Budget Hearings: Department and National Heritage Council

Arts and Culture

27 May 2008
Chairperson: Mrs T J Tshivase (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The NHC discussed the “New Trajectory” phase of the NHC which it had now entered in which one of the aims was to make our national heritage more accessible to all South Africans; the strategic programmes of the NHC; details of various projects; and budget allocations for 2007/8; key priority programmes for 2008/9; and numerous challenges and successes. A break down of funds was elaborated on and a presentation was made on the concept of ubuntu, which was a focus.

Various questions were then posed by the members addressing aspects such as: the matters of emphasis raised in the reports of the Auditor General; why some projects and initiatives never seemed to come to finality; how the NHC was approaching the need to foster greater cooperation in the sector; how ubuntu could be made more practical to society at large and the problems of the non-distribution of Lottery funds.  

The Department presented its 2007/8 and proposed 2008/9 budget, highlighting key priorities and programmes and noting various matters of strategic concern, namely: social cohesion, the ISAT cluster as a means of addressing infrastructural development, national identity, the participation of various communities in renewing our heritage and the deployment of technology to preserve and make our heritage more accessible. 50% of vacant posts had now been filled.

During subsequent discussion, the Director General agreed that the training of art administrators was crucial but at present no universities offered courses which addressed this skill specifically. He undertook to look at interventions in this regard. The question of the promotion of African languages was indeed a fraught one but, ultimately, it was a question of money and employability. The more money available in these fields, the more young people would choose to be involved in heritage and cultural activities.

Meeting report

Presentation by National Heritage Council
Adv S Mancotywa (CEO) detailed the NHC budget. He began by referring to the fragmentation inherent in our heritage in respect of museums, libraries, place names, etc. The NHC was in the fifth year of its life cycle and was now in phase three, the most important phase. This “New Trajectory” phase would aim to make our national heritage accessible to all South Africans; included in this was the mandate of the NHC, namely: to protect, preserve and promote our heritage.

He recapitulated the strategic priorities of the NHC, highlighting the following: mainstreaming ubuntu as a guiding philosophy and unifying factor, improving the coordination and management of the sector and intensifying public awareness.

He touched on the strategic programmes for 2007/8, noting that the revival of ubuntu was key and the annual imbizo would be held for this purpose. Also important was the process of unearthing unsung heroes and heroines, documenting the history of the liberation struggle comprehensively and engagement with the Irish Republic in terms of tracing their influence in South Africa. He also noted that an audit of our national heritage assets was planned and training of journalists and media houses on how they report on heritage was to be intensified.

He provided details of a very successful project which used an Ethiopian artist to train a group of young artists to practice indigenous art. He made reference to various books and publications dealing with both intellectuals and people at grassroots level who had contributed to South Africa’s liberation struggle. The formulation of a policy on the repatriation of human remains and the transformation charter were projects which would be coupled with a programme of action.

He provided a breakdown of the budget allocations for 2007/8, which totalled R36 670 000. He expressed satisfaction that most capital was applied to the core business of the NHC and most of the remainder went to “support” functions.

He went on to refer to key priority programmes for 2008/9 and said that a summit on our national heritage was planned, with the aim of assisting teachers in inculcating an understanding of our heritage. He listed numerous challenges: the fragmentation of the sector, weak collaboration amongst organisations, a poor understanding of the role of heritage, an absence of a sector-wide approach in implementing the Transformation Charter and the problematic role of the Lottery Review Board.

He concluded his presentation on a positive note, listing a few opportunities for the NHC. There was a growing awareness of the importance of the sector, coupled with a realisation that key national problems exist that can only be tackled by the sector and 2010 was a huge opportunity to boost both awareness of and a greater exposure to our heritage.

The Chairperson then invited the Chief Financial Officer of the NHC, Ms Thandile Ngethu to present a detailed financial report, indicating that to save time only the main points were to be given and questions from the members of the Committee should be held until after tea.

Ms Ngethu indicated that the report she would discuss had been submitted the previous week for the Members’ consideration. She referred to the total funds allocated to the NHC and the amount still unutilised. Of the R36 670 000, an amount of R 5 494 880 remained unused. The funds had not yet been paid out as the projects concerned were being monitored and would be released when certain requirements had been met.

Ms Ngethu confirmed that most of the funds allocated to the NHC were devoted to core businesses. In 2007/2008: 24% was absorbed by support functions and 76% by core businesses. The split in 2008/9 was 27% for support functions and 73% for core businesses.     

The Chairperson reconvened the meeting after tea and invited Dr Thembeka Ngamba van Wyk (Chairperson of the committee on ubuntu) to report to the members.

Dr van Wyk went into some detail on the activities of the Committee on ubuntu, and addressed the aim of the Committee which was to demystify the concept of ubuntu and make it more a part of everyday life. She referred to a number of books, documents and initiatives, such as the symposium on ubuntu in June (with the intention of partnering with the Department of Education in bringing ubuntu into the curriculum). There would also be an imbizo on the national heritage of South Africa and other initiatives aimed at “conscientising” people at grassroots level.

Ms D Ramodibe (ANC) asked for clarity on certain issues: the Advocate’s reference to the participation of locals and unsung heroes; which schools were being refurbished; more detail on the training and development of young adults; and where the NHC could initiate resource-sharing agreements with other departments to address ubunthu and, in the same vane, were there not billions of undistributed lottery funds which could be used by the NHC or DAC ?  

Mr Maluleka (ANC) asked whether there were matters of emphasis in the AG’s report.

Mr Bhengu (IFP) agreed that action must be taken on the serious matter of the non-distribution of Lottery funds. He added, however, that a more professional and formal presentation from the NHC was necessary as details were lacking – the overwhelming majority of the feedback concerned ubuntu in his opinion.

Ms P Tswete (ANC) asked who was responsible for appointing the distributors of lottery funds. She also questioned whether the CEO was aware of all the participants in the 1956 women’s march and added to this, what strategies did the NHC have to address the need for greater collaboration with different sectors?

Mrs D van der Walt (DA) asked what steps had been taken to rectify the matters of emphasis raised in the AG’s report, especially relating to the management of assets. She was rather disappointed that there was a lot of duplication in the presentations of the NHC; it seemed to her that some issues were never resolved and a number of things were never finalised. She also noted that social cohesion was of crucial importance but not enough had been done across all sectors and some sectors seemed to be alienating certain population groups. She appealed to the CEO to reach out to all the ethnic groups in South Africa.

Mr M R Sonto (ANC) asked whether there were weakened relations between the Department and the NHC.

Adv Mancotywa responded that the unsung heroes were chosen by submissions from local structures and organisations. On the participation of the Irish Republic he noted that promises of investment and involvement had been received in terms of documenting the Irish legacy in South Africa, refurbishing schools and building clinics. He said that the training and development of young artists had been particularly successful; they had recently exhibited their work and there was a strong demand for it. He noted that each matter of emphasis has been addressed by a plan of action (Ms Ngethu would address this in more detail).

Adv Mancotywa  expressed frustration with the Lottery Review Committee; in his opinion it was illegitimate and its penchant for vetoing funds from being paid out had hamstrung the distribution agency. The result was that funds did not reach organisations and some had even been forced to close. He agreed that ubuntu be made more practical but it was already a daily fact of life, more than just a philosophy.

On the women’s march he noted that the NHC’s methodology included using ‘community collective memory’, unfortunately many of the so-called ‘barefoot professors’ are dying and the NHC was aware of the need to approach the process of documenting our oral history with alacrity.  He said that the issue of collaboration was addressed by regular meetings of the CEO’s forum in which programmes and projects at planning stage were discussed to obviate duplication and to facilitate cooperation. The aspect of social cohesion would be dealt with extensively in the near future when the NHC would discuss ubuntu in greater detail.
Ms Ngethu responded to the matters of emphasis in the AG’s report by commenting that the leave policy had been overstated because the NHC had been understaffed and members could not take sufficient leave as operational requirements would have suffered. Subsequently, certain vacant positions had been filled and leave not taken had now been voluntarily forfeited. The emphasis on procurement policy had been rectified by training personnel in the finer points of Treasury regulations. Non-compliance with Generally Accepted Accounting Practice (GAAP) had also been rectified at the time of the report but the AG felt the need to reflect it anyway.

Department Presentation
Mr Themba Wakashe (DG) noted various matters of strategic concern: social cohesion, the ISAT cluster as a means of addressing infrastructural development, national identity, the participation of various communities in renewing our heritage and the deployment of technology to preserve and make our heritage more accessible.
He then referred to the strategic priorities of the DAC, namely filling vacant posts (more than 50% had now been filled), improving efficient service delivery, and finalising the policy review process and promoting awareness of key programmes.

Before referring to the report in more detail he noted that the DAC had become aware of the crucial role of community art centres in providing early intervention in children, there was very little funding for development of young children (as opposed to the youth) and they played a very important role. A task team was currently finalising funding proposals for community art centres.

In terms of Programme 3 (of the DAC strategic programme), Mr Wakashe said that ensuring multi-lingualism remained somewhat of a dilemma, especially in view of the funds allocated for this purpose. There was, however a pool of skills available in “Afrikaans” universities which could enable a fuller development of African languages.

He noted (in respect of Programme 4) that some cultural agreements were not producing any fruit, while some were paying handsome dividends.

In terms of Programme 5, he expressed the view that one of the problems of the heritage sector is that it is mainly made up of aging white males.

In conclusion, the DG discussed the Medium Term Expenditure Framework, noting an average 12.5% increase in the budget until various projects had been completed in the 2010/11 financial year, after which there would be a decrease in the budget allocation. Of the R2.1 billion allocated to DAC, 86.2% of these funds were transfers to other entities.

Ms N Mbombo (ANC) praised the investment in culture which had uplifted many poor communities. There was, however, a shortage of skills in terms of arts administrators – could this be addressed? She commented that many universities did not promote African languages as fields of study and asked how this could be remedied. She also enquired as to why the budget allocated large amounts initially to infrastructure development and then decreased, instead of slowly increasing the budget over time.

Ms v d Walt asked whether more funds could be allocated for libraries in rural areas. She was concerned that there seemed to have been little coordination between the DAC and the Department of Defence in the matter of transferring the (Cape Town) Castle. She also wanted to know who the members of the SAGNC (
South African Geographical Names Council )and PANSALB (Pan South African Language Board) were as the entities were listed in the report but without any record of who their members were. Finally, she requested the DG to explain the qualification by the AG.

Ms Ramodibe encouraged the DG to continue asking for more funding for youth and child development.

Mr Lekgetho (ANC) commented that the DAC should learn form other world nations how to deal with xenophobia. He asked whether PANSALB could receive more funding in order to fulfil its mandate.

Mr Bhengu (IFP) asked how more money could be provided to make a career in the heritage sector more attractive to young people. He also enquired whether the DG was aware if all funding reached the intended recipients and what criteria had been used to identify so-called “heritage schools”.

The DG responded in general to the questions, agreeing that the training of art administrators was crucial but at present no universities offered courses which addressed this skill specifically. He undertook to look at interventions in this regard. The question of the promotion of African languages was indeed a fraught one but, ultimately, the DG declared, it was a question of money and employability. The more money available in these fields, the more young people would choose to be involved in heritage and cultural activities.

The meeting was adjourned.


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