Ministers and Members of Executive Councils Meeting (MINMEC)

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11 Nov 2009

As we meet here today, let us remember that one of the core mandates that we have been tasked with as the arts, culture and heritage sector is the building of cohesive, caring and sustainable communities.

As we strive to build a better South Africa in a better Africa and for a better world, let us be mindful that we have the difficult challenge of addressing our people’s minds, exploring the will to change, and not only the material conditions of this reality.

Our work must be geared towards addressing the consciousness of our people and in so doing building a true People’s culture. Our work is also about the worldview of our people, how we see ourselves and what we wish to accomplish, what we can do to build a nation in united action. At the heart of what we do must be a social compact, with all partners understanding their duties and responsibilities.

As we are charged by our mandate to work towards a nation united behind the agenda for a better life, the Department of Arts and Culture has embraced the agenda of building cohesive, caring and sustainable communities.

BUILDING COHESIVE, CARING AND SUSTAINABLE COMMUNITIES

SOCIAL COHESION COLLOQUIUM
• The Department of Arts and Culture convened a Social Cohesion Colloquium on the 29th and 30th October 2009 in Durban in preparation for the National Conference on Social Cohesion “Building a Caring Society” to be held next year.

• The Colloquium, preceded by mobilization in the province, was co-hosted by Kwa-Zulu Natal province and attended by a range of government officials from various departments at national and provincial levels as well as civil society including academics and researchers, representatives from civil society as well as representatives from small businesses and NGOs.

• The consultative colloquium lay the foundations for the Conference next year that will help national government in partnership with provinces put forward a national strategic framework and programme for social cohesion and nation-building in South Africa.

• The topics under discussion at the Colloquium were: Ubuntu and our Humanity; Poverty and Access to economic opportunities; promotion of gender equity; social integration and nation-building and Building a Caring Nation.

• With various abstracts presented by facilitators in each of the commissions, delegates interrogated each of the topics and the report-backs have emphasized the need for a sense of belonging, changing mind-sets and nurturing ubuntu as well as the need for a national charter of values and the need to find practical solutions to problems of accumulation.

• Going forward, the Department of Arts and Culture will step up consultations on social cohesion through provincial dialogues and sectoral discussions.

• A working group will be formed to work on a draft national framework for Social Cohesion and a Plan of Action for presentation to next year’s conference.

• Together with the Provinces, we shall embark upon provincial dialogues so that every province has the opportunity to address the matters that prevent us from working together as one as well as identifying what binds us together and has the potential to further unite us as a nation.

SOCIAL COHESION THROUGH HERITAGE PROJECTS

ROOTS CONFERENCE
• One of DAC’s tools for social cohesion is to develop and sustain legacy programmes, thereby balancing the heritage landscape of our country. Last month we held the Roots Conference with our Flemish and Dutch counterparts at the University of the Western Cape to look at the contribution of the Afrikaans language to our heritage. The next part of this project will be to build partnerships arising out of this conference so that joint projects are held in the near future which set out to capture our history and literature and other art forms as part of of our heritage.

• Our task is to tell the complex and multi-faceted South African story and it is only through recognizing the roots of these stories, the various histories that have shaped who we are, the interconnections between various cultural tributaries that we can begin to direct the present and the future.

IMPORTANT NATIONAL DAYS

National Nelson Mandela Day:

• This year for the first time South Africa celebrated Nelson Mandela Day to commemorate the important contribution of the first president of the democratic South Africa.

• In this regard the main national event was held in Gauteng and organized by the Department of Arts and Culture in partnership with our national parliament as well as Gauteng Province. This was an important campaigns as South Africans were asked to pledge 67 minutes of their time doing good deeds in their communities.

National Women’s Day:

• The Department of Arts and Culture was also asked to organize and fund the National Women’s Day celebrations in August in KwaZulu Natal. The main event was held in Vryheid on the 9th of August 2009.

• This event was preceded by our Investing in Culture programme announcing its support for new arts and culture projects in KwaZulu Natal. The main beneficiaries of these projects were rural women, youth and people with disabilities.

• The challenge in this regard has been the quest for sustainability of supported projects beyond departmental funding that ensure that this programme brings real economic opportunities and jobs to ordinary people, particularly the poor and unemployed.

• We would like to use this flagship programme to encourage and nurture a spirit of economic independence for our cultural workers and artists. The desired impact is to create a platform for everyone, especially those in the Second Economy and in the periphery, to become community builders, creators of wealth and contributors to local and national economies.

• Let us also not forget that the value of this initiative is that it also enables artists and cultural workers within communities to be given pride of place, to be accorded respect and to play an active role in the development of culture.

• The challenge we face is to ensure that this programme works more closely with our provincial and local government. We must look at strategies how this relation can be strengthened through closer cooperation with all three spheres of government.

HERITAGE MONTH ACTIVITIES

• In speaking about the importance of heritage, we need to recognize the importance of Heritage Day in our National Calendar.

• This year’s Heritage Day celebrations were held in Limpopo Province.

• The theme of this year’s Heritage Day’s celebrations was: Celebrating South African Craft, Our Heritage.

• The theme was an opportunity to highlight the socio-economic value of the crafts industry, especially in rural areas, and encourage the importance of further development and further investment in the crafts sector for our economy.

• The main Heritage Day celebrations took place in Moroke Village at Ntwampe Stadium, in the Greater Tubatse Municipality in Limpopo Province. An exhibition of government services was also held and the main event was addressed by Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe.

• During this year’s celebrations a public and private partnership was formed as the DAC and Old Mutual joined forces to form the DAC-OM Legends Programme. This Programme aims to provide a platform that will turn local craft initiatives into viable businesses. The partnership was formed through the working together of the DAC Investing in Culture programme and the Old Mutual Legends Programme. The two parties signed a Memorandum of Understanding in Polokwane.

UNDERWATER CULTURAL HERITAGE PROJECT
• The DAC launched the Underwater Heritage Project in Simonstown on the 16th October 2009. SAHRA, the Marine and Coastal Management Unit of the Department of Environmental Affairs together with the Robben Island Museum worked jointly to launch this project, led by SAHRA. SAHRA (South African Heritage Resources Agency) and the Netherlands Centre for International Heritage Activities signed an MOU committing to jointly fund and promote the Maritime Archaeology Development Project.

• Through these partnerships, we have dedicated ourselves to the development of the field of marine archeology and the protection of the resources – which includes 2700 shipwrecks along our coast lines, which constitute part of our national estate.

• The Department of Water and Environmental Affairs, the Department of Defence and Military Veterans and the Departments of Education have also been involved in this project so that an integrated approach can be taken to our maritime history to ensure that it becomes part of our mainstream history and helps to tell the South Africa story.

• The launch of this collective Underwater Heritage Project was also coupled with a Youth Educational Programme to expose learners from all provinces to South Africa’s rich maritime heritage and to the possibilities of following careers in maritime archaeology among other related fields in the heritage sector.

• The MECs from KZN and Eastern Cape also attended the launch and their participation was highly appreciated. We also thank all the provinces that ensured that learners from various schools were able to participate. We further commend Robben Island Museum and SAHRA for hosting and organizing an exciting and educational programme for the learners.

POPULARISATION OF NATIONAL SYMBOLS
• The DAC has continued its work to improve awareness, knowledge and understanding of National Symbols leading to a society that connects with its collective identity through ongoing work with the Flag in Every School Campaign.
• Together with the Gauteng province a booklet about our national symbols was published for distribution for school use.
• Together we need to ensure that this information is made available nation-wide.
• DAC also participated in the Fly the Flag campaign launched by the Deputy President on 30 October 2009. We invite all our provinces to join the campaign to wear the Bafana Bafana 2010 jersey every Friday until the World Cup.

COMMUNITY ART CENTRES AND LIBRARIES
• The DAC National Programme on Community Art Centres supports the development and strengthening of communities by contributing to the cultural and recreational life of the communities. This year we have stepped up our work through providing programme support to flagship Art Centres to service communities and by bringing together the aged, the youth, people with disabilities, and children. The programmes intend to provide a platform for intergenerational dialogues to discuss cultural and traditional practices and to popularize positive moral values as well as instilling a consciousness of the role of culture in social cohesion.
• The DAC is also providing community libraries with support in order to build a reading culture.
• We recognise the significance of access to information and its impact on the socio-economic conditions of our people. Since 2006 our government has embarked on a programme to transform and expand the delivery of library and information services in the country to ensure free and open access for all citizens, including the visually impaired users.
• As you are all aware, libraries play a critical role in the promotion of literacy, positive family values and skills development. They reach out to both the parents and children and therefore are able to act as social hubs.
• The programme has delivered new library facilities in Bushbuckridge, Hekpoort in Mogale City, Kamaqhekeza in Nkomazi Municipality, and Morokweng in North West Province.
• The Mdantsane Community Library Project was also launched at a Sod-turning ceremony by the Minister, Eastern Cape MEC and the Buffalo City Mayor in Mdantsane, East London. This will be a special library that will have facilities for Braille and will also accommodate people with disabilities.
• Many more facilities are currently under construction as we are determined to create a culture of reading and writing.
• As part of the programme we are promoting the use of our indigenous languages by producing publications in all indigenous languages and making these available through community libraries.
• Through a range of programmes our libraries have become community centres that are able to meet local information needs as well as nurture and support formal and informal education. The provision of internet facilities is part of the core responsibilities of libraries as one-stop information hubs supplying educational, health and business information to remote rural areas.
• We note with disappointment and great concern the destruction of libraries in Mpumalanga as part of the service delivery protests. These acts of vandalism undermine the efforts of our government to build caring and sustainable communities, and service delivery to our people. This is also abuse and waste of hard-earned taxpayer’s money and resources. It negates the very objectives of these protests. We must condemn these criminal acts wherever they are committed, and culprits must be charged-the law must take its course.

SUPPORT OF ORAL HISTORY PROJECTS
• In October this year, the DAC supported the holding of the Oral History Conference in the Western Cape in partnership with OHASA (Oral History Association of South Africa). This annual event had as its focus ‘the politics of collecting oral histories’. The focus of this year’s annual meeting was important as it helps to refine and build community history as part of our national narrative and to fill the gaps in our history.

FOCUS ON PROMOTING CROSS BORDER LANGUAGES
• DAC is an active member of the African Academy of Languages (ACALAN), a specialized institution of the African Union. It constitutes five Regions. The main purpose of ACALAN is to discuss African language policies and to reinforce the purpose of development and promotion of African languages. DAC hosted an ACALAN Conference of the Southern Region from the 3th to 5th November on Vehicular Cross Border Languages. In this way we are also seeking to build greater cohesion and regional identity.

NAME CHANGES
• I recently approved forty-two name changes at the recommendation of the South African Geographical Names Council.
• Thirty-seven geographical names were approved by the Minister on 28 July 2009. On 18 September 2009 another five names were approved.
• Some of the approved name changes are Belfast to eMakhazeni, Waterval Boven to Emgwenya, Machadodorp to eNtokozweni, and Nelspruit to Mbombela.
• The name-changing exercise, though initiated by local communities requesting name changes from their Municipalities, is an exercise in restitution. Names of places were often imposed onto communities that already had names for these places.
• Our task is to build a more inclusive society where citizens engage in the naming of the places in their vicinities in order to build a sense of pride and cultivate a sense of belonging and national identity.
• With this in mind, the Geographical Names Council will also be scheduling dates in various provinces to hold public hearings about name changes. For this to be successful, we require the co-operation of every province and support of the provincial committees.
• Members of Executive Councils need to work with the Council to make these hearings a success.

INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS
• In September this year South Africa hosted the 4th World Summit on Arts and Culture in Johannesburg. In partnership with our National Arts Council and IFACCA (International Federation of Arts Councils and Culture Agencies), we brought the world to our shores to explore the theme of this summit: “Meeting of Cultures: Creating Meaning through the Arts”. The Minister opened the conference on 22 September 2009.
• Delegates to the Summit exchanged ideas on how to harness more funding for the arts and how to share with the world the benefits of the arts in creating a more humane world.
• One of the outcomes of this summit is the formation of an African Chapter of IFACCA. It is important that we support initiatives to strengthen South African and African participation in this world body.
• SA-Nigeria BNC and ten year of diplomatic relations celebrations will be held in Abuja this week. The Deputy Minister will lead the DAC delegation to Abuja.
• The 2010 Shanghai Expo is upon us and in the next few months we shall intensify our preparation for this event, which offers us massive opportunities to market South Africa internationally.
• The International Marketing Council has also announced its new brand and we need to use this as a metaphor for presenting our country and people in a new light conscious of the possibilities that lie ahead.