Keynote address by the Minister Ms Lulama Xingwana, on the ocassion of the inauguration of the Councils of Ditsong: Museums of South Africa and Iziko: Museums of Cape Town, Premier Hotel

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16 Jul 2010

The Chairperson of the Ditsong Museums of South Africa Council, Professor Andries Oliphant
The Chairperson of Iziko Museums of Cape Town Council, Advocate Brenda Madumise
The Honourable Members of the Ditsong Museums of South Africa Council;
The Honourable Members of the Iziko Museums of Cape Town Council;
The Chief Executive Officer of Ditsong Museums of South Africa Council, Mr Makgolo Makgolo;

The Out-going Chief Executive Officer of Iziko Museums of Cape Town, Professor Jatti Bredekamp;

The In-coming Chief Executive Officer of Iziko Museums of Cape Town, Ms Rooksana Omar;
Ladies and Gentlemen.

It is with great pleasure and privilege that I greet you this afternoon.  You will recall that before and during the FIFA Soccer World Cup spectacular we had football Fridays to build the momentum, to count down the time to the start of the tournament and to ignite and fuel the spirit of African and South African and patriotism and unity.  Today marks the first Friday after the 2010 FIFA Soccer World Cup was hosted for the first time on African with great success by our beloved country, South Africa.  We are indeed honoured and privileged to be African and to be South African. 
Honourable Council members, I want to start by congratulating you on your appointment as Council members of two of the Department of Arts and Culture’s esteemed statutory agencies, Iziko Museums of Cape Town and Ditsong Museums of South Africa here in Tshwane.  I also want to, on behalf of the South African government, extend our sincere gratitude to all of you for accepting the challenge of serving in these august institutions.

By accepting this challenge, you have automatically joined the Department’s pursuit of its vision to develop and preserve South African arts, culture and heritage to ensure social cohesion and nation building.  You have joined us in the consolidation and promotion of policies, programmes and projects that are designed to achieve this noble vision.  Together we shall work hand in hand in ensuring that financial and human resources that are set aside to give fruition to this vision are properly utilized.

It is indeed fundamentally important that statutory agencies and heritage institutions that fall under the Department of Arts and Culture align their strategies and activities to this vision.  It is against this background that in the last couple of years, my Department has introduced induction programmes which seek not only to share strategic priorities of government with institutions, but also to forge synergies between our work and that of institutions.

Honourable Council members, the synergies are necessary because we regard our institutions as implementing agencies. The Department alone cannot reach out to each and every part of our society, but our institutions, which are spread throughout the country, have the advantage to do so. More importantly, it is significant to note that our institutions utilize the largest portion of our budget.  Our heritage institutions alone utilize 67% of our budget. It therefore becomes imperative that there is a seamless connection between ourselves and our institutions in the advancement of interests and aspirations of arts, culture and heritage communities.

Honourable Members, in his State of the Nation Address on the 11th of February 2010, President Zuma reminded us of the commitment made by this administration to the South African citizens when he said (I quote):

“When this administration came into office last year, we undertook to work harder to build a strong developmental state. We said it would be a state that responds to the needs and aspirations of the people, and which performs better and faster. This year, 2010, shall be a year of action. The defining feature of this administration will be that it knows where people live, understands their needs, and respond faster. Government must work faster, harder and smarter.” (Unquote)

Ditsong and Iziko as flagship heritage institutions with campuses in urban, rural and peri urban areas arguably, the two most critical provinces in our country. Ditsong and Iziko are two of the most significant institutions in the heritage sector. Therefore, for these institutions to work harder, faster and smarter as implored by the President during his State of the Nation Address, it is important that the core business of these institutions is linked in innovative and exciting ways to addressing the key challenges our nation and the world face. These challenges include poverty, unemployment, lack of skills, crime and corruption. Priority must also be rural development because this is where the need is greatest.

Heritage institutions are responsible for the identification, collection, generation and dissemination of knowledge, by means of research, exhibitions and educational and outreach programmes. These programmes should play a critical role in supporting the improvement of the quality of basic education of our people.  Heritage institutions should serve as centers of life-long learning for both young and old through their programmes. Heritage institutions should involve communities in the conceptualization and planning of exhibitions. This will ensure that communities become actively involved in knowledge production.  This will also help to ensure that displays and exhibitions become more meaningful and thus bridge the knowledge gap between institutions and communities.  By so doing, institutions will be addressing issues of audience development which remain a major challenge in our institutions. 

The research, collection, exhibition, educational and outreach programmes of our heritage institutions become more meaningful, interesting and more accessible when they are relevant to the communities they target as audiences.  These programmes must increasingly contribute to an empowered and inclusive citizenship by making a meaningful contribution to fostering national identity, social cohesion and nation building.

The ideas of social cohesion, nation building and forging a national identity remain relatively abstract in our society. It is our institutions who should facilitate the process of demystifying these concepts by creating platforms for dialogues on these issues so that individuals and communities can give their own meanings and understandings to these ideas.

We need to reposition our institutions as not only catalysts but also as champions in the development of a cohesive society that is united in its diversity.  Honourable Council members, it is our institutions that should play an active role in purveying the values of humanity enshrined in our constitution.  It is our institutions that should assist us in fighting the scourge of xenophobia that threatens to erode and corrode our humanity (Ubuntu). 

You have the responsibility of invoking and promoting African idiomatic expressions that carried and still carry wisdom today.  Our elders were correct and wise when they say “Unyawo alunampumulo”.  Translated directly, it means “The foot has no nose, it can’t smell where it is going”.  Figuratively it means that we all do not know where we are going to be in the future and who we are going to encounter. It is therefore important to be good to those we know and those we do not know – be they friends, strangers or foreigners because one day we might find ourselves in their territories and spaces. So our exhibitions should impart, inculcate and entrench the spirit and values of good neighborliness, the spirit of Ubuntu – caring and sharing what we have, what we know with humanity. 

All the things I have said may sound like a tall order in as far as human and financial resource implications are concerned.  However, if you develop a culture of pooling resources and work together you could do more. We are all aware that the global economic recession has shrunk resources that we need to plough into our programmes. However, this does not mean that we have to fold our arms and say we have no money. We need to come up with creative ways of working within the limited resources that are at our disposal. Three weeks ago, I launched an exhibition, entitled, In Conversations: Nelson Mandela and Chief Albert Luthuli, which was jointly curated by the Chief Albert Luthuli and Nelson Mandela Museums. This bears testimony to the fact that institutions can collaborate and produce high quality work.    

I have noted with concern a trend within the staff establishment of some of our institutions. Many of our institutions have black CEOs but the professional and technical staff remains largely white. I want to challenge you as councils to hold your CEO to the responsibility of creating and enabling an environment for the empowerment of historically disadvantaged communities and individuals in developing technical skills, which are in the main, scarce skills that are necessary for the preservation and promotion of our heritage.

It is thus incumbent upon you as Council members to ensure that you give strategic leadership to these institutions so that the mandate that the people of South Africa gave to the present administration is carried out smarter, faster and efficiently.

In addition to the strategic roles that I alluded to above, as members of the Council, you are entrusted with fiduciary duties.  This means you have a stewardship and custodianship role to play.  Care and protection of state assets and resources allocated to these institutions in the next three to five years will be under your strategic leadership.  This means you bear responsibility of ensuring that systems and mechanisms are in place to ensure proper utilization of state assets by management and staff of the two institutions.

Honourable members, President Jacob Zuma has made a clarion call to all the citizens of this country, the public sector and private sector to join him in the fight against the scourge of corruption that destroys not only our economy but our moral fibre and the ethical soul of our society.  We need not look far to see the examples of what corruption can do to a people or nation.  We have our examples in our country and in our beloved African continent.

Corruption takes away resources from where they are needed most to satisfy selfish insatiable greed of groups and individuals. Corruption takes away resources that are earmarked to address genuine NEEDS of our communities to satisfy WANTS of selfish groups and individuals. Corruption breeds apathy and thus destroys conscience, sympathy and empathy among those who are corrupt. This must be stopped before it is too late. I implore you to join this new cadreship in the fight against corruption.

In conclusion, Honourable Council members, in pursuit of the Department’s vision to develop and preserve South African arts and culture to ensure social cohesion and nation building: firstly, I expect all of you to execute your fiduciary responsibilities without fear and favour to your best abilities: secondly, I expect all of you to align the strategies and activities of these esteemed institutions, to the vision of the Department of Arts and Culture and to the priorities of our government, I include job creation, fighting crime and corruption, education and skill development as well as rural development. Thirdly and finally, in exercising your fiduciary responsibilities, I expect all of you to take up the President’s clarion call to nip the scourge of corruption in the bud. These three focus areas are amongst other messages that I will be echoing and re-echoing as I inaugurate other councils. May I once again thank you for accepting this responsibility and wish you well in the execution of the arduous task ahead of you.

Thank you