ATC171018: Report of the Select Committee on Education and Recreation on an oversight visit to the Robben Island Museum dated 18 October 2017

NCOP Education and Technology, Sports, Arts and Culture

Report of the Select Committee on Education and Recreation on an oversight visit to the Robben Island Museum dated 18 October 2017

The Select Committee on Education and Recreation, having undertaken an oversight visit to the Robben Island Museum on 08 March 2017, reports as follows:


1.         Background and introduction


The Arts and Culture and heritage sector contributes to social cohesion, nation building and economic empowerment. One of the targets of the Department of Arts and Culture is to build arts, culture and heritage infrastructure. The Committee thought that it would be a good move for it to conduct an oversight visit to Robben Island for the purpose of looking at, amongst others, the following main issues:


  • Governance and Management;
  • Revenue collection; and
  • Infrastructure


The Committee wanted to have an understanding of the challenges faced by the entity and contingency plans that the entity may have in place to deal with those challenges. The Committee also wanted to know if there is any possible assistance that the entity is getting from any other sources except for government.  


This report, therefore, contains an account of the journey of the Committee to the above-mentioned museum. Furthermore, it provides a summary of the key issues that emerged from the interaction with the Robben Island Museum Management and Department of Arts and Culture Officials as well as the Committee’s deliberations, observations and recommendations.


2.         Delegation

The delegation comprised of the following:


Committee Members:

Hon LL Zwane (Chairperson), Hon P Samka (Eastern Cape), Hon ML Moshodi (Free State), Hon TK Mampuru (Limpopo), Hon C Hattingh (North West) and Hon TG Mpambo-Sibhukwana (Western Cape).


Support staff:

Ms N Skaka (Committee Secretary), Mr L Komle ((Committee Content Advisor), Ms L Stofile (Committee Researcher), Ms Z France (Committee Assistant), Ms M Williams (Committee Secretary for the SC on Social Services), Ms T Ketye (Content Advisor for the SC on Social Services), Ms J Le Roux and Mr M Molo (Researchers for the SC on Social Services).


3.         Oversight and Monitoring Visit in the Robben Island Museum


The oversight visit began with an Island Tour, which included the following sites:

  • Prison,
  • Quarries (Lime and Bluestone),
  • Female Asylum,
  • Robert Sobukhwe House,
  • Village,
  • Graves,
  • Recreational Facilities, and
  • Outronk.


After the tour, the delegation was taken to a Guest House for a meeting with the Robben Island Museum Management and Department of Arts and Culture Officials.


  1. Meeting with the Robben Island Museum Management and Department of Arts and Culture (DAC) Officials


The meeting took place at a Guest House in the Museum. The meeting began with the introductions which were followed by a presentation. The non-financial part of the presentation was done by Mr M Dada, the CEO of the Robben Island Museum and Mr M Lale, the CFO, did the financial part. The presentation was as follows:


3.1.1     Introduction


The Robben Island Museum was established in 1997 and it is a declared cultural institution in accordance with the Cultural Institutions Act of 1998. It is a Schedule 3A Public Entity reporting to the Department of Arts and Culture. The Museum opened its doors to the public on 01 January 1997. It is based on a site with a multi-layered history which goes back to the 16th century and it is reported as follows:

  • The Island was a banishment area for local chiefs resisting colonialism;
  • It was a banishment place for lepers (person suffering from leprosy);
  • It was used as a defence line for the 2nd World War; and
  • The island was a prison for political and common law prisoners from the 1960s to the early 1990s.


The Museum was declared a World Heritage Site in December 1999. It consists of 5 main sites, which are:

  • Robben Island;
  • Nelson Mandela Gateway;
  • Mayibuye Archives;
  • Jetty 1; and
  • Quay 501.


3.1.2     Robben Island Museum Guiding Documents


The following are the documents guiding the Museum:

  • Integrated Conservation Management Plan, 2013-2018;
  • National Treasury Framework on Strategic Plans and Annual Performance Plans;
  • King Code on Good Corporate Governance;
  • Department of Arts and Culture’s Strategy (incorporating Mzansi’s Golden Economy); and
  • UNESCO Mission Reports.


3.1.3     Legislative Framework


Some of the main legislative frameworks which apply to RIM are the following:

  • National Heritage Resources Act, 1999;
  • Cultural Institutions Act, 1998;
  • World Heritage Convention Act, 1999;
  • National Environmental Management Act, 1998;
  • Cape Nature and Environmental Conservation Ordinance, 1974;
  • Conservation of Agriculture Resources Act, 1983;
  • Marine Living Resources Act, 1998;
  • Environmental Conservation Act, 1989;
  • Sea-shore Act, 1935; and
  • World Heritage Convention (1972).


3.1.4     Governance


The RIM Council is appointed by the Minister of Arts and Culture for a period of 3 years in accordance with the Cultural Institutions Act. The Council is appointed by the Minister of Environmental Affairs as a Management Authority of the Robben Island World Heritage Site. The current Council, which consist of 7 members, was appointed in July 2016 and the Chairperson is Mr Sibusiso Buthelezi. The majority of the members have been serving in the Council since April 2010. The term of the current Council will expire in July 2019. Sub-Committees of the Councils include the following:

  • Audit and Risk Committee;
  • Finance and Remuneration Committee;
  • Heritage, Education and Marketing Tourism Committee; and
  • HR, Governance, Ethics and Integrity Committee.


The Council appointed internal auditors, Sizwe Ntsaluba Gobodo (SNG) in August 2016 for a further period of 3 years.


3.1.5     Executive Management


The Council appointed Mr M Dada, a former Council Member as a CEO, in June 2016. The Chief Financial Officer was appointed in January 2011 and the Chief Heritage Officer was appointed in September 2013. The Infrastructure and Facilities Executive Manager was appointed in August 2015. The Executive is supported by Senior Managers of the RIM Business Units (Departments).


  1. Organisational Structure


The staff establishment of the Museums is 256. In addition to Corporate/Administration, the Museum has 7 departments and those are:

  • Human Resources;
  • Ferry Operations;
  • Infrastructure and Facilities (Property Maintenance, Transport, Cargo);
  • Marketing and Tourism Services;
  • Heritage and Research (includes Environmental Conservation, Mayibuye Archives, & Built Environment);
  • Public Heritage Education; and
  • Finance.


3.1.8     Visitor figures


The following are the Museum’s visitor figures:

  • 2009/2010: 265 595
  • 2010/2011: 286 190
  • 2011/2012: 302 229
  • 2012/2013: 282 869
  • 2013/2014: 301 726
  • 2014/2015: 325 816
  • 2015/2016: 364 021
  • 2016/2017: 333 595 (11/12 months)


Robben Island has 3 passenger ferries and 1 cargo boat which it owns. A tender is currently underway to build a 180 – 200 seater passenger ferry to assist with the demand.


  1. Achievements


The Museum achieved the following:

  • Relative stability of labour relations environment;
  • Attainment of Unqualified Audit Opinions: 2010/2011, 2011/2012, 2012/2013, 2013/2014, 2014/2015 and 2015/2016;
  • Strengthening of corporate governance and financial controls;
  • Completion of the 2013-2018 ICMP;
  • Launch of a state of the art interactive website in partnership with MTN;
  • Significant improvement in island maintenance since a tripartite agreement was entered into between RIM, DPW and DAC;
  • Formalisation of partnership with the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries to protect marine resources on Robben Island’s 1 nautical mile; and
  • Recruitment of qualified, competent and experienced personnel for strategic positions across the institution to support implementation of ICMP.


  1. Challenges


Challenges encountered by the Museum include:

  • The Current funding model that does not take into account the fact that Robben Island is a World Heritage Site;
  • Funding required for proper facilities to house the Mayibuye Collections;
  • Funding required for an interpretation centre at NMG to accommodate no-boat days;
  • Funding required for holistic interpretation of the Island to supplement funds from National Lottery;
  • Huge staff expenditure due to staff absorption during the 2010/2011 financial year, resulting in staff expenditure exceeding the subsidy received by DAC causing implications on funding heritage programmes;
  • Ferry operating model and infrastructure; and
  • DAC/DPW not confirming funding for infrastructure, especially municipal services (power generation) in relation to procurement of diesel.


  1. Action Plan


The Museum’s action plan covers the following:

  • Ferries: Standardization of agreements with ferry service providers and procurement of an additional vessel and ferry model feasibility study;
  • Development of a Strategy on Adaptive Reuse of Robben Island facilities and spaces;
  • Development of a holistic interpretation plan;
  • Review of the Organisational Structure in order to address increasing compensation for staff;
  • Implementation of a Performance Management System (including job profiles and performance contracts) to improve performance reporting;
  • Enhancement of internal capacity to develop plans for the maintenance of RIM infrastructure and capital works projects in conjunction with an Infrastructure Plan to address island maintenance; and
  • Establishment of partnership with other African World Heritage Sites such as Goree Island (Senegal), Ghana Museums and Monuments Council, Ngorongoro Conservation Area (Tanzania), and Lamu Island and the National Museum of Kenya.


  1. Budget


Robben Island Museum has budgeted for a deficit related to infrastructure expenditure during the 2015/16 financial year. This deficit relates to expenditure on an additional mandate (maintenance and infrastructure related expenditure on the Island) which was previously undertaken by DPW and was taken over by RIM. During the 2015/16 financial year, DPW has taken back the responsibility for facilities management on the island. DPW now makes use of an implementation agent to take care of the facilities management on the island. It is worth noting that the diesel for power generation remains unfunded in the outer years of the MTEF. Funding for capital works programmes carried out on the island is received from DAC.


  1. Deliberations


Members deliberated on the presentation and the following key issues emerged:


  • Vision and mission statement of the Museum:

The Vision is to develop and promote Robben Island as an inspiring world-class heritage site. The Mission Statement is to implement best practice of conservation and maintenance of the World Heritage Property, foster healthy stakeholder relations, embark on high quality intellectual input in research, interpretation and representation to enhance the narrative and to deliver transformational experiences to all visitors.


  • Partnership between RIM and Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF):

DAFF has partnered with RIM on an effective policing of exploitation of marine resources within the one nautical mile buffer zone of the Island. Poaching incidents have dropped down over the years and culprits have been arrested. South African Police Services (SAPS) is also involved through their water and marine policing unit. SANPARKS is likely to come on board once RIM is declared a Marine Protected Area in line with the Operation Phakisa programme.


  • Implementation of the 2nd Integrated Conservation Management Plan (ICMP):

Programmes of the Natural Environmental Management Plan which is being implemented by RIM include controlling invasive alien plants and controlled burns supervised by City of Cape Town through a permitting system. The flora of the island (even though predominantly invasive) is critical to sustaining fauna (penguin habitat). Some animals like rabbits and deers were culled in the island in order not to exceed the carrying capacity of the island. The RIM has a partnership with the University of Stellenbosch to conduct research and monitoring work relating to the fauna and flora of the island.


  • Naming of ferries:

The process of naming Sikhululekile involved a participatory approach where staff members and the public were consulted. Thandi is a private ferry, thus, the naming is unknown to the RIM.


  • Tour guiding:

Regarding sign language, RIM has introduced brail language in terms of the language policy for which the first outcome is a brochure available on request. The rest is due to follow subject to funding support. RIM is training two tourist guides in Mandarin in partnership with NDT.


  • Recreation facilities for residents on the island:

RIM has facilities for residents including a club house, swimming pool and sporting facilities. The swimming pool access is controlled for security reasons. The bulk of residents are shift workers who go back to the mainland at the end of their shifts. Residents are controlled and processed through RIM’s accommodation policy.


  • Media and social reporting:

RIM revamped its website. The Museum now has a twitter handle and facebook account. RIM partnered with Google to develop a Google Earth walk through experience.


  • Rational behind the budget by DAC:
  • Reasons for the current model where RIM gets half its yearly spend allocated by DAC: When RIM was established, provision was not made for compliance with its World Heritage Status. RIM is also expected to make good on the shortfall by the amount it raises from Ticket Sales.
  • Options for sustainability: RIM has been fundraising to implement programmes and to date, NDT, AWHF and other partners have come on board with both programme and infrastructure funding. RIM is exploring the role of DEA in the context of the World Heritage Convention and DAC will assist in this regard.


  • Infrastructure:

RIM took over the maintenance of the island when Department of Public Works (DPW) had failed to maintain the island, which attracted the office of the Public Protector and the UNESCO evaluation mission. DAC and DPW then reached an agreement to allow the latter to resume maintenance work on the island through a tripartite framework including RIM as an active beneficiary and this resumed in April 2015. RIM’s infrastructure department has been resourced through the appointment of an executive and senior managers to manage all infrastructure on the island and the mainland. The infrastructure department is in the process of finalizing its Built Environment Management Framework for all sites to ensure proper planning and maintenance of buildings, utilities and other infrastructure, noting the ever present challenge of funding.


  • Curio shop:

RIM has a coffee shop, general dealer and curio shop. The first two is owned by RIM and the curio shop, located on the island and the mainland is privately owned and managed via a Service Level Agreement (SLA) signed with RIM. RIM is in the process of establishing a community based craft facility in partnership with local communities.


  • HR matters:
  • Discipline amongst staff members:

The Museum has a Disciplinary Code and Procedures (“referred to as Disciplinary Policy”) for all employees which was approved by RIM Council in 2015. The Disciplinary policy primary purpose is to ensure the following:

  • To promote mutual respect amongst employees as well as between employees and the employer.
  • To support constructive employee relations at RIM;
  • To avert and correct unacceptable behaviour;
  • To prevent arbitrary or discriminatory practices towards employees; and
  • To promote acceptable employee conduct.

The discipline as per Disciplinary policy is applied utilizing two approaches. Progressive discipline which is applied for less serious forms of misconduct which ordinarily takes a form of corrective counselling, verbal warning, written warning and final written warning. While suspension without pay, demotion and dismissal, subject to the severity of the misconduct is often imposed for all serious acts of misconducts committed by employees.


  • Staff establishment:

The Museum is a designated employer as per Employment Equity Act, No.55 of 1998 as amended. The EE representativity profiles for all employees within the Museum is attached.


  • Access for the disabled:

The Built Environment Management Framework that is underway makes provision for Universal Access for all of RIM’s sites. This plan is due over the 2017/18 financial year.


4.         Observations


Based on the information provided in the meeting, the delegation made the following observations:

  • The infrastructure was well maintained although there were areas of concern. The appointment of an executive and senior managers to manage all infrastructure on the island and the mainland is commendable as it will ensure that the infrastructure is well maintained. 
  • The culling of the rabbits was a matter of concern as it disturbs the ecosystem of the island;
  • The guide inside the prison was a relatively old person who is approaching pension age;
  • The Committee commended the entity for obtaining a clean audit;
  • The Committee was concerned that of the private boats that were used by the entity to ferry people to the island, none were owned by a black person or a black company;
  • Twinning of the RIM with other heritage sites in the Continent was commended by the committee;
  • The Committee was concerned that local people seemed not to have opportunity to sell their products in the curio shop;
  • The Committee was concerned that collection of the RIM was getting spoiled at the University of the Western Cape because of the manner in which they were packed.
  • The Committee is concerned with the funding model which does not address the issue that the museum is a world heritage site. The Museum ends up budgeting on a deficit;
  • The Diesel for power generation remains unfunded for the outer years of the MTEF;
  • The partnership with DAFF and the involvement of SAPS in policing the exploitation of the marine resources is commendable;
  • Development of braille language and also training two guides in Mandarin are progressive moves by the entity; and
  • Using social media in the form of facebook and twitter is an innovative way to attract the youth to come to the RIM.


5          Recommendations


The following recommendations were made:

  • The infrastructure department should accelerate the process of finalizing its Built Environment Management Framework for all sites to ensure proper planning and maintenance of buildings, utilities and other infrastructure;
  • Although some animals like rabbits and deers were culled in the island in order not to exceed the carrying capacity of the island, the RIM should make people aware of the reasons behind culling of animals. The research report written by RIM and the University of Stellenbosch on the fauna and flora of the island should be made available to the Committee;
  • The RIM should appoint young people who will replace the aging tour guide;
  • The RIM should ensure that there is a boat that is owned by a black person/company that they hire to ferry people to the island;
  • The twinning project with other heritage sites in the continent should add value to the entity;
  • Local people should be given an opportunity to sell their products in the curio shop;
  • The entity should make way to take back its collection from the University of the Western Cape;
  •  The entity should find ways and means to increase their revenue generation;
  • The funding model of DAC should address the issue that the entity is a world heritage site;
  • The Diesel power generation has to be funded or the entity should change to renewable energy (solar energy);


6.         Appreciation


The delegation, led by Hon LL Zwane MP (Chairperson: Select Committee on Education and Recreation), would like to thank the Robben Island Museum Management and officials from the Department of Arts and Culture for the support given during the oversight visit.



Report to be considered.







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