Speech by the Minister Lulu Xingwana at launch of the new name for the Northern Flagship Institution, National Cultural History Museum

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28 May 2010

Honourable Mayor of Tswane, Dr Gwen Ramokgopa
Chairperson of the Council of Ditsong Museums of South Africa,
Council members of the Ditsong Museums of South Africa,
CEO of the institution,
Programme Director
Distinguished guests
Ladies and gentlemen

I would like to take this opportunity to welcome you to this historic event launching the new name of the Northern Flagship Institution - Ditsong Museums of South Africa.

South Africa's first Heritage Flagship Institutions, the Northern Flagship Institution, has a new name that better reflects its unique identity. After an extensive consultation process, the name has been approved by the National Cabinet and was gazetted on 9 October 2009 in terms of the Cultural Institutions Act.  

Ditsong is a tswana word which emanates from the word Ditso, which means:
A place of heritage” The word signifies the Northern geographical and cultural region where these museums are located.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The renaming of place names is a world phenomenon. Humans have always attached labels or names to their immediate environment in order to assign meaning and give recognition. However, in the South African context name change is one element of an integrated set of policy initiatives to effect fundamental transformation towards the confirmation and celebration of our uniqueness and our diversity.

The South African heritage landscape is characterized by a predominance of colonial features and names.  This has necessitated the transformation of not only names but total institutional transformation with respect to structure, ethos and philosophy.  This name change should therefore be seen as an integral part of the overall transformation of the South African heritage landscape broadly and this institution in particular. This process of transformation started with the structural transformation of national museums after 1994.

By 1994 the number of heritage institutions and the manner in which national museums were structured posed a major challenge for the transformation, good governance and development of these institutions.  By 1999 the national museum sector was in the untenable position of having close to fourty national museums each requiring a council. In addition, the new national heritage institutions that are continuously being created to transform the national heritage landscape added to the governance and structural complexity of national museums. 

The Department was therefore challenged to facilitate the amalgamation of these institutions.The Department was also challenged to reduce the number of governing councils and ensure that the councils are strongly involved in institutional governance and oversight.

Further benefits of amalgamation include improving economies of scale by way of pooling inadequate government resources so that they are spent in an economic, efficient and effective manner. The flagship model also ensures greater efficiency by centralizing finance and administration, human resources, marketing and visitor development policies and management. 

The year 1999 therefore, saw eight heritage institutions in Gauteng being amalgamated to form a single institution with various campuses called the Northern Flagship Institution.  The same year witnessed the establishment of the Southern Flagship, now called Iziko Museums of Cape Town through the amalgamation of sixteen institutions in the Western Cape.

The success of the above two flagships, as reflected by the launch of the NFI’s new name and corporate identity, is testimony that government was correct to choose the flagship route and government is on the right track with the flagship model.  The department is therefore currently developing a national museums policy which will guide the department in finalising the flagship process. Ultimately, what is envisaged, is a single governing council per province with various institutional campuses constituting the national heritage institutional infrastructure within each province.

Operationally, the Department of Arts and Culture has introduced a new performance management system to help the executive management and councils of national museums to maximize the value they bring to the institution. Newly appointed councils are inaugurated and taken through a process of induction on their role as governance structures responsible for the overall strategic direction of their institutions and their specific responsibilities in this role.

Councils are inducted on how to align national development imperatives such as job creation, poverty alleviation rural development, urban renewal and African integration on the one hand with institutional output on the other, without compromising the institution’s core business of researching, collecting, preserving and promoting heritage.

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is in this context of revisiting what we do and how we do it in order to improve the quality of what we deliver to the public, that the launch of the Northern Flagship Institution’s new name and corporate identity becomes a critical milestone. I am therefore pleased to note that the Northern Flagship Institution is making good progress in positioning itself as a leading national heritage institution and in assisting the Department of Arts and Culture in meeting development priorities.

The provision of services to communities and the establishment of linkages with existing government priorities are key to ensuring that heritage institutions continue to be relevant and sustainable. Groundbreaking initiatives in the programmes of the Northern Flagship Institution include the nine families exhibition which was launched in 2004, the interactive exhibition with Lefifi Tladi in 2009 and the transformation of the museum’s education and public programmes to encompass life long learning as well as the promotion of rights to natural and cultural heritage are commendable and acknowledged by my department.

The change of this institution’s name reflects a new ethos of recognition and inclusivity and will go a long way to contribute to the transformation of the South African heritage landscape, to nation building and to social cohesion.  I therefore commend the council of the DITSONG Museums of South Africa, its CEO - Mr Makgolo Makgolo, and the staff for the name change and their commitment to conserving the irreplaceable heritage of South Africa

Thank you.