Dr Nomafrench Mbombo
Western Cape Minister of Cultural Affairs and Sports
It has been reported in the media today that the Robben Island Museum has called on the private sector to step in and save this site from losing its World Heritage Status.
We welcome Chief Executive Sibongiseni Mkhize’s acknowledgement that urgent intervention is needed. The problem, however, remains with the national Public Works and Arts and Culture Department, whose responsibility it is to work closely with RIM.
That is why I will be requesting an urgent meeting with the Minister of Arts and Culture, Nathi Mthethwa, under whose department the heritage site falls. The purpose of this meeting will be to discuss the Western Cape Government’s proposed turnaround strategy.
While we welcome the possibility of a public-private partnership in this regard, we believe the solid proposals we have could go a long way in providing much needed solutions to the dire state of Robben Island.
These reports come at the back of widely reported problems with the maintenance and the management of the museum which dates back several years.
The Western Cape Government has repeatedly called on national government to relinquish some of the management rights and responsibilities to the provincial government, along with its budget, for better and effective running of the Museum.
Some of the suggestions that have been made by this government include making the RIM financial audits public for effective accountability, privatising the ferry system, in effect, creating economic opportunities for some of the former prisoners and investigating new opportunities to grow the international appeal of the Island.
The fact that the museum runs the risk of losing its World Heritage Status and crucial functions like running the ferry system, have fallen by the way side is an indictment on our national government.
It is an absolute shame that this iconic site is marred by gross mismanagement and is failing at performing even the simplest tasks.
When I raised this issue with Minister Mthethwa a couple of weeks ago in the National Council of Provinces after he tabled his budget, he committed to dealing with it and reporting back to the Ministers and Members of Executive Councils Meeting (MINMEC) at the next available opportunity.
It is clear that we cannot afford to wait any longer before this turnaround strategy is implemented.
It is the responsibility of all spheres of government to step in to restore Robben Island to its former glory. The Western Cape Government is committed to working with Minister Mthethwa’s department to ensure that this happens.