Kenyan Delegation discussion on National Heritage

Arts and Culture

19 November 2008
Chairperson: Ms T J Tshivhase (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee hosted visitors from the Department of National Security, Administration and Local Authorities in Kenya. The Director General from the Department of Arts and Culture briefed the Kenyan visitors on the Heritage Terrain in South Africa. The challenges to the process of developing heritage days were outlined and the methods and frameworks developed to address these challenges was explained.

The Kenyan delegation questioned the origins of the colours of the flag, the national holidays and name changes to streets.

Meeting report

The Chairperson welcomed the Kenyan delegation from the Department of National Security, Administration and Local Authorities, which is equivalent to National Heritage in South Africa. The Portfolio Committee and the Kenyan contingent introduced themselves.

The Director-General of the Department of Arts and Culture, Mr Themba Wakashe, was welcomed to the meeting and the Chairperson asked him to brief the meeting on National Heritage in South Africa.

Director-General of Department of Arts and Culture on SA’s National Heritage
Mr Wakashe said that shortly after the 1994 elections in South Africa, a White Paper on Arts, Culture and Heritage (1996) was produced. The document focussed on the performing arts, visual arts and left aside the area of film, but addressed itself to heritage. Mr Wakashe said that the reasoning then was that heritage needed a special focus and needed social attention. Heritage in South Arica was then a very contested area as the heritage of the majority was oppression and suppression and Afrikaner Nationalism was the driving force of apartheid and one of its strongest pillars. Mr Wakashe stated that when one looked around the country it did not appear to be a country on the African continent, as the majority of the street names of the country were either of English or Afrikaaner origin. A way had to be found to deal with these challenges and at the same time to affirm the heritage that has been denied.

Mr Wakashe said that the country was going through National Reconciliation and nation building and a way had to be found to address monuments of the apartheid era, should they be destroyed or gotten rid of. There destruction might have caused a backlash, and the Constitution guaranteed the cultural rights of everyone. Also children had to be taught the real history of the country, so a decision was taken to keep those monuments.

Mr Wakash said that the second measure looked at was how to you give a voice to the African heritage of the past 360 years of apartheid. A mechanism had to be found to address the need to establish a statutory body. A body called the National Heritage Council was formed to look at the funding of heritage, and specifically to give a voice to the African heritage of South Africa.

Mr Wakashe said that of equal importance was to answer the question of language, because it was through language that culture and heritage were carried. South Africa was coming from a position where there were only two official languages – Afrikaans and Engligh, and none of the African languages were official. In the New Dispensation the African languages were affirmed by making all nine of them official languages, hence we now have 11 official languages. Mr Wakashe said that through the Constution a body was established called the Pan African Language Board, to act as the custodian of all linguistic rights in the country.

Mr Wakashe said that in the pre-1994 era there was a body called the National Monument Council, which looked after the monuments of the white rulers of South Africa. These were monuments of Afrikaner heritage, and a way had to be found to look at overall heritage of the country. The South African Heritage Resources Agency was then founded to look beyond the protection of monuments and to avoid pillaging. This body was a conservation body looking at heritage beyond monuments.

Mr Wakashe said that one of challenges faced was the preservation of the national memory of South Africa, and how to exhibit this memory and the kind of national dialogue that would emerge from this memory. He said that in post–colonial society the african voice was missing, and the intepretation of collections was distorted. This necessitated extensive correctional work to come up with new frameworks, new collection policies, and to ensure black artists in the galleries.

Originally museums were the haven of the white middle class, but after 1994 blacks started asking for museums, to preserve the national memory of the country and to protect the Nelson Mandela legacy. Cabinet then came up with a framework for legacy projects, to act as a stimulus for national conversation around the heritage of South Africa. From this framework emerged the Nelson Mandela Museum, the Albert Luthuli Museum and the Anti-Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg.

Mr Wakashe said that Robben Island was also declared a national monument shortly after there was a power change in the country, to ensure that a strong link was made between heritage, national identity and social cohesion.

Mr Wakashe emphasised the importance of archives and its role in the heritage and national memory of the country. The records of blacks with regard to archives were about deaths, marriage and imprisonment. Campaigns were started to get South Africans to donate their private papers to the national archives. The first person to do this was the late Mirriam Makeba. Mr Wakashe said that an important aspect of archives was its legacy of governance, as one was never able to effectively fight corruption if proper records management was not in place.

Mr Wakashe added that in South Africa was the only country in the world that had museums dedicated to language and literacy was being promoted in all indigenous languages.

Mr Wakashe addressed Heraldry and stated that the current act that governed heraldry had just gone through a process of emendation. He said that the heraldry in South Africa was based on western heraldry. The old apartheid coat of arms had the latin phrase “ex unitate vires”, which meant, “unity in diversity”, so the country had to ensure a change to the heraldry so that South Africa could have new wording. Mr Wakashe proceeded to demonstrate the new coat of arms to the meeting, explaining that design and symbolism had to be re-visited to have a specifically african flavour. He explained that the Heraldry Act of 1962 was problematic, because it depicted a history of conquest. South Africa had to move away from situations that were contradictory to a nation at peace with itself and the world.


Fred Campodi, the Chairperson of the Kenyan Heritage Committee commended the Mr Wakashe on the presentation. He added that so much still needed to be done in Kenya regarding heritage. He asked if there was a national dress code in South Africa.

Mr J Maake (ANC) said that South Africa does not have a national dress, but all ethnic groups can be identified on important days for particular tribes.

A member of the Kenyan delegation asked about National Holidays that depicted the struggle for independence in South Africa. He wanted to know what the colours in the national flag meant with regard to heritage. He also asked why after 14 years of independence some of the names of the streets have still not been changed.

Mr Wakashe identified the national holidays as Freedom day on the 27th April, which signifies South Africa’s independence, Heritage day on the 24th September, Women’s Day on the 9th of August, 16th December National Reconciliation Day and the 16th June, Youth Day.

Ms D Ramodibe (ANC) explained that Women’s Day remembers the day in 1956 when 20 000 women marched and burnt their passes to protest against the carrying of passes.

Mr Wakashe said that unlike other countries in Africa when they achieved independence, the white population remained as was their right to do under the protection of the Constitution, which also protects their cultural rights. He said that the country has had an excellent campaign on name changes in the last period. There was still consultation underway regarding this aspect of heritage, and a lot of work has been done and still needs to be done.

Mr Wakashe said that regarding the colours of the flag, the black, green and gold were the colours of the liberation movement which have now been incorporated into the new South African flag to show the merging of all groups into one.

Mr C Gololo (ANC) explained that the red in the flag, depicts the blood that was shed during the struggle, the white represents the white population, the green represents the land, the yellow or gold represents the minerals of country, and the black represents the black populaton.

Mr J Maake said that the arrow that goes into all the colours shows that some sort of merging into one has taken place. He explained that during the process of designing a flag people from all over the counry sent their designs, and a special committee was elected to look at all the designs.

The meeting was adjourned.

Chairperson asked the Chief Whip Mr H P Maluleka (ANC) to express the Committee’s condolences regarding death of Mr M H Matlala’s (ANC) son.

Mr Maluleka expressed the Committee’s condolences to Mr Matlala.

The Report of the Oversight visit to Gauteng was adopted.
The Minutes of the following meetings were adopted:

19th August 2008
26th August 2008
24th June 2008
6th May 2008
13th May 2008
20th May 2008
27th May 2008
28th May 2008
4th March 2008
11th March 2008
18th March 2008
26th February 2008

The Chairperson said that today’s meeting would be adopting the minutes of meetings held previously, the Annual Report and the Oversight visit to Gauteng. She added that the Portfolio Committee would be hosting visitors from Kenya regarding National Heritage in South Africa at 12:00pm today.
The Annual Report could not be adopted because the minutes of the meetings of the 18th and 19th November 2008 were not adopted.


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