Speech – Stagnant budget is hindering progress

George Mari, MPP

DA KZN Spokesperson on Arts and Culture

Allow me to start by thanking the MEC for tabling her Department’s Budget.   My appreciation also goes to officials who are trying very hard to deliver on the department’s mandate with limited funding.

Budget

This years’ budget sees a substantial increase in the budget for the provincialisation of libraries. The department struggled to meet its mandate in 2012 and the portfolio committee was disappointed by the allocation given the pressures faced by the department. The budget does not provide for any new Art Centres to be built in 2013 as the limited funding provided for capital expenditure is to be used for the 2nd Phase of the existing Art Centre.

This budget is therefore stagnant and is hindering the department from carrying out its mandate, especially within cultural affairs and economic growth. Perusing the department’s Annual Performance it is clear that the targets for 2013 have either stayed the same or reduced when compared to the estimated performance for 2012. Examples of this include the number of structures the department supports – drastically reduced from 76 to 16 – and the number of artistes trained, which is reduced from 4 715 in 2012 to 2 745 and maintains this trend for the MTEF Period.

The DA is concerned that very few community-based organisations are being assisted to achieve their objectives. The number of cultural organisations within Indian Communities is reducing and there is a need to increase funding and support those organisations that produce maximum results with their allocations. The department’s under-expenditure could have been used to assist these organisations.

Cuts in allocations to the Playhouse Company and the KZN Orchestra were raised as a serious concern by the Arts and Culture and Finance portfolio committees and an undertaking was made to ensure that this be rectified in the Mid Term Budget estimates. The DA will be following up on this later in the year.

On a positive note, I must congratulate the department on its achievements in respect of the Construction of Phase One of the Arts Centres and I am looking forward to their completion.  But I have two concerns.  The first is value for money.  Are we getting value for money? The centres the committee has visited do not indicate this.  The second concern is the sustainability of Art Centres. Municipalities must ensure that they are optimally used by the various art forms, so that communities benefit. We saw some beadwork and handicrafts being made by women, which is good, but the marketing of their goods is poor and they are relying on locals to buy from them as they do not have a marketing arm.  The department must come up with a strategy to assist in marketing their products.

I was looking forward to seeing an Art Centre being built for the Indian Community, which does not have one. But this budget does not allow for any new Art Centres.  Perhaps some consideration can be given to this next year.

Libraries

Libraries are centres of learning.  The department has built some state-of-the-art libraries in the province in recent years, which must be commended. I was also impressed to see new concepts where a mini museum was incorporated in the design. We need more of these. The provincialisation of libraries must proceed in earnest so that the Department can upgrade some of the older ones. Yet the budget does not provide for more of these libraries to be built.

The Documentation centre – named the 1860 Heritage Centre – has still not been officially opened. The portfolio committee again visited the Centre and was bluntly told that it cannot open until more space is found and all the artefacts and heirloms are taken from storage and displayed properly. This Centre has been stolen from the Indian Community.  I don’t want to point fingers at anyone but I will say that there is a double storey building, which previously displayed these items and which is now being used to store CD’s and DVD’s. This building must be taken from the KZN Music House and given to the Documentation Centre. The department must engage the Department of Economic Development on this matter so that the new opening date of 16 November 2013 is finally achieved.

Museums

The Rorkes Drift Zulu Museum needs to be refurbished – it is losing its appeal, unlike the museum in Dundee, which is well run and maintained.

KZN Music Academy 

I want to again raise the issue of the KZN Music Academy.  This institution must be brought under the department’s control. It is not playing the role it is supposed to play. The department of Economic Development funded this academy to the tune of more than R50 million. Yet it is a commercial venue for a select few and emerging local artists are not benefitting from it.  The cost of using the recording studio is completely out of their reach as the tariffs are too high.

Last year I suggested that KZN have its own Idols competition, where indigenous songs and music are encouraged. The youth must be encouraged to participate and become involved in the arts.

Ethekwini Mega Library

I raised this matter last year – allow me to warn on the operational cost allocated to Ethekwini.  This library is earmarked to cost in the region of R500 million. There needs to be a thorough investigation into the present need for a Mega Library.  With this amount of money, the department could build 15 Libraries where the need is the greatest.   The DA warns the MEC to tread very carefully on this one.

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