale.  PanSALB sought to review the salaries of staff directly involved in service delivery. To address compliance and auditing issues, PanSALB was developing an information technology (IT) master plan, with special emphasis on back-up procedures.

Through its provincial languages councils PanSALB was engaging with municipalities for recognition of the languages that the municipalities served. This was to fulfil Cabinet’s directive on the matter. It was necessary to ensure that PanSALB had the authority to enforce compliance with language policies.

PanSALB sought partnerships with the private sector to raise funds for capital projects, so that it would not have to depend solely on government funding. It noted ‘with sadness’ the closing of departments of African studies in some universities on account of the alleged shortage of students interested in those subjects. Thus it was creating a bursary scheme to encourage students to study African languages.

PanSALB had received 18 linguistic human rights complaints which it regarded as a vital component of its work to promote awareness of the linguistic rights of the people of South Africa. It sought to promote the revised ‘spelling and orthography rules’. In particular, modifications to computer software for checking spelling would enable recognition of the software of words and names in African languages. This was ‘an important step in the right direction’. PanSALB would standardise glossaries and lists of terms and intended to present these at a conference to be held in September 2008.

Mr Swepu said that PanSALB sought to encourage writers in all the official languages and develop their skills. This included workshops for authors in all genres. Also PanSALB sought to improve the standard of translators and interpreters. Special importance was being paid to sign language; workshops had been held with the parents of deaf children. Languages were being trained in the San and Khoi languages.

Mr Singh introduced the budget by giving details of PanSALB’s staff structure (‘organogram’) and the costing of the strategic plan from 2008 through to 2011. He confirmed PanSALB’s need for 552 staff members, an increase on the current 58. These numbers were needed for effective delivery of services.

Mr Mblini emphasised some of the points raised by Mr Singh. He reinforced PanSALB’s increased budget requirements by saying that they were needed to comply with relevant legislation and in response to the Auditor-General’s stipulation that there should be strict separation of duties in administrative departments concerned with financial matters. The existing staff complement was insufficient to comply with the Public Finance Management Act and the Treasury regulations. Mr Mblini gave a detailed analysis of PanSALB’s pattern of expenditure in recent years, which had indicated an upward trend on salaries. Over the past five years the portion of the budget spent on salaries had increased from 21.5% in 2002 to 24.6% in 2007.

Mr Mblini gave details of past years’ budget allocations, expenditures, surpluses and over expenditures from 1999/2000 to the present.

Regarding the budget allocation of 2008/09, Mr Mblini said that he would speak only about the operations budget. The PanSALB Act had stipulated that the National Language Unit and Provincial Language Councils be structures of PanSALB. These structures were PanSALB’s core business and raison d’être.  Out of the R47 million that it had received for the current year, the Provincial Language Councils alone required R40 million to deliver what was required of them. PanSALB, however, had been able to give them R3.8 million according to the current budget. The National Language Boards also required R21 million, but with the current budget, it could give them only R1.8 million. The National Lexicographical Unit was requesting R23 million; but it could give them only R11 million. The PanSALB board, according to the Act, was required to hold at least four meetings a year, but each board meeting cost R160 000. The board had therefore requested R800 000 for that purpose. But according to the current budget, only R100 000 was provded for the purpose of holding its meetings.

Mr Mblini said that because of under funding the board was unable to address serious issues of non-compliance, as noted in the previous audit, such as salary levels. PanSALB was always facing a turnover of staff. The PanSALB board was unable to deliver on its core mandate because PanSALB was grossly under funded. The under funding of PanSALB set it up for guaranteed overspending and thereby ‘criminalises the board’. Delays in appointing the board, and delays in informing the chief executive officer when the board was eventually constituted, had had adverse effects.

Ms Nkosi described the projects that PanSALB intended to undertake, such as the publication of newspapers, government notices and books in indigenous languages. Publishers in South Africa, it was well known, were reluctant to publish in African languages. PanSALB was told that there were no African language books in libraries because no such books were to be found in the bookshops. Ms Nkosi produced a letter from a member of the public in which the writer complained bitterly that books in African languages were unavailable. Ms Nkosi said that unless PanSALB took the initiative to promote books in African languages, these languages would ‘die a natural death’. This was one of its capital projects. Production of African language materials was necessary to raise the literacy levels of the population, as was required by the Cabinet’s directive.

Ms Nkosi said that PanSALB’s next capital project was the South African Language Village. It was very strange that when one entered South Africa, one felt that one was entering a European country. There was nothing to indicate that South Africa was indeed an African country. PanSALB intended to change the landscape of South Africa by providing a structure entitled ‘the South African Language Village’. This project required a budget of R50 million in the current year to enable the exploration, research and purchasing of land. There was also need for a translation and interpreting house. PanSALB also needed its own building in the village. Its present premises had recently been burgled, which had resulted in many difficulties. Mercifully, most of PanSALB’s information had been stored electronically and had been saved. The language village would have a hotel where PanSALB would host people coming from overseas to teach in the multilingual institute that would be part of this village. There would also be a theatre in which South Africa’s children would be taught to develop its own films. This was to counterbalance the prevailing trend whereby South Africa was always receiving films from outside the country. There would also be a recreational area. Whereas institutions had been created to mark other aspects of South African culture, nothing had been created for languages. PanSALB hoped that this would be one of the projects that would turn South Africa into an African country. The village would require about R21 million. These were the capital projects that PanSALB wished to undertake. It was clear that this could not be done with the R47 million that had been given. The proposed medium term budget of R300 million excluded these capital projects. PanSALB would form a fund-raising committee that would assist it, but it still needed a definite commitment from Parliament to assistit with an improvement in this budget. Otherwise PanSALB would keep returning to the Portfolio Committee with complaints of underfunding. Ms Nkosi trusted that PanSALB’s delegation would leave the day’s meeting with ‘clear direction forward’.

The Chairperson indicated that she attached great importance to language. ‘Language is our pride’, she said. When conducting interviews, she said that it was often a difficult and frustrating task to decide which official language to use. The Chairperson said that persons with disabilities, especially those afflicted by deafness, faced particular difficulties with language. Such persons lacked any instrument with which to communicate with their relatives and neighbours at home. She asked if PanSALB had any programme to assist and encourage family members of such persons to learn the sign language. At least if one family member knew sign language, the person with deafness could communicate to family members through that individual. She thanked the delegation for the presentation.

Ms Nkosi acknowledged the Chairperson and noted her remarks.

Mr M Bhengu (IFP) commended the presentation. He said that all too often, when a black South African interacted with a white, coloured or Asian person, the latter would automatically speak in English and would assume that the former was equally fluent and comfortable in speaking English. Mr Bhengu said that his grandfather had struggled with English because his grandfather had never had the opportunity to go to school. His grandfather had to resort to broken English. Mr Bhengu used to ask himself why his grandfather was expected to speak a language that he did not know while the other person did not even care to acquaint himself with his grandfather’s language. ‘Had become so attitudinal that you were expected to speak the language of the other.’ This even applied if that other person knew the African language concerned. Mr Bhengu asked if PanSALB had any plans to address this issue, which tended to perpetuate the colonisation of the language. Model C schools had become a kind of ‘melting pot’. In model C schools ‘the indigenous languages were actually subdued by the English language’. That had actually been proven, and he wondered what PanSALB was doing about it. It had been observed in Durban that black African children were becoming unable even to complete a sentence in their own indigenous language.

Ms Nkosi responded to Mr Bhengu on how PanSALB should address the language hegemony and perpetuation of colonisation. The South African Language Village would address language hegemony and the perpetuation of colonisation. Moreover it was not true that this was happening only in Gauteng. It would be decentralised according to each language group. That was where schools could go to learn more about heritage, which was carried by the medium of language. This was the justification for the language village.

Mr Bhengu continued by asking about the PanSALB board, a matter that ‘did not augur well’.

Mr Bhengu asked if the language village project and related projects fell under the constitutional mandate of PanSALB. At the end of the day these were business entities generating some profit. At least that was how Mr Bhengu envisaged them in terms of the presentation as given. However, it would be good if PanSALB’s mandate were to enable it to generate profits.

Ms Nkosi responded to Mr Bhengu by reading from the section of the Constitution from which PanSALB derived its mandate.  The Constitution required PanSALB to create conditions for the implementation of multilingualism. This was very broad. In creating conditions one must first of all address the environment which was responsible for the depreciation of African languages. In the conferences that PanSALB had attended, it had been asked how it proposed to raise the status of African languages. It was necessary to cultivate an environment that was conducive to the development in the people of a love for their own languages. So the issue of the South African languages village was where people would see that their languages had currency. They could have careers in their languages. The universities could assist, but they were very restricted in what they could do. PanSALB was saying that it just wanted to create these possibilities so that people could begin to love their languages. They could see that they could begin to live using their languages. It was one way of raising the status of the indigenous languages. Thus PanSALB was not deviating from its mandate. 

Ms Van der Walt said that she was normally very tough with PanSALB but that she would begin softly by congratulating the chief executive officer on the National Languages day that she and the Committee Chairperson had attended.

Ms Van der Walt commended PanSALB for publicising the requirement for every schoolchild to learn a third language. Language had pride of place in Ms Van der Walt’s heart too.

Ms Nkosi thanked Ms Van der Walt.

However, Ms Van der Walt cautioned PanSALB with regard to its ‘dreams’ because, from the presentation, it might appear that the ‘CEO and two deputies were building empires for themselves’. In business terms it was unsatisfactory. Ms Van der Walt had never seen any organisation that had had a deputy chief executive officer. If the chief executive officer’s office required R116 000 000 for the next year, that was more than twice the grant of R47 million received from the Department of Arts and Culture. The language village was a good idea if one had the money, but there was too much duplication; there was no reason to include many of the activities mentioned in the presentation within the village, such activities should rather be within the universities or at the level of education. Ms Van der Walt said that she was not convinced of the need for a language village in the form envisaged in the presentation.

Ms Van der Walt further cautioned PanSALB with regard to its budget by saying that PanSALB had a very bad track record in Parliament, and specifically at the Standing Committee on Public Accounts. If PanSALB could not administer its finances in accordance with what it received, one wondered how it could be taken seriously with the figures it proposed now. Every public entity always sought more generous funding but ‘your dream was way out of line’. Ms Van der Walt hastened to say that this was in no way a personal criticism, nor to imply that she underestimated the extent of the tasks with which PanSALB was charged in terms of South Africa’s Constitution. What PanSALB sought in terms of staff numbers far exceeded the whole staff complement of the Department of Arts and Culture. If PanSALB wanted to take the Committee seriously, it would have to scale down its requirements considerably and hopefully realise ‘the dream eventually’.

Ms Nkosi denied that PanSALB was building empires but said that PanSALB had been given a huge mandate that required these administrative structures. PanSALB was a national structure which had just begun to possess provincial structures but without any support at the provincial level. Ms Van der Walt had referred to the Department of Arts and Culture having a national structure, but did not mention that the Department also had provincial departments of arts and culture. PanSALB was not creating an empire, just trying to fulfil the tasks assigned to it. In each and every provincial department there was a head of department. It was therefore an error to say that PanSALB was excessive in its requirements for staff members. Nor was it true to say that PanSALB’s staff requirements were excessive by comparison with those of the Department of Arts and Culture.

Mr Mblini said that as Ms Van der Walt had correctly said, PanSALB had appeared before the Standing Committee on Public Accounts because of the qualification that PanSALB had received from the Auditor-General. This qualification was not because of mismanagement, Mr Mblini said, but because of the way the PanSALB Act required PanSALB to establish national lexicographic units as section 21 companies. Those people were housed by the universities not by PanSALB. These lexicographic units had their own auditors and their own boards of directors. These boards submitted their statements to PanSALB to consolidate their financial statements with those of PanSALB. However, PanSALB did not have control over these Section 21 companies. That is why in the presentation PanSALB indicated that it wanted to revise the PanSALB Act so that PanSALB would have control over these Section 21 companies.

Mr Mblini said that another issue on which PanSALB had been questioned by the Standing Committee on Public Accounts was the separation of duties. To comply with the separation of duties required by the Public Finance Management Act, PanSALB would require 20 staff members in the finance department, but it currently had only four staff members in that department. Mr Mblini maintained that PanSALB was managing its finances in a satisfactory manner.

Ms Van der Walt interjected that she was well aware of the reasons for which PanSALB had been summoned by the Standing Committee on Public Accounts.

Mr Swepu said that, as deputy chief executive officer, the Chief Executive Officer had given him the task of co-ordinating the annual operational planning process. It meant that one had to produce business plans and itemised budgeting and to make submissions. This, in terms of the existing budget presented, one had to do with only R35 000.  It included travel to this meeting and to many other meetings. He emphasised the difficulties PanSALB was facing with the current budget and current staffing establishment, discussion of which should not be confused with discussion of the capital projects mentioned in the three year strategic document. PanSALB could not meet even its current commitments with its present budget. Most of the questions raised by Committee Members were very valid observations but they had been addressed in the annual operational plan, for example translation in court proceedings. This was why PanSALB had a memorandum of understanding with the Department of Justice and had had interaction with the State Law Advisor with the result that a language unit had been established in the office of the State Law Advisor to assist in the translation of Parliamentary documents. The difficulty was that PanSALB had these plans, but was unable to implement them on a large scale because of insufficient funding.

PanSALB, Mr Mblini said, further responding to Ms Van der Walt, already had an educational language unit at the level of schools, and this did important work in co-operation with the Department of Education. PanSALB had presented the Committee with both the present and the future projections. He emphasised that with the present budget PanSALB was unable to deliver on its present obligations, including compliance issues, including a human resources and integrated supply chain. On the basis of the current budget and the present staff complement, PanSALB could not meet its needs and the concerns raised by the Committee.

Mr Singh said that PanSALB was required to include in its annual report a paragraph on performance versus objectives. For the financial year 2007/2008 PanSALB received R43.6 million. With the roll over amount from the previous year it came to R51 million. PanSALB spent R51 million. With inflation at 8.5%, to deliver this year the same level of services with a comparable allocation would require R55 million. With the R47 million actually received, PanSALB was immediately at a disadvantage with a deficit of R8 million. So in terms of performance against objectives, PanSALB’s hands were basically tied.

Ms Mbombo said that she had met large numbers of schoolchildren who had told her that they received no encouragement to study subjects within the field of arts and culture and were given to believe that only the sciences and mathematics had any value and importance. Nobody was even interested in encouraging them to study arts and culture subjects. Not every one had the necessary aptitudes for mathematics and sciences, but such persons might excel in arts and culture and should be encouraged to realise their talents. Most children thought that a knowledge of arts and culture was no more than knowing, for example, one Zulu dance. Ms Mbombo had called the provincial department of arts and culture to visit her constituency on Saturday, 17 May 2008 to explain what was meant by arts and culture.

Ms Nkosi said that it was true that children looked down upon their own languages because ‘there was no currency’ in respect of those languages, a duty to provide such had been neglected by adults. PanSALB wanted to create an environment in which children would be proud to be Africans and to use African languages to earn a living and in different domains.

Therefore, Ms Nkosi said, PanSALB sought to establish a multilingual institute to address subjects dealing with languages such as translation and interpreting, and also the writing of computer software to accommodate indigenous languages. PanSALB had to take this upon itself because the universities had not done it.

Ms Nkosi said that the closure of university departments in African studies was a very sensitive issue. The reason such departments were being closed was because of the new funding formula which was marginalising anything that had no direct connection with science and technology –  this related to the point, that children felt discouraged from studying arts and culture subjects, raised by Ms Mbombo

Mr Lekgetho congratulated PanSALB on the establishment of the Provincial Language Councils. He asked how the Councils were structured. Mr Lekgetho said that when the Portfolio Committee had met the National Arts Council of South Africa on 06 November 2007, a Member had complained of the skewed distribution of funds to the provinces. He asked how PanSALB was going to distribute the R3.8 million to the Provincial Language Councils.

Mr Mblini responded to Mr Lekgetho’s question on how to finance these structures. Firstly PanSALB allocated funds to salaries. Secondly it allocated funds to languages. Thirdly it allocated funds to dictionary units. Lastly it allocated the remainder to Provincial Language Councils and National Language Councils, according to what PanSALB had.

Mr Zulu said that PanSALB should apply itself to reaching the rural areas effectively. He also said that the situation of the indigenous languages was embarrassing. Often one heard the previously colonised speaking the languages of the colonisers better than the colonisers themselves. He suggested that PanSALB might be better advised to invest its money in encouraging the universities to teach indigenous languages. He asked how many students were being given bursaries. He also said that PanSALB should ask the African radio stations to speak out on behalf of the African languages, because any language that was not spoken was liable to disappear. He also said that PanSALB should enhance defendants’ right to be tried in a language that they could understand. He gave the example of a court case conducted in the defendant’s language, and how other magistrates had complained about the magistrate concerned for allowing the use of that language. No one could force a Member of Parliament to speak English, but Members of Parliament typically spoke English as a matter of course. Mr Zulu referred to this as running away from the language of his constituents.

Ms Nkosi responded to Mr Zulu by saying that PanSALB was not visible in the villages because it did not have enough money to extend itself to the villages. In order to attend an imbizo it was necessary to have the requisite infrastructure. Fortunately last year PanSALB was able to establish a relationship with the National House of Traditional Leaders, and PanSALB would now be working with them, but even that would require money to travel to the people to talk to them. It was necessary to engage the language communities with regard to linguistic rights. It was necessary to have campaigns there, but PanSALB could not do so because it lacked the money.

The Chairperson said that PanSALB should be more serious about translation, especially in court proceedings. Accurate translation required a deep knowledge of the languages concerned and sensitivity to cultural differences. Also children were going astray from their cultural and linguistic heritage.

The Chairperson invited follow-up questions from Members.

Mr Lekgetho asked his questions, mentioned above, again, since he felt that they had not been answered adequately.

Ms Nkosi responded to Mr Lekgetho’s question.  She said that the Provincial Language Councils were structured according to the Government Gazette. The call for nominations was issued by the MECs. Then there was a process of selection and elimination until there was a committee that was represented of the communities in that province. ThenPanSALB started to administer the provincial language committee. There were subcommittees, for example for linguistics human rights violations. These subcommittees served the different needs within the provinces and municipalities. His question showed how inadequate the structure was: only 13 members serving a whole province. In the new strategic plan, there was provision for full time members of staff in the provincial offices to perform the day to day functions delegated to them by the provincial language committees. This was what was lacking at the present time. This was why PanSALB was battling to meet its mandate. It was in keeping with the services that they must perform that the provincial language committees had requested extra funding.

Mr Mblini responded to Mr Lekgetho’s question on the structures of the provincial language councils. These councils were required in terms of the PanSALB Act to meet four times per annum. The cost of one meeting was R140 000. However, PanSALB, as per its budget, could allocate to each provincial language council only R100 000. So the councils did not have enough funds for even one meeting. The auditors used to say that PanSALB was carrying a heavier workload than that of the Department of Arts and Culture, according to Mr Mblini, as it was handling all the work of the provinces.

Mr Bhengu hastened to assure Ms Nkosi that ‘it is part of our duty to unpack whatever is presented to us’ in order to fulfil Parliament’s mandate. He said that when PanSALB had answered his question on language hegemony, it had confused it with the subject of the language village. Mr Bhengu said that they did not have to go together. It was rather an ‘attitudinal problem’. The language village could include an element of capitalism. Hotels and recreational areas suggested business. The Committee was asking these questions because some day it would, as a Committee, be asked as to why it allowed these things to happen. He asked what kind of a hotel was envisaged.

Ms Nkosi replied to Mr Bhengu that the issue of attitudinal problems with regard to languages, or the disrespect shown to languages, was very serious in South Africa. Dr Neville Alexander had always talked about adding value to indigenous languages. Ms Nkosi agreed with Mr Mblini that it was preferable not to focus on ‘the dream’, but rather to focus on what was currently available; PanSALB had done much to conduct campaigns to inform the public about the value of indigenous languages. The multilingualism awards had helped by showing what other people had done with their languages. PanSALB had held mother tongue celebrations to show people how important mother tongues were. However it would take a long time to correct the damage done to indigenous languages by colonisation and apartheid. PanSALB was very encouraged that people were coming forward to state their cases. PanSALB felt at last that it was beginning to be heard by the communities.

With regard to Mr Bhengu’s observation about the hotel, he was right, Ms Nkosi said, to say that it would generate income. It was not a PanSALB policy but an ANC government policy that there should be public-private partnerships to enable the South African people to generate income. What PanSALB wanted to see was a hotel run by an empowerment group. The price of hotel accommodation was sky rocketing out of control. So PanSALB sought a public-private partnership to enable empowerment of providers to provide a service that was necessary and would otherwise be supplied by outsiders at probably much greater cost.

Ms Van der Walt said that, for the benefit of members of PanSALB for whom it was the first visit to the Committee, it was necessary to say that the Committee’s duty was to ask questions on any matter on which it thought it appropriate to ask questions and to make any comments that it thought appropriate, with the object of ‘making it work’. If PanSALB objected, it should say so. Ms Van der Walt said to the deputy chief executive officer that if there was insufficient money in his budget to travel to Cape Town, then he need not travel. If one wanted to save money, there were always ways to save money in any business. She had objected to the tone of the deputy chief executive officer’s response. It would not work with her.

Addressing Ms Nkosi, Ms Van der Walt said that the comparison was to show that if one was a person with some business knowledge then what PanSALB had proposed was a nice dream if one could afford it. Her comparison was with the national department, not with the provincial departments. The Committee was concerned with the national Department of Arts and Culture only. She called upon PanSALB to bring its strategic plan down to a level that could be implemented. She appealed to PanSALB not to include in its plans things that could not be implemented, since this resulted in argument on every occasion, and weakened the Committee’s case for fighting on PanSALB’s behalf. To champion PanSALB’s cause on the basis of the figures presented would be ‘laughable’. It must be possible to implement a strategic plan. Ms Van der Walt knew from the Committee’s experience of working with 20 or more similar entities that strategic plans must be capable of being implemented. The Auditor-General’s office was known to hold a similar view. Ms Van der Walt would point this out to the Minister himself in a question.

Ms Nkosi responded that the national Department of Arts and Culture dealt with only one aspect of language - the policy aspect. PanSALB dealt with the entire issue of language within the whole country. Recently Cabinet passed a decision to fund the literacy campaign at a cost of R6.6 billion. That was the importance placed on literacy. But PanSALB did not deal only with literacy. It dealt also with language in the widest sense, yet it had been offered this meagre budget. PanSALB wanted the Committee to understand the breadth of PanSALB’s language mandate and appreciate its dire financial straits in relation to its onerous obligations. PanSALB appealed for the Committee’s support. PanSALB asked the Committee to invite it to attend for more deliberations, as the time allotted to the presentation, only 30 minutes, was not really sufficient to do justice to all the concerns that PanSALB needed to raise.

Ms Van der Walt reprimanded PanSALB for ‘the worst spelling I have ever seen in my life’ in its annual report. For a language department that was a disgrace.

The Chairperson thanked Ms Nkosi and colleagues for their responses. She observed that the Committee and PanSALB were ‘not fighting’ but rather ‘trying to build this country of ours’. She expressed the hope that PanSALB would respond quickly to any invitation to present to the Committee again, since the Committee Members sought earnestly to understand the needs of PanSALB whilst responding to the demands of their constituents for evidence that progress was being achieved.

Mr Maluleka said that PanSALB had a very clear mandate. He suggested that, if Members had perhaps appeared to be rather forthright in asking questions, it was perhaps because elections were looming, and it was necessary to convince their constituents that they, the Members, were doing their jobs thoroughly. He wished the PanSALB management well.

Ms Van der Walt said that PanSALB’s job was not to convince ‘the converted’, such as language professionals, students, and Members of Parliament but to convince ordinary members of the public that they had a right to complain if their language rights were violated. For this purpose PanSALB did not need a village, because those people could not afford to travel to such a village; PanSALB itself should travel to meet those people. She encouraged PanSALB to support and encourage university departments of African languages, such as the University of Limpopo which had secured a grant from the Ford Foundation.

Ms Nkosi thanked the Committee for its responses and humbly requested it to assist PanSALB to obtain its extra budget. As Mr Singh had indicated, PanSALB was under funded even with reference to what it had received the previous year. Putting ‘the dream’ aside, she asked the Committee to consider the day-to-day operations. PanSALB had made a bid to the National Treasury and received something that was absolutely ‘shameful’. She agreed to defer ‘the dream’ and focus on the operational plans as presented. She asked where else, but to the Portfolio Committee, PanSALB could turn. It needed the money this financial year.

The Chairperson said that the Committee was there to help PanSALB and PanSALB to help the Committee. The Chairperson said that the Committee would discuss the matter with the Department of Arts and Culture, without committing itself at this stage to making any promises. However, it was important that there was ‘two-way traffic: when we request, you deliver’, she said. She assured PanSALB that when the Committee called upon it to present, it should not panic and think that Members of Parliament were ‘harsh’; they were ‘building this country together.’

The meeting was adjourned.


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