Debate on Budget Vote 14 by Deputy Minister Ntombazana Botha

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08 Jun 2007

Madam Speaker
Ministers and Deputy Ministers
MECs of Arts and Culture
Honourable Members
CEOs of our Arts, Culture & Heritage Institutions
Heads of Statutory Bodies
Directors General and Officials
Comrades & Friends

Today, I would like to preface my speech with some reflection and pay tribute to the history and heritage of our nation. Madam Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to remind the House and the South African population at large, that on the 21 July we will commemorate the tragic death, which occurred 40 years ago, of the first African Nobel Peace Laureate and President of the African National Congress from 1952 until 1967, Nkosi Albert Lutuli. Nkosi Lutuli is recognised internationally as an outstanding visionary, leader, teacher and proponent of human rights and justice for all. He has been described by many as a “profound thinker”, a person of “powerful logic” and a person of “lofty principles”. Today, the legacy of Nkosi Lutuli is celebrated throughout South Africa and throughout the African continent and the world.

Madam Speaker, when I delivered my budget vote speech on the 18 May 2005, I focused my contributions within the context of the 50th Anniversary of the Freedom Charter which proclaims that ‘the doors of learning and culture shall be opened to all’. I attempted to outline the programmes and projects that were being undertaken by the Department of Arts and Culture towards the realisation of that declaration. I said then that the budget of 2005/2006 was “about this mandate and the contract we have entered into with the people of South Africa to realise the full potential of arts and culture in social and economic development, to nurture creativity and innovation and to preserve and promote the rich and diverse heritage of our nation.”

In my Budget Vote speech last year, I sought to contextualise my input within the framework of the 50th Anniversary of women’s Anti-Pass March. Over 20 000 women marched to the Union Buildings in 1956, demanding a better life for all South Africans, and a better world. Even today, women are determined to work hard to improve the quality of life of all our people as demonstrated by the ‘Mosadi wa konokono’ project of our Department.

I also touched on the challenges of addressing poverty and underdevelopment, and the critical role and contribution of arts and culture in this area. I outlined the programmes and projects of our portfolio pointing out that, without the core which defines our humanity, (and that is, our culture and heritage) it would be impossible to achieve our objectives of halving poverty and unemployment by 2014.

This year, Madam Speaker, is for us a year of policy and legislative review. It is the time when we evaluate the efficacies of our policies and legislation as well as the impact of the implementation of such policies and legislation over the past decade. It is an opportunity for us to reflect, assess, and identify areas for further improvements and consolidation. We have entered a phase, in our national democratic revolution, which seeks to define the character and content of our nation. This search for character and content emanates, not from doubting or questioning our Constitutional dispensation, but rather, it comes from the realisation that our Constitutional framework bestows upon us as South Africans a right to enjoy our cultural freedoms and diversity.

Honourable Members, in the past decade, our policies in this sector have mainly focused on restructuring of the funding framework for the arts, ensuring access to financial resources allocated by the state. In this regard, the government has, to a large extent, succeeded in ensuring that the previously marginalised artists and art forms benefit equally. The overall budget allocated to the arts, at least over the last ten years, bears testimony to this fact. The establishment of statutory bodies such as the National Film and Video Foundation and the National Arts Council have played a significant role in ensuring that this goal is achieved.

The corporate sector has also played a significant role in various initiatives in funding of the arts. Some of these initiatives were organised in collaboration with Business Arts South Africa (BASA) which is funded by our Department. Our associated institutions, such as the playhouses have equally ensured that their stages portray the mosaic of South African art forms.  Our international framework of cultural agreements has also assisted us in securing the much needed resources to ensure equity in the funding of the arts.

The success of this framework, however, has had unintended consequences. It has, in some quarters, rightly or wrongly, created a perception that defines government’s role as only that of providing funds and, in return, simply to enjoy the performances and entertainment. Taken to the extreme, such perceptions may encourage a culture of not accounting for government funding received. That approach cannot be sustainable!

Another challenge continues to be, that as a nation, we often undervalue or fail to recognise the power of culture and heritage as a foundation for nation-building, the formulation of a new South African identity and social inclusion as well as a tool for moulding the creative, critical and thinking mind. 

In his State of the Nation Address, President Mbeki remarked that “the issue of our variety of identities and the overarching sense of belonging to South Africa needs to be better canvassed across society in a manner that strengthens our unity. Further, … we are duty bound to ask the question – have we all fully internalised our responsibility in building social cohesion and promoting a common sense of belonging, reinforcing the glue that holds our nation together?”

Madam Speaker, it is my humble submission that such common sense of belonging lies squarely within our shared history, our diverse culture and our rich heritage. Our languages, our folklore, our songs, our literature, and even our dance forms and architecture - point to a shared landscape which is specifically South African. The beauty of all these blessings manifest itself  in our homes, theatres, films, sport fields, classrooms, weddings, places of worship, including work places. It is deeply embedded in all of us South Africans. Our commonly held desire to be a caring, sharing and affirming nation is all embedded in this common heritage of our humanity – ubuntu bethu!

We have, over the years, sought to understand and explain this humanity.  But, on the other hand, prejudice has always sought to distort this beauty that is within all of us as South Africans. Prejudice has continuously sought to deny us the common sense of belonging which must be the foundation for national unity.

Arts, culture and heritage are an integral part of our lives, encompassing our spiritual, intellectual and emotional aspects. They must, therefore, must assist us in the fight against the ills within our communities which manifest themselves through prejudice, racism, violence, sexism, xenophobia and other ugly phenomena.

We have witnessed the beauty of our humanity in the songs of Mirriam Makeba, the plays of Athol Fugard, the paintings of Gerard Sekoto, the sculptures of Noria Mabasa, the photographs of Peter Magubane, the writings of Nadine Gordimer, Miriam Tladi, Antjie Krog and many others. They are all reminding us of our humanity, and encouraging us to celebrate our common sense of belonging, our South Africaness! Madam Speaker, it is still my humble submission that our arts, culture and heritage hold the key to our social cohesion.

The programmes that have been outlined by the Minister point to the fact that over the next two years, one of our key areas of focus will be social cohesion.

The Minister has also mentioned the Department’s initiatives to facilitate the building of community libraries. This is one area where the distortions of arts and culture infrastructure, as executed by apartheid government, can be clearly seen.

It is unthinkable that a township like Mdantsane, which is the second largest township after Soweto, does not have a decent library to cater for the needs of the schooling and general population of the township.  

Mdantsane Township, which was designated by our President as an Urban Renewal Node, lacks the basic amenities and social infrastructure. There is no cinema, no adequate recreational facilities and no suitably equipped gymnasium, for example. Instead, there is a very small Community Arts Centre which can hardly provide adequate services; the small Empolweni Cinema, which was built before 1994, is now being utilised as a Church; on a centrally situated site where a Civic Centre once stood a supermarket has now been built.

There is an urgent need to reverse this situation so that we can invest in the minds of all our communities. Investing in the literacy goals through provision of library services will, in the long term, contribute towards poverty alleviation and eradication, and lead to reductions in dependency on the fiscus.

Madam Speaker, we are collaborating with the Department of Housing  in shaping a strategy and action plan to ensure that our communities, particularly those that are at the lower scales of income, are settled in stimulating environments where the community can, for example, access a multiple of services -  for their library needs, for their artistic fulfilment and creative development, etc. We must, therefore, ensure that we invest in the shaping and development of well-balanced citizens.

Last year we participated at the 10th Venice Architectural Biennale. The South African exhibition, titled “Between Ownership and Belonging”, focused on how and by what agencies South African cities are, or continue to be, transformed out of their racially segregated past and how, in present times, these are being integrated. Copies of this exhibition were viewed by members of the Executive during the January Cabinet Lekgotla and the original exhibition is presently in the UK.

The exhibition focused on the following sites where interventions have been made that contribute to social inclusion and nation-building:

  • Red Location Museum of Struggle (Nelson Mandela Bay Metro)
  • District Six Redevelopment (Cape Town)
  • Constitutional Hill (Johannesburg)
  • Walter Sisulu Square of Dedication (Kliptown, Soweto)
  • Phillipi Public Transport Interchange (Cape Town)
  • Faraday Market and Transport Interchange  (Johannesburg)
  • Warwick Junction Urban Renewal Project (eThekwini)

We hope that when this exhibition returns to South Africa it will stimulate discussion and debate around the transformation of our cities and that such debates will contribute to the process of bringing together our previously segregated communities.

In his 2007 budget vote speech, the Minister of Finance informed Parliament that “the economy continued to expand at a robust pace of 4.9% in 2006 – generating new jobs, broadening the consumer base and providing impetus for rapid growth in investment.” He went on to say that “Economic growth is projected to average just over 5% per annum over the next three years.”

Honourable Members, the arts, culture and heritage sector is poised to contribute to the economic growth of our country by linking heritage development and preservation to sustainable tourism initiatives. Working together with the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, we are identifying and developing heritage trails and heritage sites for nomination onto the World Heritage List.

We have managed to turn around heritage to a point where it no longer is viewed as an underperforming asset. In this regard we hope to improve our collaboration with municipalities so as to mobilise, educate and involve communities in these development initiatives. These initiatives should be incorporated in the Integrated Development Plans of municipalities so that the municipalities can consider them for budget purposes.

The creative industries have been identified in ASGISA as one of the key areas of intervention which can see us achieve the desirable goals of massifying the creation of job opportunities and greater economic growth in our country.

Creative industries are knowledge and labour intensive. They foster innovation. Consequently, we are presently working with the Department of Communications on the Information Society and Development strategy.  We are seeking to leverage ICT for the development of our creative industries.  In this approach the Dept of Communications is charged with developing the infrastructure for the ICT and Art and Culture will be responsible for developing the content for that ICT. These initiatives will not only bring sophistication in our creative industries, but will enable us to propel our creative industries much faster into the age of modern technology.

It is my fervent prayer, my hope and my dream, that one day, in the not too distant future, we will see a substantial investment into our film industry, by our government and the private sector, because I do believe that this industry has the potential of taking the economy of our country on a much higher trajectory whilst, at the same time, it absorbs hundreds from the ranks of the unemployed.  

Madam Speaker, I think that the greatest challenge in creative industries lies in the fact that as a country, we have not measured or not accurately measured the contribution made by the creative economy to our GDP. Perhaps, if we did, the figures that were tabulated by Minister Manuel might look a little different. Stats SA need to develop statistical indicators for data collection and measurement of the economic impact of creative industries. There are models and frameworks that have been developed by countries throughout the world (for example, UK and US) which can help us shape our own tool which will be specifically South African. The Department has already entered into a partnership with the British Council to assist us in the mapping of our cultural industries.

Skills shortage across occupations has been identified as one of the challenges facing our country. The arts, culture and heritage sector is no exception. It is faced with the challenge of ageing skills (mainly white and male). The first intake of interns was in 2005 – 2006. The department is currently in the process of placing approximately 100 interns in some of its associated institutions on a year-long programme.

Madam Speaker, I hope I have managed to share with the House our vision of a caring, sharing and affirming South African society which must be in touch with its 21st century role to lead at home and abroad. I also hope that I have given examples that show how cross cutting the issues of arts, culture and heritage are, in all of government’s portfolios. As long as we are planning and working with human beings, we simply cannot run away from what is regarded as the core of humanity and spirituality, and that is culture.

To achieve these goals we will not shy away from investing in our people through training, skills development and other initiatives. Madam Speaker, the best asset and wealth of our country lies within our people. In this financial year we will initiate a process of conducting skills audit in all our sectors so that we can improve the capacity of the arts, culture and heritage sector to make our nation a happy and prosperous nation - A winning nation, indeed!

I would like to thank Minister Pallo Jordan for his unceasing support and guidance as well as every member of staff in the Ministry for their support and encouragement.

I would also like to thank all the MECs responsible for arts and culture as well as their HODs. You have been a pillar of strength to me. Without you we would not be able to deliver our services in the Provinces. Thank you for being so patient with me. Thank you also to the Mayors and Councillors who have been working in partnership with us in a number of projects. However, we hope that our department will be afforded an opportunity to establish a working relationship with the rest of the 284 municipalities, especially in light of the forthcoming 2010 Fifa Soccer World Cup. 

Thank you also to the members of the Portfolio Committee on Arts and Culture and the ANC Study Group. We have had very interactive and vibrant sessions. I just hope that the powers that be will finally decide to confirm the appointment of a Chairperson for the committee.

Finally, let me repeat what I said earlier that social cohesion and social justice are central in the building of democracy and ensuring sustainable socio-economic development. Therefore, policies and programmes aimed at ensuring social inclusion and integration of all communities and individuals, respect for the diverse cultures, democratic accountability and redressing inequities of the past are critical in building social cohesion and social justice.

I thank you.