Minister Marais' Speech on the Transformation of the Heritage Landscape | Western Cape Government



Minister Marais' Speech on the Transformation of the Heritage Landscape

30 June 2015

Members of the Standing Committee for Cultural Affairs and Sport in the Western Cape Legislature,
Executive Mayors, 
Mayoral Executive Committee Members, 
Councillors of Municipalities in the Western Cape
Members of the national Ministerial Task Team of the Department of Arts and Culture
Members of the Council of Heritage Western Cape
The Chairperson of the Western Cape Provincial Geographical Names Committee
The Western Cape representative on the National Heritage Council
Vice Chancellors of Universities in the Western Cape
The Chairpersons, Members of Boards of Trustees of various affiliated museums,
Members of Registered Cultural Councils in the Western Cape (Khoi communities)
Friends of Museums,
Distinguished guests, 
Ladies and gentlemen,

This Western Cape Consultative Meeting on the Transformation of the Heritage Landscape follows on from the National Consultative Meeting that took place in Pretoria on 17 April 2015. Participants in that meeting discussed the wave of vandalism, defacement and destruction of colonial-era, apartheid-era and post-1994 monuments and memorials that began earlier this year. A wide range of interested and affected parties attended the meeting.

Those present took a number of resolutions, one of which was to appoint a Task Team to assist the national Department of Arts and Culture to implement what had been decided. When we sent out invitations to this provincial consultation, we included copies of these national resolutions. There are copies in the folders that you received this morning. You will be afforded the opportunity to comment on these resolutions later today or to propose amendments.

The Constitution and the rights and responsibilities of citizens

The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa provides us – the citizens of South Africa – with an excellent set of principles relating to our shared heritage.

The founding principles hold that South Africa is one, sovereign, democratic state founded on the following values:

a.    Human dignity, the achievement of equality and the advancement of human rights and freedoms. 
b.    Non-racialism and non-sexism. 
c.    Supremacy of the constitution and the rule of law. 
d.    Universal adult suffrage, a national common voters’ roll, regular elections and a multi-party system of democratic government, to ensure accountability, responsiveness and openness.

The Constitution is the supreme law of the Republic; and law or conduct that is inconsistent with the Constitution is invalid. The obligations imposed by the Constitution must at all times be fulfilled.

There is a common South African citizenship and all citizens are:

a.    equally entitled to the rights, privileges and benefits of citizenship; and 
b.    equally subject to the duties and responsibilities of citizenship.

Bill of Rights
The State must respect, protect, promote and fulfil the rights in the Bill of Rights (Chapter 2 of the Constitution). The Bill applies to all law and binds the legislatures, the executive, the judiciary and all organs of state. Limitations on the rights in the Bill of Rights are permissible only in a narrow range of circumstances.

The Bill of Rights (Chapter 2 of the Constitution) highlights a number of rights that related to arts, culture and heritage rights of citizens and residents of South Africa.

These rights include, but are not limited to:

(a)    Equality.
(b)    Human dignity – Everyone has inherent dignity and the right to have their dignity respected and protected. 
(c)    Freedom of religion, belief and opinion.
(d)    Freedom of expression.
(e)    Freedom of association.
(f)    Language and culture – the right to use the language and to participate in the cultural life of their choice, but no one exercising these rights may do so in a manner inconsistent with any provision of the Bill of Rights.
(g)    Cultural, religious and linguistic communities – everyone has the right to enjoy their culture, practise their religion and use their language, provided that this is consistent with the Bill of Rights.
(h)    Just administrative action that is lawful, reasonable and procedurally fair.

    The Bill of Rights therefore places a responsibility on all organs of state to provide an environment in which these rights can be exercised, and it places responsibilities on citizens (and other residents) to comply with, and respect these rights.

The DAC Review of Heritage Legislation (2008)

The national Minister of Arts and Culture commissioned a review of the heritage legislation in 2007 and a Task Team was appointed as a sounding board. A final report was presented to the national Department of Arts and Culture (DAC) and the Review of Heritage Legislation Report was published in 2008. However, despite the excellent recommendations made in the report, not a single one has been concluded or fully implemented. The first draft amendments to align various declared cultural institutions and legislation with the Public Finance Management Act, 2000, were prepared but have not yet been tabled at Cabinet.

Until these recommendations have been implemented, it will not be not possible to give effect to some of the key actions that are necessary to transform the heritage landscape in our country. One of the most important issues to be addressed is the fact that much of the heritage legislation was passed before the Promotion of Administrative Justice Act (PAJA) and the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) became law in 2000. All legislation is subject to the provisions of the Constitution, PAJA and PAIA. Certain heritage legislation does not comply with these provisions, especially the National Heritage Resources Act, 1999.

Urgent action is necessary to address the anomalies and contradictions in the concurrent legislation that all three spheres of government are required to apply, and to ensure that compliance with the necessary legislation is possible. This is currently not the case.


Schedule 5 of the Constitution provides that provinces may legislate on museums other than national museums. Following the recommendations of the White Paper on Arts, Culture and Heritage (1996), the National Museum Policy was discussed at a workshop in 2013. However, no further developments or progress have been reported. The question remains: What is a national museum (and, by implication, what is a provincial one)? The Cultural Institutions Act, 1998, does not make a distinction between national museums and other museums. This lack of clarity makes it very difficult for the national Parliament, the national Department of Arts and Culture, provincial legislatures and provincial departments responsible for arts, culture and heritage to provide leadership and guidance for the transformation of the heritage landscape.

The Western Cape Provincial Museum Policy was approved in 2013 following an extensive public consultation process. One of the interesting findings was that more than 10% of all the museums in Africa are situated in the Western Cape. Of the 144 known museums in the Western Cape, three are declared cultural institutions supported by the national Department of Arts and Culture under the Cultural Institutions Act, and 29 are affiliated to the Western Cape Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport. The rest are museums established by educational institutions, departments, private companies and individuals as well as communities. The Museum Policy provides for the long-term transformation of the current museum landscape in the Western Cape, including new categories of museums such as regional and community museums, the affiliation of municipal museums of those institutions that were established by local government structures, and the affiliation of heritage centres.

The transformation of the heritage landscape requires, among other things, broadening and expanding the collection policies of existing institutions to ensure that museums become a representative reflection of the collective heritage of all South Africans.

Heritage resources, including public monuments, memorials and statues

In the Western Cape, there are more than 2 000 declared provincial heritage sites and many other heritage sites, such as archaeological and paleontological sites, that are protected under the National Heritage Resources Act.

The debate on the transformation of the heritage landscape came into sharp focus in March 2015 with protests against the presence of public monuments, memorials and statues that continue to represent our colonial and apartheid past. This kicked off a fierce debate with many different points of view being expressed verbally and in writing. The debate continues. Although the presenting issue was a challenge to what statues, memorials and public monuments reflect about South Africa to South Africans, this relates more deeply to key questions about the transformation of our society.

Public art such as statues, public monuments or memorials may in the current time and in the public perception be invested with symbolic meaning that may or may not have been part of the reason why the art was erected in the first place. It is therefore important that an agreed public consultation process is followed to ensure that all relevant stakeholders have an opportunity to make input into the debate on the future of each statue, public monument or memorial whose future is under consideration.

Public monuments and memorials, including statues, are protected in terms of the National Heritage Resources Act and the municipal by-laws on heritage, where these exist.

Heritage Western Cape has developed draft guidelines and principles that should be taken into account when the removal or proposed relocation of statues, public monuments and memorials is under consideration.

Geographical names

Geographical names are considered by most people to provide a sense of belonging to the suburb, the town or city where they live. A highly emotive aspect of debates around the ongoing transformation of the heritage landscape in South Africa is changes to, or possible changes to, existing geographical names.

There are more than 12 000 geographical names in the province.  

Places have been given names by successive generations of inhabitants through the millennia. Many of the indigenous names of geographical features in our landscape have been retained, for example, Attaqua’s Pass and the Outeniqua Mountains. Others have been translated into the languages of settlers from Europe. For example, certain Khoikhoi names were translated into Portuguese, Dutch and later English and, eventually, into Afrikaans or isiXhosa. Many places with indigenous names were given new names. Table Mountain, Tafelberg and tabula monsa (Latin for Table Mountain) was known by the Khoi as Hoerikwagga (meaning mountain at the sea). Many more places and geographical features have been given names over the past 500 years that reflect a variety of interests, values and perspectives. Many places and geographical features will be renamed in the future and new names will come into existence.

The standardisation and verification of all 12 000 geographical names in the Western Cape is progressing well. This process involves researching the historical background of every name, capturing the information, and correcting the spelling of geographical names where necessary. For example, research was conducted into the name of the mountain pass between Barrydale and Swellendam to ensure that the correct name is assigned. The name that has now been approved is Tradouw Pass (referring to the historic Khoi name of the pass meaning “the pass of women”).

When new municipalities were established at the beginning of the 21st century as part of the democratic dispensation in the country, some municipalities in the Western Cape acquired names that reflect our Khoi heritage. Think of municipalities such as Bitou, Hessequa and Matzikamma.

The renaming of existing geographical names, especially of towns and suburbs in the Western Cape, has recently been raised in the Western Cape Provincial Parliament and in the public domain. The process to rename existing geographical names, especially those of towns, suburbs and cities, was clearly defined by the Supreme Court of Appeal as far back as 2007. Sufficient consultation with inhabitants of specific suburbs, towns or cities must be conducted by the applicant who proposes the proposed name change and at the applicant’s expense. The evidence of these consultations must then be submitted with the required formal documentation to the Western Cape Provincial Geographical Names Committee. A recommendation is formulated by the Committee once it is satisfied that all the legal requirements have been met. It sends this recommendation to the South African Geographical Names Council, which is tasked by national legislation to make a final recommendation to the national Minister of Arts and Culture for a decision.

Later this morning, the Chairperson of the Western Cape Provincial Geographical Names Committee will speak about the administrative and legal framework for the standardisation of, and changes to, geographical names in South Africa.

I trust that today’s presentations and discussions will be fruitful.

I thank you.

Media Enquiries: 

Tania Colyn
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Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport
Tel: 021 483 9877