South African Cultural Observatory

A new leaf, a new White Paper

BY Minister Nathi Mthethwa 20.11.16

Minister Nathi Mthethwa - 2nd Sector Indaba On the White Paper On Arts, Culture and Heritage

Opening Keynote address by the Minister of Arts and Culture, Mr Nathi Mthethwa at the 2nd Sector Indaba on the White Paper on Arts, Culture and Heritage, Johannesburg, 17 November 2016

"Time to Turn over a New Leaf and start a New Chapter in the Arts, Culture & Heritage Sector"

It was almost a year ago on the 24 November 2015 that we gathered together as the Arts, Culture and Heritage Sector in a meeting of minds on the future of the arts.

And I pledged to all present that once we had completed our consultative work led by the eminent Reference Panel, we would return and reconvene the sector to engage this important work.

We have remained true to this pledge and today we return for this important second consultative indaba.

The 2015 gathering brought together the arts community from all disciplines and from all provinces to apply their minds to the transformation of the sector through a revision of the 1996 White Paper.

We noted then that the 1996 White Paper was also a product of its times and crafted at a particular period of our history which influenced the shape it would take.

Indeed we concurred that the 1996 White Paper had served us well as a Policy Paper but also had limitations.

I am reminded of the words of CLR James, that great scholar of our African Diaspora, when he declared that great people "make history, but only such history as it is possible for them to make."

He pointed out that: "Their freedom of achievement is limited by the necessities of their environment. To portray the limits of those necessities and the realization, complete or partial, of all possibilities, that is the true business of the historian."

By looking back with rigour, we have needed to don the spectacles of the historian. It has been a collective task to examine the 1996 White Paper within the confines of the necessities of its time, to take a hard look at what was done then and what remains to be done.

This has been an important step - as indeed people will one day look back at us to see what we have done and judge us on the contribution we have made towards a better life for all.

We noted that special attention would be given to the needs of the National Development Plan, the African Union Agenda 2063 and other government-wide and continental policy and legislative frameworks, which have emerged as important blueprints, which have assisted us in guiding our work.

Yet in the last year, since we gathered, so much has happened.

The environment

From the dawn of 2016 we have seen racism rearing its ugly head in our country especially on social media platforms. We have also seen people in their masses stand up against this racism.

We have seen in the world, on the one hand, a rise in the languages of fascism, racism, intolerance and xenophobia. On the other hand, we have have seen popular movements-from-below in parts of the globe, with people asserting themselves more proactively in democratic practices.

We have participated in peaceful local government elections.

We have seen students on the streets and on campuses protesting against the fees at higher education institutions but also at times coming out against the culture of their institutions.

We have seen girl children standing up proudly in defence of their physical and cultural identity.

We have hosted dialogues and discussions to bring people in this nation together to build a shared understanding and a common future.

Yet globally, there is greater inequality between the rich and poor of the world, between developed and developing states and between the wealthy and impoverished within individual countries and enclaves.

As a part of the world that has been tied to a global system for more than 350 years, we know well that what happens in other places affect what happens to us and vice versa.

We know both suffering and destruction but we also know the solidarity that many in the world have shown us and the contribution of people who took our struggle as their own.

Yet lately, we also see that the wealth of the world is still in the hands of only a few.

Philip G Cerny explains that: "Globalization is not just about changing relations between the 'inside' of the nation-state and the 'outside' of the international system. It cuts across received categories, creating myriad multilayered intersections, overlapping playing fields, and actors skilled at working across these boundaries. People are at once rooted and rootless, local producers and global consumers, threatened in their identities yet continually remaking those identities."

In this global reality it becomes increasingly difficult to build a united and cohesive nation, to encourage national building and a consciousness of what it means to be truly South African and part of the African continent.

The lines between local and global have become increasingly blurred and ambivalent.

Digitisation and the convergence of technologies, while increasing opportunities for communications across the globe and connecting far flung places, has created what some have labeled a digital divide.

While these global information tehnologies have also contributed greatly to the important development of local content and its consumption by local audiences, at the same time these have imposed ideologies and ways of seeing the world on the world's people, ideologies that seek to celebrate the individual at the expense of the good of the collective and of society as a whole.

Clearly, when one recognises all the forces at work, technology has not been neutral, yet in many ways our advancement and sustained development depends on using these technologies to our own advantage. Yet we have no time to despair, but only to march forward and plan ahead.

20 years of the constitution

We meet here today also conscious that only a month from now, we shall mark the 20th anniversary of our Constitution, which has given us, among other equally fundamental rights, freedom of expression and of creativity.

This Constitution has armed us with the foundations for a non-racial and non-sexist South Africa and provided us with an embrace of cultural diversity which is our national strength.

We march forward boldly, knowing well, that our democratic order led by a democratic government has produced real gains.

A report released last week by the South African Institute of Race Relations reflecting on life in South Africa says that:

Levels of extreme poverty have declined from about 50% in 2002 to about 20% today. The number of people with jobs has doubled in the past two decades. The middle class has doubled size. The proportion of black university students has increased for 19.8% in 1986 to 70.1% in 2014.

Yet sadly the SA Reconciliation Barometer Survey also released last week has found that "fewer than half of South Africans feel they have access to the financial resources they need, believe they have the education they need and can easily get to where they need to achieve their goals."

Research by STATS SA indicates that females are more impoverished than males in South Africa, with a poverty headcount of 58,6% as compared to 54,9% for males.

It is in this reality that the work of the sector must be located and understood and the need to bring about real changes to people's lives.

The White Paper consultations

In the space of a few months, the Reference Panel has held more than 25 sub-sector consultations all around the country in the art sub-sectors of Theatre, Dance, Poetry and Story-Telling; Music and Community Arts; Languages, Books and Publishing; Museums and Heritage; Fine Arts and Photography; Crafts; Libraries, Archives and Heraldry; Film, Television and Radio; Fashion and Graphic Design; Technical Support Services; Traditional leaders, authorities and healers and IKS; Academics and Authority Figures.

Out of these robust engagements have emerged a wealth of ideas, inputs and contributions. This has been coupled with consideration of written submissions and comments.

The draft Revised White Paper attempts to consolidate the democratic dispensation established for the sector in 1996 and to reposition it to effectively to accelerate transformation by integrating it into national policies and strategies for artistic, cultural, social and economic development.

The revised framework is based on the fundamental right to culture, artistic creativity, language, and intellectual and artistic freedom as enshrined in the Bill of Rights in the Constitution.

It identifies 5 fundamental and important pillars of transformation:

  1. The right to Culture
  2. The principle of integration: It integrates the National Development Plan and the National Strategy for Nation-Building and Social Cohesion as well as African Knowledge Systems.
  3. Building an Inclusive Society through Connecting artistic practices to economic capacities: It harnesses the sector's creative, innovative, educational and social development practices with the economic capacities for transforming South Africa into an inclusive society;
  4. Proposing more flexible funding and financing models for the sector; and
  5. Reconfiguring the existing art, culture and heritage dispensation and policies underpinning it to eliminate duplication for optimal performance.

Through integrating the content from national and continental frameworks, the approach is also to look at the development of arts as belonging to all tiers of government so that from local to provincial and national levels, there is an understanding that all these are part of an arts and culture ecosystems where each is co-dependent on the other and therefore must alll work as one. This model does not diminish decision-making, but in fact enhances it as structures of engagement which bring these tiers together would also be given executive authority.

The building of an inclusive society is a national imperative but there also needs to be more examination of how discrimination can continue to exclude people even in more subtle ways. The 1996 White Paper did not sufifciently address a system that favoured Western art forms over African. Our cultural diplomacy must be geared towards the African continent on which we reside and where our arts community can benefit in sustained ways.

The revised White Paper ensures that arts in education is compulsory at school level. It also acknowledges the South African reality of a multicultural environment and the need to open democratic spaces and change institutional cultures so that all cultural and knowledge systems are incorporated into the education system and landscape.

Thus it is also important that existing resources be harnessed toards inclusive-ness; thus the more flexible funding and financing models that are necessary to meet these needs.

A Variety of Funding Models

A range of funding modalities is also proposed, including, Grant Funding, A Creative and Cultural Industries Fund, Debt Finance and Equity Finance, are proposed suplemented by a catalyst fund, regional funds, accelerators and incubators.

Incubators would provide co-working spaces so that cultural and creative entrepreneurs can develop concepts into commercial projects.

Public and Private partnerships are encouraged; and the framework speaks to the need to address one of the barriers to greater private sector funding in Section 18A and the Ninth Schedule in Section 30 of the Income Tax Act of 1962, which excludes arts, culture and heritage. Yet this same legislation permits tax deductions for corporate funding for public benefit organisations, in social welfare, health care, conservation, environmental and animal care as well as land and housing.


The reconfiguring of the existing arts, culture and heritage dispensation is to create and nurture a more efficient landscape where there is functional integrity and where functional overlaps are reduced.

Part 8 of the Draft Revised White Paper outlines a New Institutional Policy Framework with a new integrated three-part national structure outlined below:

This will consist of :

  • A National Arts, Film and Audiovisual (Digital) Council;
  • A National Heritage Council;
  • It is proposed that national heritage institutions in the Free State, KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape be consolidated and that all national museum councils be abolished, and that national museums be governed by the National Heritage Council. With integration of Freedom Park and the Robben Island Museum into the proposed system; and
  • A South African Book and Publishing Development Council.

New name of the Department

It is proposed that the name of the department be changed to: Department of Arts, Culture and Heritage.

The new structures would also require a new culture for the civil service - where officials will have to learn to work in a more integrated environment as the success of the final implementations of change will depend largely on them.

Civil servants will have to learn and learn fast.

As Ben Okri tells us: "We ought to step out of our old, hard casing. We think that we are one kind of people, when in fact we are always creating ourselves. We are not fixed. We are constantly becoming, constantly coming into being."

On this occasion, it is also important to emphasise that the success of this White Paper revision will depend at implementation level on all stakeholders working together.

We have learnt in the last twenty years that the policy implementation phase is one in which without a collective effort, we will not arrive at the kind of arts, culture, and heritage landscape which we now desire.

The road ahead

Subject to these important discussions taking place over the next two days, further enhancements and tightening up of the Draft Revised White Paper will take place.

Once all parliamentary processes are concluded, through the Department of Arts and Culture, the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee for Arts and Culture, existing legislation affected by the new policy proposals will be identified for amendment and revision.


It is time to turn over a new leaf, face the new page in our new story and write a new Chapter for the Arts, Culture and Heritage sector.

It is high time. The Revised White Paper is the start of that new narrative.

As Frantz Fanon tells us at the end of the Wretched of the Earth, and I will paraphrase his words:

"If we want to turn Africa into a new Europe, and America into a new Europe, then let us leave the destiny of our countries to Europeans. They will know how to do it better than the most gifted among us... . [But] For Europe, for ourselves and for humanity, comrades, we must turn over a new leaf, we must work out new concepts, and try to set afoot a new man [and a new woman]."

I wish you well in your deliberations over the next two days and look forward to the recommendations from these important discussions.

I thank you.


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