Dr Nomafrench Mbombo, MPP
Western Cape Minister of Cultural Affairs And Sports
Note: This is the speech that was delivered by Cultural Affairs and Sport MEC, Dr Nomafrench Mbombo in the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) in response to Minister of Arts and Culture, Nathi Mthethwa’s Budget Vote Speech.
We thank the newly appointed Minister of Arts and Culture for tabling his budget last week for the next financial year.
The R3.5 billion apportioned to the work of this department can do a lot if managed well and spent wisely.
The mandate of the Arts and Culture Department can often be seen as an intangible one in that one cannot measure the extent to which this department has achieved social cohesion.
Or the extent to which we have managed to promote cultural diversity and South Africa’s Heritage.
With that being a challenge, it does not negate the importance of the department and the work it does.
The National Development Plan prescribes clearly the role that Arts and Culture, and by extension my Department in the Western Cape Government- the Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport, ought to play.
The NDP states, “Arts and culture opens powerful spaces for engagement about where a society finds itself and where it is going. Promoted effectively, the creative and cultural industries can contribute substantially to small business development, job creation, urban development and renewal.”
With that in mind, I can fully commit that under my leadership, we will work to achieve this goal prescribed by the NDP for the next five years.
The Western Cape government has managed to achieve a tremendous amount in the past five years and we will continue to fully utilise the budget allocated to us by national government.
Mzansi Golden Economy
Chairperson, the Minister spoke at length about the establishment of the Mzansi Golden Economy. This, he stated, honourable members, ‘seeks to expand supply and work opportunities; grow audiences; transform the colonial heritage landscape; collect relevant data to inform policy direction; and develop artists to be economically self-reliant’ through the establishment of several creative arts incubators across the country.
As the Western Cape Government, we are in support of this initiative.
It will allow for the honing of local talent and skills, prove to be the feeder system for private companies- both locally and internationally- to discover talent and a unique way for government to provide support to the arts.
Most importantly, the Mzansi Golden Economy will breathe life into the vision of the NDP of using the arts as an economic stimulus.
With the requisite support, artists will be able create work opportunities, not only for themselves but for members of their communities as well. Indeed, we can start seeing artists who are far more economically active through the use of their skills.
We have no doubt that we are a country of great ideas but unfortunately we are not always great at effective implementation.
You see chairperson, South Africa is not lacking in innovative ideas that could change the world, but they need effective implementation, which can only be brought about by fierce political will in order to change lives.
We hope that the Minister will ensure that the creative arts incubators become a reality and not just incubators of jobs for pals and gross mismanagement.
Chairperson, we can only measure our true success in the way that people’s lives are changed- not just the politically connected few but as many people as our resources will allow.
Great initiatives such as the Film Fund that the Minister has proposed, will be managed through the National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF) and will go a long way in providing support to local film makers and will, by extension, grow our film industry.
White Paper on Arts, Culture and Heritage of 1996
Chairperson, the Western Cape Government welcomes the move by the Minister to finally review the White Paper on Arts, Culture and Heritage of 1996.
This has been a long time coming- it has been 18 years to be exact.
The purpose of this legislation was to create an environment conducive to promoting, protecting and realising the full potential of South African Cultural and Creative Industries.
The Bill was supported and welcomed by all when it was conceptualised and brought before the National Assembly.
The reason for its delays is a simple ‘too many cooks spoil the broth’ scenario.
We sincerely hope that the new Minister, in his renewed vigour and strength, can finally see this White Paper finalised.
Chairperson, Minister Mthethwa has announced that an exorbitant R34 million has been earmarked to roll out patriotism toolkits which would include the national flag, charts depicting the national government symbols, instructions on how to sing the national anthem and how to stand correctly when it is being sung.
While we welcome this move and fully support the rolling out of such information to South Africans, this amount is excessive and could be put to better use.
We are of the firm belief that patriotism cannot be taught or implanted.
We need to give the requisite support to our local artists so that they may begin to inspire the nation.
We need to find ways to reach even the most remote areas in this country to bring libraries to reinvigorate the young and old minds while unlocking their potential.
This is definitely an aspect of this department’s role that could use some of the money being spent on teaching people patriotism.
If we invest in our young people through art and through the provision of more libraries, we will begin to see South Africans representing us on the centre of the world stage, flying our flag high.
That, Chairperson inspires patriotism. That inspires national pride.
While ensuring that schools are equipped with flags and booklets on our national symbols, we need to be mindful that delivering on the mandate of the arts and culture department, in its entirety, will inevitably inspire real national pride.
Robben Island maintenance
Honourable Chairperson, the state of one our most valued Heritage Sites, Robben Island, is an indictment on this government.
Robben Island is a historical icon in this country, one that represents a painful history and a powerful story of a nation that is resilient with a strong sense of what is right and wrong.
To allow Robben Island to depreciate the way that it has over the last couple of years is a blemish on national government’s record.
Robben Island Museum has been marred by numerous financial scandals. In 2008, RIM’s CEO, Chief Operating Officer and Chief Financial Officer were suspended due to allegations of financial mismanagement. That same year, RIM received a disclaimer from the Auditor-General.
This is in addition to the embarrassing ferry woes which have been a recurring issue.
The shift of Robben Island Museum from the department of Correctional Services to the broad umbrella of the Department of Arts and Culture has done very little to aid the situation.
The Department of Public Works, which was tasked with the general upkeep of this government asset, has failed at every turn.
This is why the Western Cape Government has been calling for national government to relinquish some management responsibilities to this provincial government for fast implementation of a turnaround strategy.
With regards to the ongoing problems with the ferry system used as a mode of transport to the island, we propose that this process be opened up to private companies. Making use of experts in this regard means we can improve access to the Island and alleviate disappointments created by the ferry’s seasonal breakdowns.
Open and controlled access should be granted to private charters who wish to visit the Island.
Collaboration between Minister Mthethwa’s department, the Western Cape Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport and the private sector will definitely yield better results. This is the benefit of corporative governance, Chairperson.
We have seen this intergovernmental collaboration work extremely well with projects like the Artscape in the City of Cape Town. With the Department of Arts and Culture’s funding and the provincial government’s commitment to overseeing the day to day running of that infrastructure, it continues to be an asset to the people of this province.
It has become a place where locals can come and watch locally brewed productions and a place leading in community outreach programmes. The Artscape Theatre Complex has now become an incubator of smaller organisations where they are mentored through all the stages, not only to perform professionally in their own environment, but to eventually end up on the stage of Artscape.
This is how the different spheres of government can work together and I have no doubt that this example can be replicated with the Robben Island Museum.
Our fallen giants like uTat’uMandela would want us to recognize the importance of preserving such a site. Failure to do so would be failure to preserve an important part of South African history.
Going forward, we hope that the Minister will also heed our call for the establishment of provincial arts festivals and commit to financially supporting at least one flagship event per province.
We would also like to engage the Minister and his department on the proposal to establish a national art bank that will be responsible for procuring and curating art works from established and emerging artists in public buildings and South African embassies.
We would like to see an improvement in the efficiency of community art centres. Taking art to every corner of the country allows access to every South African regardless of who they are and where they live. Community centres could also be used as a platform for local artists to conduct workshops in local communities to not only utilise their skills, but help implant them.
Instead of simply delivering flags and booklets to young people in schools, bringing local artists to them in their communities , will ensure effective transmission of knowledge and skills.
Honourable Chairperson we look forward to showing the Minister and his department that the Mass Participation, Opportunity and Access Development and Growth (MOD) after school centres can be used to promote community participation in the arts.
The MOD centres are a unique platform at which we engage a young person in a multi-faceted approach. The Western Cape Government has taken the idea of MOD centres and is expanding it for maximum use for learners.
Local artists (who receive assistance from Artscape) and bigger organizations such as Dance for All, benefit from Cape Town Ballet’s collaboration with our department, to assist in offering free dance classes. This in turn helps to identify talent in these after school centres, nurture it and provide ongoing support for young people to thrive in this field.
Some of our young people who have been attending the MOD centres have gone on to do great things in the world of sport, arts and culture. Toufeeq Baatjies, for example, won the South African qualifier in breakdancing and will be representing the country at the Red Bull BC One, Middle East Africa Final, in Algeria, later this year. If he wins, he will represent South Africa/Africa at the World Championships, in France. In addition, many learners who attend our MOD centres have also improved their grades. That is why DCAS continues to drive this programme and intends on expanding its reach in the future.
Soon we will be launching the MOD programme’s exciting new initiative called the “Youth Gap Year” volunteer programme. This initiative involves top matric and university graduates, locally and internationally, volunteering to tutor learners in our MOD centres after formal school hours.
This new aspect of the MOD programme will truly breathe life into our vision of a socially inclusive, creative and active environment that will also be conducive for learning for our young people.
We can most certainly expand this, Honourable Chairperson. We can expand to educate young people about art and culture, we can use this platform to identify talent, nurture it and create opportunities for young people to thrive in this field.
Chairperson, we hope that the Minister will be open to ideas, from across all political lines, that will help us realize outcome 14 of the NDP in transforming society and uniting the country.
That is the beauty of the arts, Chairperson.
I thank you.