White Paper on Arts, Culture and Heritage 2016, A Critique


The Revised White Paper on Arts, Culture and Heritage made public in November 2016 is an improvement on previous editions of this policy position paper.  Inputs by members of the Reference Panel as well as submissions made by the broader arts, culture and heritage sector, have helped to advance the revised White Paper as an overall policy statement.  However, there are still major deficiencies within this document, and this critique is provided as a contribution further to improve the document and its legitimation within the creative sector.  It can be considered by itself, but it would be of better value if it were considered along with two previous submissions:

  1. Revised White Paper on Arts, Culture and Heritage (2013), A Critique and
  2. Theatre and Dance Discussion Document

Both these documents were sent to the Department of Arts and Culture in November 2015 for consideration as part of the development of the Revised White Paper.  Some ideas and criticisms contained in those documents have been incorporated into the current draft of the White Paper, and it is hoped that further points made here, will be considered.


Policy is a product of its time, more particularly, of the social, material, political, cultural and economic conditions that prevail at the time.  It is absolutely necessary then that polices are regularly reviewed, with amendments made and appropriate policies created that respond to the conditions that exist at the time of the review.

The Department of Arts and Culture (DAC) tabled a Revised White Paper (RWP) on Arts, Culture and Heritage in June 2013 under its previous minister, Paul Mashatile.  This edition was drafted internally by the DAC – either by a consultant and/or DAC official/s, with the Department reluctant to reveal the identity of the drafters, particularly after the first draft encountered stiff opposition.  An indaba – which many feared would simply be to rubberstamp this draft – was held later that year, where delegates were informed that the Minister hoped to have a new White Paper ratified by parliament before the end of his term in office.

An election took place in May 2014, and a new minister was appointed that in turn led to what has now become “normal practice” i.e. that senior staff – more particularly, the Director General – is removed to make way for a candidate preferred by the new minister (in this case, Nathi Mthethwa, the former minister responsible for police at the time of the Marikana massacre).

Under Mthethwa’s Acting Director General, Mr Vuyo Jack, the process of revising the original White Paper of 1996 was started afresh in March 2015, given the criticism levelled at the 2013 edition of the Revised White Paper – both for its content and for the manner in which it came about (with limited consultation with the arts, culture and heritage sector).

At an Indaba on the revised White Paper on Arts, Culture and Heritage (26-27 November 2015), further inputs were received from the creative sector.

The current RWP, in the “Process and Methodology” section, states

“On 4 November (2015), the Honourable Minister of Arts and Culture, Nathi Mthethwa, appointed an eight-person Reference Panel to revise the 1996 White Paper on Arts, Culture and Heritage.  The team was subsequently expanded to include a ninth member representing the country’s youth.” (p4)

The panel comprised Prof A Oliphant, Dr S Fikeni, Prof M Nkondo, Ms A Joffe, Father S Mkhatshwa, Dr A Beukes, Mr T Kgoroge, Ms L Mashile and Ms T Goso.

According to a DAC briefing on the process of revising the White Paper to the parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Arts and Culture on 30 August 2016:

  • A provisional draft for internal discussion was due in March 2016, followed by subsector public consultations in April, resulting in a revised draft in May which would then be circulated for public comment in June, after which it would be revised based on feedback received before being submitted to the Minister at the end of July 2016
  • Consultations were held in all the provinces from May to June, but “compilation of the first draft (of the revision of the Revised White Paper) was delayed since only three Reference Panel Members have contributed”
  • “The first draft of the White Paper was due on July 30, 2016. However, due to the lack of capacity within the Reference Panel as a result of several members dropping out, the three remaining members were over-stretched.  A request was granted by the ADG (Acting Director General) to extend the deadline for the first draft to 31 August 2016”

Notwithstanding this lack of contribution from the Reference Panel appointed to revise the White Paper (only a third of the panel remained or actively contributed), the DAC outlined the proposed new dispensation to the Portfolio Committee on 30 August 2016, much of which is contained in the “Second Draft” published in November 2016.  It is unclear, then, whether this new, proposed dispensation was the result of the panel fulfilling its mandate, or the DAC’s own invention (panel-beaten from earlier drafts of the revised White Paper) or a combination of both.

A year after the November 2015 indaba, the “Second Draft” of the Revised White Paper on Arts, Culture and Heritage was made available publicly, and another indaba was called for 17-18 November to discuss this latest edition.  Further submissions have been invited, with 15 December 2016 as the deadline for these.

Critique of Process

  1. The 1996 White Paper process was premised on two key elements largely absent from the current process

1.1  extensive consultation with the arts, culture and heritage sector over a period of nearly a year, led by individuals nominated by the arts and culture sector and

1.2  extensive research into the nature of the arts, culture and heritage sector – eventually comprising the Arts and Culture Task Group (ACTAG) Report – which served as the basis for the recommendations contained in the 1996 White Paper

Notwithstanding the fact that the current version of the White Paper has been in development for nearly three times longer than the research and consultative process of the 1996 White Paper, it sorely lacks comprehensive research of the sector as it currently stands: the gains since 1996, the gaps, the new challenges of our society 20 years on, etc.  Accordingly, it makes recommendations or statements that are often generalised and unsubstantiated by research.  At best, the RWP makes recommendations that allude to various reports or studies that have been done e.g. DAC National Mapping Study (2014) and the VANSA Report on the Visual Arts (2013), but these reports have not necessarily been interrogated within the broader arts, culture and heritage sector, or within the specific sector that it relates to, so that – unlike the ACTAG process – the recommendations may lack the legitimacy of sector knowledge and support.

The RWP references many different reports, but there is no list of links to these reports in an appendix at the end of the RWP which would allow the sector to familiarise themselves with these reports and provide feedback to the recommendations made on the basis of these reports.  In other words, there is a distinct lack of transparency in the formulation of the Revised White Paper which may be by design, by poor management of the process, or both.

2. Unlike the Arts and Culture Task Group (ACTAG) that was appointed by the then Minister from nearly 300 nominations received from the public – and the arts, culture and heritage sector in particular – the Reference Group appointed to draft the Revised White Paper in November 2015 was done largely by ministerial decree, probably informed by senior DAC officials.

2.1  This reflects how far our society and the governance of the arts and culture sector has moved from the founding principles of “arm’s length”, “transparency” and “participatory democracy” contained, or alluded to both in the 1996 White and the ACTAG process that led to the White Paper.  While the 1996 policy affirmed the transparent appointment of structures governing the arts, of bodies that dispensed public funds and of institutions supported by the public purse, there have been significant changes to this policy position without the policy being formally changed through a White Paper process i.e. policy changes have occurred by stealth, or by unilateral DAC decision-making rather than through consultation.  Thus, the governing boards of publicly-funded theatres, museums and monuments have their chairpersons appointed by the Minister, rather than being elected by their colleagues; in this way, the ruling party has a direct conduit into publicly-funded institutions, and boards may be intimidated into self-censorship because their chairpersons carry political blessing.  Such ministerial appointments also grant disproportionate power to the chairpersons of such boards.  This is also the case with funding agencies such as the National Arts Council, National Film and Video Foundation and the National Heritage Council.

2.2  Publicly-funded institutions now have to declare, as part of their branding, that they are “agencies of the Department of Arts and Culture”; in other words, they are accountable – not only for the public funding they receive – but also for their programming, strategic and implementation plans that have to be aligned with the vision and aims of the DAC.  The unilateral, ministerial appointment of the Reference Group – the presence of some independently-minded individuals notwithstanding – is indicative more of a desire to control and ensure the interests of the DAC in the White Paper, than the interests of the arts and culture sector.  That the President of CCIFSA – a sweetheart organisation of the DAC that supposedly represents the sector to the exclusion of other civil society bodies that have been around for longer and have more policy-making expertise – is part of the Reference Group together with individuals who serve on the boards of other DAC-funded entities – further reflects the bad faith of the DAC in formulating a policy document that genuinely seeks the best interests of the arts, culture and heritage sector in the context of contemporary South Africa.

2.3  In its report to the Portfolio Committee on Arts and Culture, the DAC stated that several members of the Reference Group dropped out, leaving the three remaining members over-stretched.  In other words, two-thirds – 66% of the Reference Group appointed by the Minister – failed to deliver anything of substance.  Nevertheless, at that very briefing and prior to the deadline for the first draft of the RWP, the DAC outlined what the “new dispensation” would look like. This raises four further points of concern

2.3.1      who were the individuals who withdrew from the Reference Group, why did they do so and who were those who may have remained, but did not contribute anything?  If they are serving – on Ministerial appointment – on other publicly funded boards, are they fulfilling their mandate there, and do they have the requisite skills, experience and commitment to do so?

2.3.2      it reflects the shortcomings of unilateral ministerial appointments, where individuals are appointed to serve the arts, culture and heritage sector, but fail to do so – for whatever reasons – and neither the minister nor those failing individuals are held accountable

2.3.3      if the Reference Group was largely dysfunctional, who was responsible for the drafting of the RWP?  How could the DAC outline the “new dispensation” to the Portfolio Committee before the deadline for the RWP, unless it was substantially involved in the formulation of the RWP?  Is the RWP largely a reformulation of earlier drafts of the RWP that were devised internally within the DAC?

2.3.4      The presence of particular individuals within the Reference Group e.g. Andries Oliphant who chaired the ACTAG process and was initially involved in the formulation of the 1996 White Paper, and Avril Joffe, a UNESCO expert on the 2005 Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions who has worked with other African governments on formulating cultural policies may give some comfort that – even if the process leaves much to be desired – at least the content of the White Paper would be informed by a degree of policy-making experience.  On the other hand, the numerous editing deficiencies within the White Paper and the uneven structure and patchy content of the White Paper raise questions about whether this final draft has been signed off by even the remnants of the Reference Group?

3. The consultative processes related to the revision of the White Paper have entailed meetings with the publicly-funded institutions, provincial workshops and two-day national gatherings of stakeholders to discuss the latest version/s of the RWP. While there are inherent power relations that favour the DAC in their consultations with institutions that are dependent on them for funding, with the DAC being able to make and drive decisions affecting such institutions whether these approve of them or not, broader consultations – to have legitimacy – require adequate preparation e.g. the distribution of documentation beforehand, sufficient time for stakeholders to engage with the documentation within their respective organisations, opportunities for stakeholders to interrogate versions of the RWP as it develops after provincial and other consultations, etc.  This can be done in face-to-face gatherings but also through technology and online platforms.

The RWP states that it has adhered to “the participatory and consultative principles on which South Africa’s democracy and public policy development practices are founded…” (p5).  However, the experience of stakeholders in the revision of the White Paper has generally been one of it being rushed, with inadequate time to interrogate the RWP and a feeling that the “consultations” have been box-ticking exercises rather than genuine attempts to engage the views of stakeholders.

Why the process matters

There are some who would argue that while there may be limitations in the policy-making process, criticism in this regard should be muted since at least there is a (better than the 2013 version) policy document on the table.

However, the process of formulating the primary policy document that will affect the arts and culture sector nationally is as important as the content of the policy recommendations for at least the following reasons:

  1. South Africa is a constitutional democracy and is a work-in-progress in this regard; we are both a democracy because our Constitution decrees it so, and we are becoming a democracy as we contest what this means for society as a whole and for our respective sectors. It is the democratic right of arts, culture and heritage practitioners to participate actively in the formulation, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of policies, strategies and structures that directly affect their practice and livelihoods.  When government – in this case, a minister and the Department of Arts and Culture – restricts the participation of the sector in policy-making, it compromises democracy and creates a version of democracy in government’s image, and co-opts democratic processes and principles to serve their narrow, pre-defined interests.
  2. In a democracy, the arts and culture sector – like all sectors of society – have a right to create and belong to organisations that they believe best advance and defend their interests, including holding government accountable for poor or non- implementation of policy, decisions that adversely affect the sector, wastage of resources, etc. The DAC however, has imposed an organisation from the top down on the sector – the Creative and Cultural Industries Federation of South Africa (CCIFSA) – which in its two years of existence has done little to warrant the support or respect of stakeholders within the sector.  By appointing the president of CCIFSA to the Reference Group, the Minister both marginalises organisations established by practitioners themselves and seeks to legitimise the policy recommendations in the RWP as those bearing the support of civil society through CCIFSA.  This strategy serves only to divide and rule the sector, rather than unite it in the best interests of arts, culture and heritage stakeholders, a situation that serves the interests of the DAC far more than it does the development of South Africa’s creative sector.
  3. Whereas a genuinely consultative and participatory process aids the legitimation of the policy recommendations, a process that is undemocratic, restrictive and politically manipulated serves to undermine the credibility of the policy recommendations and further sows distrust of and suspicion about the motives of the DAC and casts doubts about the good faith of the Minister. The lack of time in calling for participation in national indabas and the hosting of such indabas also raises suspicions about  whether service providers organising the indabas have gone through the required tender processes, or whether work has been allocated on the basis of deviations to preferred service providers close to officials within the DAC.  Accordingly, this distrust will continue to manifest itself in the implementation, monitoring and evaluation phases of the policy whereas the formulation process should be one of building relations and trust between key stakeholders.
  4. A poorly managed or politically-manipulated process disempowers the arts and culture sector and creates cynicism. A lot of what has taken place – certainly with regard to achievements – within the creative sector has been despite, rather than because of government policy, government support or government intervention.  Whereas there had been much expectation of the DAC and the government in the period immediately following the adoption of the White Paper in 1996, the sector has become increasingly cynical about government, about its commitment to and management of policy processes, particularly since the annus horribilis of 2000 when many state-funded institutions and cultural NGOs suffered terrible losses.  As cynicism about government generally and the DAC in particular grows, so the arts, culture and heritage sector increasingly finds alternative ways to grow and sustain their work, outside of government policies and structures.  This perpetuates and increases a huge divide within the sector between those dependent on government resources on the one hand but still in relatively early stages of their career and market development, and others who could assist those in need of development but who are alienated from government and its processes, and simply get on with their lives, seeking to have as little to do with government as possible.  Nowhere is this more evident than in the Afrikaans arts market where – unrestrained or supported by government – Afrikaans music, theatre, festivals, movies, literature, television programmes, newspapers and magazines, visual art by Afrikaans artists, etc – flourish because of a market with the disposable income, passion and knowledge to support such work.  On the other hand, many theatre makers from peri-urban and/or less-resourced provinces who make their way to the National Arts Festival, with or without public subsidy, struggle to find a market and generally return to their homes poorer than when they left.  For all its talk about social cohesion and nation building, the DAC simply lacks the respect of many skilled practitioners who could play a role in the development of the sector, but are alienated from the DAC’s lack of vision, and its ways of operating.
  5. Even if the process were above board and legitimate, that the revision of the White Paper has taken more than three years under the auspices of two different ministers and three different directors-general,

5.1  does not boost confidence in the DAC and its capacity and leadership ability as the primary vehicle to manage, implement and evaluate the policy and the responsibilities assigned to it within the policy and

5.2  shows that the Department and its effectiveness are subject to the factional battles of the ruling party, so that any investment in the leadership of the DAC (ministerial and staffing) on the part of the sector, would be relatively meaningless in the medium-to-long term as it is likely that a new minister and director general will be appointed in which such investment of effort and time will have to start afresh.  Normally, what this means is that politicians and senior bureaucrats with little knowledge and understanding of the sector resort to formulaic and tired notions of “transformation” as their starting point with which to engage the sector, without a more comprehensive historical overview, contemporary analysis and vision to guide them, so that – when politicians and senior officials change – there is often the debilitating feeling that we are at the beginning, again.

This, then, further encourages the arts and culture sector to seek ways to survive and grow outside of government structures and policy as any dependence on it, will be subject to decisions and political interventions largely outside of the sector’s – and individual artists’ or organisations’ – control.


The RWP assigns the primary responsibility for the implementation, management and evaluation of the RWP to the DAC.  However, there is no analysis of the DAC as the primary vehicle through which the 1996 White Paper was driven. In the absence of an evaluation of the DAC, the following are examples that illustrate the need thoroughly to interrogate the DAC, its vision, leadership and capacity in being able to drive, implement and monitor the RWP.

1. Illegal appointment of the National Arts Council in 2015

In the interests of transparency, the National Arts Council Act requires that nominees for the Council of the NAC are interviewed in public, and that the public be given the opportunity to object to any nominee.  However, the interviews for the 2015 Council were held behind closed doors and the public was never informed of who the nominees were, with the Minister subsequently appointing the Council members.  Civil society organisations and individuals wrote to the Minister, to the NAC, the Department and the Portfolio Committee on Arts and Culture pointing out this contravention of the NAC Act, but the appointments went ahead and the Council was inaugurated in late 2015.  A year later, the Minister terminated the services of the Council precisely because of this contravention, of which he had been informed!

This episode resonates with another example of a few NAC Councils back when the DAC attempted to deny a legitimate Council member a seat on the next Council.  In terms of the Act, the sitting Council elects three of its members to serve on the next Council to provide a degree of continuity.  Among the three members elected, was an individual of whom the DAC did not particularly approve as she had constantly raised critical questions of the DAC in the various positions she had held.  The DAC did not appoint her to the next Council, even though it was pointed out to them that this was against the Act.  Eventually, due to legal engagement, the DAC was obliged to reappoint the individual to the next Council.

These examples point to at least four challenges within the DAC and/or the challenge that the DAC represents for the arts, culture and heritage sector

1.1  Its laissez faire attitude to the laws (and thus policies) for which it is responsible – can it then be trusted with this new White Paper and the implementation responsibilities assigned to it?

1.2  the attitude of the DAC to independent thinkers and critics i.e. that while one of its core mandates is to promote and defend freedom of expression, in reality, it prejudices individuals and organisations that raise critical questions

1.3  the lack of commitment to transparency which denies the creative sector its legal rights and undermines democracy

1.4  its refusal to take seriously the protestations of civil society who monitor policy implementation and raise criticisms in good faith (can it thus be a good partner of civil society as called for in the RWP, can it be trusted by civil society, is civil society better off acting on its own in parallel to the DAC, and simply ignore it in the same way as the DAC treats civil society?)

The problem with the breakdown in trust and the relationship between the DAC and civil society actors is that there is much expertise within civil society which could and should be used to realise the goals of the RWP.  However, many in the sector simply do not trust the DAC and refuse to engage with the policy recommendations of government, whether it tries to encourage compliance by incentive (which it rarely does) or by coercion (which it more often threatens but lacks capacity to carry it through, fortunately)

The DAC’s mandate appears to be to serve the political imperatives of government and not the vision or interests of the sector.  Where there may be overlap and mutual interests, the DAC is unable to articulate these overlapping interests in a manner that encourages cooperation and its historical failures are such that it lacks credibility particularly within a large part of the skilled, resourced, networked and experienced creative sector.

  1. Management of international policy instruments

South Africa played an influential role in the devising of the 2005 UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, and was one of the first countries to ratify this international legal instrument.  In terms of the operational guidelines adopted by the signatories to the Convention (South Africa had a representative on the Committee devising these guidelines), signatories are to submit a report every four years detailing how they have implemented the Convention, the successes and challenges in doing so, and how they have worked with civil society – a key element within the Convention – to achieve this.

The first report was due in 2012.  Arterial Network South Africa (a civil society body established by some in the arts sector and linked to similar chapters across the African continent) organised a conference on the Convention – with the financial support of the DAC in late 2011 – and elected a working group to liaise with the DAC to prepare and submit this report.  However, notwithstanding numerous attempts to engage with the DAC before the April 2012 deadline, Arterial Network submitted its own – civil society – report on the implementation of the Convention as the DAC failed to meet the deadline.  The DAC instead called for tenders for consultants to complete the report (a report template was made available by UNESCO that would not exceed 25 pages) and three tenders were received, ranging from R600 000 to R990 000.  The DAC selected the most expensive tenderer to host provincial workshops on the Convention and to complete the report.  Four years later, the report was still not submitted.

This episode again underscores-

2.1  the DAC’s inability to work with independent civil society organisations within the creative sector where the leadership is provided by the members and the elected leaders and

2.2  the DAC’s inability/lack of internal capacity to manage the instruments (laws, conventions, protocols, etc) for which it is responsible

It also reflects the DAC’s lack of education of the creative sector about the opportunities, rights and obligations of the sector in terms of such international and local legal instruments.

Why, then – based on such patterns of poor management – should the creative sector have any confidence in the DAC’s ability to manage the implementation of the RWP, or that it will work – in good faith – with the organisations established by the sector to represent their interests?

  1. Lack of capacity within DAC institutions

The DAC is responsible for at least 26 institutions which receive subsidies through the DAC.  These institutions are accountable to the DAC for how they spend their subsidies on an annual basis.  They include museums, statutory bodies like the NAC and NFVF and theatres like the Market, Artscape and PACOFS.

Parliament’s Portfolio Committee has often reprimanded the DAC because of the qualified audits of many of the institutions under its wing.  If the DAC were committed to transformation and building capacity, and if it had the capacity itself, it would ensure that over time, capacity would be built within each of its institutions to ensure sound governance, effective management and accountable use of public resources.  However, earlier versions of the RWP rather recommended the amalgamation of institutions as a way of dealing with this challenge i.e. combine poorly performing institutions with better performing institutions in the hope that this will improve capacity, or at the very least, cynically reduce the number of institutions for which it may be reprimanded by the Portfolio Committee.

What this points to are

3.1  the DAC’s own inability and lack of capacity to empower and so substantially to transform the institutions for which it is responsible (beyond superficial demographic transformation of its governance and management structures)

3.2  the hollowness of the DAC’s call for transformation within the sector to be expedited when its own institutions are not substantially transformed in terms of real empowerment through upskilling, building capacity, sustaining effective management and governance over a lengthy period of time, etc.

4. DAC’s management of (its) civil society organisations

While the above point refers particularly to the cultural institutions of the DAC, the DAC also has a poor record in managing relationships with the “civil society organisations” (can they really be labelled such?) that it establishes to “represent” civil society.

In January 2015, the DAC hosted a national conference for theatre and dance practitioners, at which a National Dance and Theatre Advisory Group was elected by attendees (one theatre and one dance representative per province).  This Group was mandated to devise policy and other strategies to serve the interests of the dance and theatre sectors, and yet, for nearly two years, this Group struggled to obtain the resources from the DAC that it believed it needed to do its work.

Under a previous Minister, an interim committee was unilaterally appointed to drive the establishment of a representative body – the Creative and Cultural Industries Federation of South Africa (CCIFSA) – for the sector and with which the DAC could “negotiate” and collaborate as civil society partners.  Even with a reasonably healthy budget, this interim body only managed to host a national launch – flawed in many respects – nearly a year after its appointment.  Since then (March 2015), this “representative” structure has done very little representing of the sector (the President of CCIFSA was appointed to the Reference Group to draft the RWP, yet failed to make any meaningful contribution to its work).

This reflects:

4.1  (again), the lack of respect that the DAC has for the independent organisations established by artists themselves

4.2  the DAC’s preference to establish “civil society” bodies that would be dependent on it for funding and generally do its bidding, even though they have little credibility within the broader creative sector

4.3  the DAC’s emphasis on superficial demographic transformation (the leadership of all these formations have been overwhelmingly black African, consistent with the demographics of the country) but without ensuring that the requisite skills were in place for the structures to do the work required; consequently

4.3.1      the structures are set up for failure and thus to earn the cynical dismissal of the sector and/or those who believe that “affirmative action” – or some version of it – is to blame and

4.3.2      substantive transformation does not take place while superficial, demographic transformation gives an impression of “transformation”, but without the structural changes having taken place

The RWP speaks of “forming professional, local and regional arts and craft associations and networks with membership benefits and development programmes” (p4); if the examples of the National Dance and Theatre Advisory Group and CCIFSA are indicative of the DAC’s formation of such networks, then it would be far better for the sector if the DAC refrains from doing so.  As with other sectors of society where workers form unions and professionals such as teachers, doctors and accountants form their own associations, it must be professionals within the sector that form organisations to defend and advance their interests and to have public funding to support their work, without compromising their independence and accountability primarily to their membership, rather than to their public funder.

5. The DAC and its dislike of Freedom of Expression and independent, critical thought

The 1996 White Paper affirmed the Constitutional right to freedom of creative expression by asserting that that policy would “ensure that all persons are free to pursue their vision of artistic creativity without interference, victimisation and censorship”.  In support of this principle, was the arm’s length principle of funding where “the state shall facilitate mechanisms for peer evaluation and decision-making regarding the funding of arts and culture activities” (to avoid politicians and government officials making such decisions and so asserting a political bias in such decisions) and the principle of autonomy, described as “the full independence of publicly-funded arts institutions, organisations and practitioners from party political and state interference”.

The RWP lists “Freedom of expression and access to information” as one of its principles (whereas in fact, they are two quite different principles); the DAC would be hard-pressed not to list freedom of expression as a principle, since this is a right guaranteed in the Constitution.  However, it is in the practice and execution of this right that the DAC’s commitment to this principle needs to be evaluated.

First, there is no longer any reference in the RWP to the principles of arm’s length or institutional autonomy, at least not as a commitment to these principles in support of the right to freedom of expression.

Secondly, notwithstanding the 1996 White Paper and these sound principles, the DAC instituted a law by which all the institutions it funded on a regular basis would have the chairpersons of their governing boards appointed directly by the Minister of Arts and Culture, thus providing a conduit of political influence on the one hand, and a source of political intimidation on the other (the chairperson would be accountable to the Minister, a political appointee, rather than to the Board members who would have no say in electing her/him).

Thirdly, publicly-funded institutions are now required to carry as part of their branding the fact that they are “agencies of the Department of Arts and Culture” i.e. they are no longer autonomous entities but bodies required to fulfil the mandate provided to them by the DAC.

Fourth, as alluded to in other paragraphs above, the DAC has a long record of marginalising or seeking to marginalise critical voices – individual and organisational – within the sector, and in seeking to establish “representative” voices and structures that are largely compliant, not least as they depend on the DAC for funding.

While the Department of Arts and Culture may do some good, without interrogating its capacity, ideological and management failures, we cannot be confident about the implementation and management of future policies.  What previous experience points to are consistent patterns of failure in that

  1. there is no real commitment to freedom of expression and organisational autonomy
  2. the DAC prefers to liaise/negotiate with organisations that it funds and establishes as so-called representatives of the sector, without acknowledging the inherent and unequal power relations and the compromising of democracy
  3. it does not empower the organisations and institutions for which it is responsible, thus rendering them incapable of representing or undertaking substantial transformation of the sector
  4. it manages the laws, international instruments and policy processes for which it is responsible with an ambivalence that favours its interests as a Department rather than what these instruments require or that would in the best interests of the creative sector

Against this background, the question has to be asked: can the DAC in its current form really – and be expected to – fulfil the functions and responsibilities assigned to it by the RWP (see p75 and the latter pages of the RWP).

False Analysis of the Failures of Policy

It has been necessary to point to the failures of implementation of policy, of poor management of stakeholder relations and of contradictions in the mandate of the DAC and its actual practice e.g. with regard to freedom of expression, precisely to alert the arts, culture and creative sector to the potential challenges in implementing this Revised White Paper, to provide the DAC with an opportunity to prove its credentials and good faith going forward and/or to encourage the creative sector to act in parallel (as many components of the sector have been doing) to the DAC in order to grow and sustain their work, overlapping only minimally, if at all.

As if the above illustrations are not sufficient cause for concern, the RWP itself is premised on fundamentally flawed – indeed, false – analyses of the failures of policy, rather than the failures of the DAC in implementing and managing policy.  The drafters of the RWP have largely confused these two issues as this section will show.

Policy must be evaluated regularly to ascertain its impact, if any, and to ensure that it remains relevant to changing conditions.  If the management and implementation of policy are not evaluated and addressed, then changing policies will have little impact as the same poor management and implementation mechanisms will prevail.

This is one of the key failures of the Revised White Paper – a false analysis of the failures of 1996 White Paper (pg 10).

Given the wide-ranging proposals for policy changes carried out in the context of the historical transition, it was to be expected that the initial democratic culture and policy interventions would not, somehow, magically resolve the legacies of the past. Two decades of implementation experience laid bare the limitations of the founding policies (my emphasis) These include:

  • A lack of coherence in the design of the overall system resulting in overlaps between different agencies and institutions;

Comment: This is not necessarily the fault of the policy, but rather poor subsequent planning, legislative inconsistencies and uneven implementation of policy

  • Slow transformations in the sector;

Comment: The 1996 White Paper calls for substantial transformation of the sector and has as its basis the transformation of the creative sector as a whole; that transformation has been “slow” is not a fault of the policy but of those responsible for driving and implementing transformation.

  • Inefficient and cumbersome administrative procedures;

Comment: Again, this is not the fault of policy; administrative procedures are put in place as the result of legislation such as the Public Finance Management Act or the National Arts Council Act; administrative procedures can be changed relatively quickly where there is vision and political will, and without having to change policy necessarily – unless policy has built-in administrative procedures for example, the manner in which an arts council is to be appointed, in which case attempts to change these procedures may have less to do with their “cumbersome” nature, than with authorities preferring a different method to transparent and participatory appointment of publicly-funded bodies.

  • A lack of coordination between national, provincial and local arts, culture and heritage policies and the need for greater interdepartmental cooperation;

Comment: Again, this is not the fault of policy.  This may be because of different levels of government being controlled by different political parties, or different factions within the same party, or with constitutional limitations on the role of local government in the creative sector, or on inefficiencies and incompetence within the different government structures; it is imperative that the causes of such a lack of coordination be properly analysed and addressed, as any future, changed policy may suffer from similar lack of coordination in its implementation. In addition, as Lance Nawa has pointed out in various forums, there is a Constitutional challenge with arts and culture being declared a concurrent competency of national and provincial government, but not of local government, even though it is at the latter level that arts, culture and heritage services can best be provided in response to citizens’ needs. The lottery has played a major role in the arts, culture and heritage sector during the period of implementation of the 1996 White Paper, and yet, there is no mention of its positive and – in too many cases – negative impact on the sector, and the absence of coordination between the lottery and other funding agencies in the arts and culture sector; this is a structural problem within government, not a fault of the 1996 White Paper.

  • Inadequate formal education and training opportunities for art, culture and heritage

Comment: The 1996 White Paper has a section on the development of human resources for the arts, culture and heritage sector; that there are inadequate opportunities, again, is not the fault of the policy, but of those required to implement this policy!


  • The uneven distribution of infrastructure, facilities, material and resources outside the main metropolitan areas;

Comment: It is the Department of Arts and Culture that decided to fund three theatres in the country’s richest province – the State Theatre, Market Theatre, Windybrow Theatre – and none in Eastern Cape, North West, Limpopo, Northern Cape and Mpumalanga – it is not the fault of the 1996 policy! The 1996 White Paper called for the establishment of arts centres throughout the country to improve access to the arts and to cultural infrastructure to create, produce and distribute art; that this has not happened, or that it has been poorly implemented is the responsibility of government, NOT a deficiency in the original policy document).


  • The persistence of the perception of arts, culture and heritage as marginal luxuries;


 Comment: The drafters of this RWP do not explain how this is a fault of policy, or how changing the policy will change this perception – this is a matter of education, not of policy.  However, previous editions of the RWP – and this one – emphasise the “creative and cultural industries” as drivers of economic growth and job creation, no doubt, in the hope of changing the perception among politicians at least about the value of the arts in reducing inequality, unemployment and poverty.  The truth is that the 1996 White Paper already spoke about the economic potential of the creative sector, and the DAC’s Cultural Industries Growth Strategy (launched in 1998) was based on this.  Notwithstanding this lengthy period of emphasis on the cultural and creative industries (at least 18 years), our poverty, inequality and unemployment indicators have deteriorated. It is a false and unfair burden to place on the arts and culture sector what other sectors of our economy and the political class generally, have been unable to achieve.

  • Insufficient attention to the role of the private sector in funding and developing the sector;

Comment: The 1996 White Paper called for greater incentivisation of the private sector to support the arts; the DAC’s response was to create Business and Arts South Africa, and to make a contribution to the endowment of the Arts and Culture Trust, a private sector initiative.  This is how the DAC chose to implement policy; what is required is an analysis of how this has failed to deliver on the vision which the DAC has of private sector support for the arts sector, rather than attribute any such failures to the original policy.

  • Inadequate monitoring and evaluation of institutions, programmes and events.

Comment: Evaluation and monitoring should be standard elements in any implementation – not necessarily policy – strategy.  Implementing policy through institutions, structures and strategies requires regular evaluation of impact to determine whether the policy goals have been/are being realised.  Again, to blame inadequate monitoring and evaluation of institutions on policy is to absolve the DAC of its manifold failures in this regard which has led to countless institutions for which it is responsible having qualified audits, being poorly governed and managed, failing to deliver on institutional mandates, etc.  Changing the policy and even insisting on evaluation and monitoring within the policy, does not improve the DAC’s ability or commitment effectively to provide such oversight.

That the RWP is premised on a fundamentally flawed analysis i.e. “the limitations of the founding policies” is a real cause of concern since:

  1. it reflects poor analytical capacity with the resultant recommended changes in the RWP not addressing the real reasons for the failures regarding the implementation of policy rather than the policy itself
  2. there is no analysis of the Department of Arts and Culture and its management, implementation and evaluation of the 1996 White Paper, leaving it largely intact as the primary vehicle for implementation
  3. recommended changes for structural changes within the RWP e.g. amalgamating the National Film and Video Foundation and the National Arts Council would appear to have less to do with the failures of policy than with the DAC’s desire for such changes for whatever reasons, since many of the structural changes proposed are to institutions that came into being after the adoption of the White Paper


There are many positives in the RWP, at least relative to previous versions of the RWP.  These include:

  1. a recognition of the different values of art, culture and heritage (intrinsic, educational, creative, therapeutic, recreational, social, economic, etc, pg 2, 7, 8) and accepts that “humans are holistic beings with material, psychological, emotional, cultural, spiritual and intellectual needs” rather than the previous RWP editions’ emphasis on the economic dimension of arts, culture and heritage in order to address the country’s principle challenges of inequality, unemployment and poverty
  2. sector-specific proposals to enhance each of music, theatre, dance, literature, heritage, etc (pgs 15-35) – these were largely absent in previous versions of the RWP
  3. the intention of the RWP effectively to “contribute to a cohesive and united society in which everyone has access to arts, culture and heritage, resources, facilitated and opportunities…” (p3) and to extend “art, culture and heritage infrastructure, facilities and resources beyond the colonial urban centres into peri-urban and rural communities” (p4) – this affirms the 1996 White Paper’s premise that “everyone shall have the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community and to enjoy the arts” (Article 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights) and the Freedom Charter principle “The doors of learning and culture shall be open”. The creative industries approach of the previous versions of the RWP meant that it would be those with disposable income who would best have their arts, culture and heritage needs catered for, rather than “all” South Africans
  4. it speaks of “transforming South Africa into an inclusive society based on actual equality” (p3), a recognition that the idea of “the rainbow nation” works only for people of a particular class (middle to upper) and that poor people are generally excluded in our society
  5. it promotes human resource development through formal and informal programmes (although, this was a recommendation of the 1996 White Paper too)
  6. it envisages expanded markets for local creative products and services into regional, continental and global markets (p4)
  7. the emphasis on digital aspects of the creative sector both in production and distribution, but also in archiving is to be welcomed
  8. more detailed outlines of the potential social benefits for arts and culture practitioners are contained in this document than previous policy documents


Notwithstanding these positives, and the deficiencies already dealt with in regard to the process, the flawed analysis of the “limitations” of the 1996 White Paper and the DAC as a vehicle for implementing the RWP, there are further flaws in the RWP that will be dealt with thematically.

Conceptual weaknesses

There are numerous conceptual weaknesses, contradictions or gaps in clarity in the Revised White Paper.

  1. Alignment of the White Paper with the core mandate of the Ministry

As the first objective of the RWP, it is stated that the intention is “to align the revised White Paper on Arts Culture and Heritage with the core mandate of the Ministry of providing arts, culture and heritage services, facilities, funds and resources; contribute to addressing poverty and job creation; and promote social cohesion and nation-building by providing access, resources and facilities to all who live in South Africa, with special attention paid to injustices and imbalances of the past.” (p3) The introduction to the vision and mission of the White Paper also states “the vision and mission of this White Paper affirm the vision and mission of the DAC…” (p5).

Comment: The 1996 White Paper arose out of a vision for the arts, culture and heritage sector based on the realities of the time, and as determined largely by the creative community.  The Department of Arts and Culture took its mandate from the White Paper, rooted in this vision for the arts, culture and heritage.  This RWP has a fundamentally different starting point which is the “core mandate of the Ministry”, a mandate determined by the Ministry itself and/or by government more generally.   In other words, the vision for arts and culture has to be aligned with what the Ministry is “mandated” to do, rather than the Ministry being “mandated” by a vision contained in the RWP.

The vision of the RWP is “a dynamic, vibrant and transformed arts, culture and heritage sector, leading to nation-building, social cohesion and socioeconomic inclusion” (p5) and the mission is “to create an enabling environment in which the arts, culture and heritage can flourish and play a significant role in nation-building and socioeconomic development…” (p5).

The assumption of the RWP – clearly mandated by the National Development Plan – is to deal with the country’s major challenges (inequality, poverty and unemployment), and, in the process, also to achieve – or at least contribute significantly to – nation-building and social inclusion.

The RWP presents these – inequality, poverty and unemployment – as new contemporary challenges that require a response from the DAC, the White Paper and the arts, culture and heritage sector.  However, these challenges are not new and existed at the time of the adoption of the 1996 White Paper, a policy document that sought to address these exact – and other – challenges.  What is different now, twenty years later, is that these challenges have been exacerbated i.e. we have a more unequal society than in 1996, unemployment is higher than then, and were it not for the massive roll out of social grants with nearly 17 million citizens receiving a state handout, poverty would be significantly greater too!

So, rather than paying “special attention…to injustices and imbalances of the past”, the RWP should also pay attention to the factors that have contributed to greater injustices and imbalances of the last twenty-two years e.g. macro-economic policies, poor service delivery, high levels of corruption within the state – factors mentioned in the Diagnostic Study of the National Planning Commission that led to the National Development Plan, but which are completely absent in this RWP.  Without addressing these broader factors that have contributed – and continue to contribute to rising unemployment, inequality and poverty – the intentions of the RWP in addressing these “triple challenges” and the harnessing of the arts, culture and heritage sectors in doing so, will be meaningless and ineffectual.

While the RWP – correctly – calls for the renaming of the Department as the Department of Arts, Culture and Heritage to reflect its true mandate, it is in the area of “culture” that the RWP is particularly weak.

There is no articulation of the “cultural dimension” of development, or of nation-building, of human rights, of social cohesion i.e. what values, worldviews, traditions, religious and other beliefs, social and interpersonal modes of behaviour, social constructs, etc impact on the goals of the RWP?  How do they impact – in real terms and potentially? And, what – in policy terms – must be done to mitigate such impact?

The RWP states that it should “ensure the cultural dimension of development is adopted, adhered to and implemented across all relevant government departments” (p66) but it does not give clear direction as to what this actually means.  To simply leave it to departments to interpret, would render this meaningless; this policy document should clearly articulate an understanding of “the cultural dimension of development” and the practical implications of its transversal nature.

Culture is a transversal phenomenon and impacts directly on social cohesion, nation-building, development strategies, economic growth, the spread of HIV/AIDS and strategies to reduce the disease burden – what, in policy terms, is the RWP’s position with regard to this understanding of culture?  It is largely absent, an absence that does not resonate with recent international campaigns to infuse culture into the pursuit of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Furthermore, one of the biggest contradictions in the last twenty years, was the exercise of freedom of artistic expression versus culture in the case of The Spear painting by Brett Murray.  On the one hand, the artist was exercising his constitutional right to freedom of creative expression by making a painting that depicted the rape of the public purse (long before the State Capture Report), while one of the chief criticisms levelled at the painting was that it was insensitive to African culture by publicly depicting the genitals of the President.  The RWP fails to interrogate this contradiction, and to assert a position with regard to culture and human rights, or culture and freedom of expression in particular.

  1. Who is the RWP for?

The Revised White Paper talks about providing access and resources “to all who live in South Africa”, to address challenges to do with “factors of exclusions” and to “promote social cohesion” (p3); however, the RWP refrains from addressing xenophobia, particularly as manifested towards millions of African nationals from other countries on the continent who have migrated to our country in search of better lives or refuge from conflicts at home.  Is this a Revised White Paper for “all who live in South Africa” (p3) or for all South Africans, only?  There is an allusion in the RWP to new immigrants into the country, but given the number of refugees and migrants in South Africa, the history of xenophobic violence against African nationals and the RWP’s emphasis on nation-building, social cohesion and culture, there needs to be a greater policy emphasis with regard to the integration of African nationals in particular.

  1. Hasten transformation to enable accelerated transformation?

The fourth stated objective of the RWP is to “reconfigure the existing art, culture and heritage sector and the policies underpinning it to eliminate duplication and hasten transformation to enable the accelerated transformation (my emphasis) and optimal performance of the sector in relation to current social, education and economic policies.” (pg 4)

Comment: It is unclear from the above how the White Paper will “hasten transformation to enable the accelerated transformation…of the sector”, implying – tautologically or nonsensically – that transformation needs to be sped up in order to speed up transformation.

Such imprecise use of language is fairly common in this policy document, giving the impression that terminology is employed to convey particular meanings or to satisfy the authorities but which have little meaning in policy and practical terms; it’s as if the document sometimes gets lost in political-speak, making it difficult for the reader to understand what is meant.

Another example of gobbledygook language is to have arts, culture and heritage “flourish and play a significant role in nation-building and socioeconomic development by leading nation-building and societal transformation through social cohesion” (p5).  What does this actually mean?  That the arts, culture and heritage will play a significant role in nation-building by leading nation-building? That it will do so through social cohesion?  What is the difference between nation-building and building a socially-inclusive or cohesive society?  Is one a strategy and the other an end?

Part of the stated mission of the RWP is to create an enabling environment in which the arts, etc can flourish and play a significant role in nation-building and socioeconomic development by “providing leadership to the arts, culture and heritage sector to accelerate transformation” (p5).  It is unclear whether this – providing leadership…to accelerate transformation – is the role of the RWP or the DAC or both (since the RWP affirms the vision and mission of the DAC).  The White Paper of 1996 was premised on the need for transformation stating the principle of redress, meaning “…the correction of historical and existing imbalances through development, education, training and affirmative action with regard to race, gender, rural and urban considerations”.  The DAC had the principal responsibility for driving such redress and transformation.  Twenty years later, this is simply being repeated, without an assessment of the nature and quality of transformation of the last twenty years and of the DAC’s role in driving and managing such transformation of the sector.

  1. African Knowledge Systems (AKS)

The RWP genuflects to the current debates about decolonisation in tertiary institutions by inserting decolonisation as a principle and defining it as “placing African knowledge, epistemology, art, culture and heritage at the centre of policies, practices, institutions and programmes” (p6).  However, it also lists “openness” as a principle, defining it as “all cultures in every country in the world, balanced by national and local needs and priorities, are in principle open to and act upon each other”, without seeming to recognise that cultural values, ideas and beliefs embedded in creative products from more resourced economies are more able to act on, and influence the cultures of less-resourced societies.  According to the RWP, there is thus a need – on the one hand – to decolonise our culture, but, on the other, to be open to other cultures.

The RWP states that it seeks “to integrate AKS into arts, culture and heritage policy” (p13).  It further states that “the origins of AKS can be traced back to the development of a new concept in organisational theory and social developments in the United States of America in the 1980s”, without reflecting on the irony of importing an “African” concept from America, in the context of a discussion about “decolonisation”.

More confusing though is the critique of AKS embedded within the RWP:

“AKS mainstreaming is a problematic means to achieve the goal of the equality of knowledge holders for a number of reasons:

  • AKS mainstreaming is too vague a concept to be utilised effectively for the equality of knowledge holders
  • Different understanding of the usage and meaning of AKS mainstreaming
  • The employment of AKS mainstreaming as an efficiency vehicle without attention to its redistributive effect
  • The attempt to conceptually integrate the equality of knowledge holders form the beginning with existing knowledge institutions and programmes has been counter-productive” (p14)

Notwithstanding – or perhaps because of – this critique, the RWP “supports” (rather than directs or affirms) the establishment of a National Institute of African Knowledge Systems with an arts, culture and heritage component at a tertiary – or many tertiary – institutions. (p14).

There is no definition of African Knowledge Systems that would be useful for policy purposes and the discussion about AKS in the policy document appears to be a cut-and-paste job from another document.  It is so conceptually meaningless and woolly as to be counter-productive for inclusion in this document.  One of the principles of the RWP is “good governance” (defined as “sound, transparent and accountable governance and management principles and procedures”) – what would be uniquely African and exemplary of African epistemology in this regard, since “good governance” is generally a term employed by international donors – and European donors in particular – to demand a certain form of government by global south, including African governments?  While claiming to place AKS at the centre of the RWP, there is, in fact, very little integrating of “African Knowledge Systems” into the various sections of the document.

  1. Social Cohesion and Nation-Building

The RWP states that

“Social cohesion and nation-building is (sic) a response to the ongoing and unfinished national project which began with the transformation of South Africa into a constitutional democracy in 1994.  The DAC is the custodian of this national outcome.” (p13)

If, as the Diagnostic Study of the National Planning Commission points out, our society is as divided as ever, what has the DAC done – and what has been its impact – over the last twenty years as the custodian of nation-building and social cohesion?  The RWP correctly points out elsewhere that reducing inequality will be a key strategy to integrate the marginalised poor into the mainstream.  This is not something that the DAC can do; this is a matter of macro-economics, of job creation, education and myriad other interventions.  What, then, are the key interventions that the DAC can or should be making in this regard?

The RWP states

“The arts, cultural and heritage dimension of social cohesion and nation-building is integral to the DAC’s mandate to develop South African culture to reduce inequalities, exclusions and disparities based on ethnicity, gender, class, nationality, age, disability and any other distinctions which engender divisions, distrust and conflict.  This is to be achieved by eradicating the divisions and injustices of the past and to foster unity and a sense of being proudly South African”.

The above is a typical example of the woolly, circular thinking that permeates too much of the RWP.  This section is descriptive and general, without having any relevance or practical meaning in policy terms.

  1. Performing arts traditions

The RWP speaks of traditions within the South African performing arts comprising “African, European, Asian and Jewish strands…”. (p15) There are three continental references and one religious/cultural reference – why?  If “Jewish” is included, why not Hindu, Christian and Muslim?  For a document that seeks to build social cohesion and to build a nation, such language and references are extraordinarily provocative.

Conclusion: Some parts of the RWP are more clearly written than other parts.  There are better definitions and more precise uses of language that bring clarity in some parts of the document than in other parts.  Then again, some of the definitions – listed in the Appendix – are not carried into and through the document so as to be meaningful in terms of policy.  It is as if different writers have contributed based on their areas of interest or expertise – and some on the basis of gaps being identified, but not really having the clarity to fill these gaps – and the document as a whole is a copy-and-paste job that is poorly edited, does not reflect an overall “eye” and consistency in language and conceptual meaning and whose structure in unwieldy.  Many parts are also descriptive without having policy relevance.

Some paragraphs stop in mid-sentence e.g. “The objective of the NDP is to eliminate poverty and reduce inequality by 2030…as a long term strategic plan, it serves four broad objectives:…???(p12)” and “The objective of this policy proposal is not rationalisation but the elimination of duplication and overlaps for greater integration, consolidation, coherence, optimal functioning and effective delivery by the…???” (p24)

The RWP in its current form can do with a substantial edit.


The RWP defines transformation as follows: “to reconfigure the personnel, programmes and collections, exhibits, performances and events in arts, culture and heritage to reflect the demographics of an African society with diverse cultures” (p6).

A much more detailed analysis of transformation is contained in the critique of the 2013 edition of the RWP, and so it will not be repeated here.

The 2016 RWP states that transformation has been “slow”.  However, there is a complete absence of research into how the sector has been transformed over the last twenty years.  The report on Visual Arts states that the demographics in producers of art are much more reflective of the country, but that raises the key missing research for this policy document: what is the state of human resources, ownership and leadership at every level of the value chain (education, creation, production, distribution and consumption) for every discipline (music, theatre, dance, film, design, visual arts, literature, festivals and events, etc)?  Without such detailed research, it is impossible to determine whether transformation has indeed been slow, or whether it has taken place at all?

This, though, would only be an analysis of quantitative transformation – how the numbers of women, black, disabled, etc people have changed in each discipline and at every level of the value chain.

What is also missing is research into qualitative transformation: how demographic/quantitative transformation has contributed to the substantial and sustainable changing of lives, how structures and processes have been changed to benefit the majority of South Africans, how infrastructure, resources and skills have been redistributed nationally, etc.

The DAC’s own record with regard to transformation and infrastructure – building arts centres and supporting theatres – is a rather poor one, with most infrastructure supported by the national purse still based in the more resourced provinces and urban centres.

The most disturbing, frustrating and sad thing about this Revised White Paper, is that for all the pontification about transformation, social cohesion, the National Development Plan, alleviating poverty and reducing inequality, there IS VERY LITTLE IN IT THAT ARTICULATES A VISION, POLICIES AND PRACTICAL PROPOSALS TO MAKE THE ARTS, CULTURE AND HERITAGE AFFIRM – AND TO MAKE THESE ACCESSIBLE TO – HISTORICALLY MARGINALISED, POOR AND UNDER-RESOURCED COMMUNITIES AND INDIVIDUALS.  While it takes a broader focus than previous editions that foregrounded the creative and cultural industries, this RWP also emphasises the creative and cultural industries in the misguided belief that these will contribute to social and human development and to meeting the country’s major challenges.  The document repeats phrases about nation-building, social cohesion, poverty alleviation, etc, but there is little in it that would excite an arts practitioner in Limpopo or Northern Cape, or indeed, in Nyanga, Alexandra or Mafikeng.


This lack of research into the nature and state of transformation over the last twenty years reflects the lack of research that generally informs the RWP, with the following illustrative examples:

  1. The impact and limitations of the 1996 White Paper

The assessment of the implementation of the 1996 White Paper (pp 8-11) is a caricature of research and analysis, most exemplified by the following:

“Against the historical background of apartheid education, which was designed to deprive children of basic, secondary and tertiary education, including art, culture and heritage education:

  • The introduction of arts education at all levels of education was adopted as policy
  • The establishment of arts, culture and heritage administration, management and policy programmes at tertiary institutions was endorsed
  • The provision of basic infrastructure and resources in historically underdeveloped rural and urban communities commenced”

There is no research that analyses the current state of arts education at primary and secondary levels (the absence of qualified teachers, the lack of facilities and resources, etc).  To say that arts education “at all levels was adopted as policy” without showing its impact, and what now needs to be done, is disingenuous.

Similarly, tertiary programmes to develop human resources “was endorsed”; the 1996 White Paper did not call for arts education simply to be adopted as policy and for management programmes to be “endorsed”; it called for the implementation of these in order to develop the skilled human resources that would be required radically to transform and sustain the transformation of the arts, culture and heritage sector.  This has been one of the key failures of the DAC – to develop human resources to lead and manage cultural institutions and civil society structures, and this is reflected in the state of many institutions under its watch.

Another key failure of the DAC is the roll-out of infrastructure in rural and deprived urban communities; this had indeed “been commenced”, but despite this being a key strategy recommended in the 1996 White Paper, it was poorly implemented with infrastructure created, but without ensuring that local government would continue to support such infrastructure in the long term and without the requisite human resources being developed effectively to manage such infrastructure.

While the RWP talks of developing a coherent and integrated system, it is precisely because of the lack of coherence and integration over the last twenty years that much of the 1996 White Paper’s recommendations remain unfulfilled, which, again, goes to the vision, capacity and leadership ability of the DAC.

The RWP talks about how the 1996 White Paper’s recommendations on the economic dimension of the arts was developed into the Mzansi Golden Economy programme and how its recommendations for ongoing research was made manifest in the recent launch of the Cultural Observatory.  However, in the same paragraph, it also mentions a third item – the original White Paper’s recommendation to promote the rights and status of arts and culture practitioners – and yet, despite many false starts, very little, if anything has been done in this regard.

It has already been pointed out how the RWP drafters have falsely analysed the lack of implementation of the 1996 White Paper as the “limitations of policy” rather than as the failures of management and implementation of policy.

  1. The National Development Plan: Vision 2030

The RWP makes much of the National Development Plan (NDP) and of the role of arts, culture and heritage in contributing to the NDP’s goals of eliminating poverty and reducing inequality by 2030.

Whereas the NDP is based on a thorough diagnostic study (much as the 1996 White Paper was based on the comprehensive ACTAG Report), this RWP is based – at best – on a patchwork of (largely untested) reports (see below), generalisations and a distinct absence of research, both into what currently exists, what has been achieved since 1996 and what remain as key challenges.

The Diagnostic Study lists the key factors that hold back the development of the country:

  • A high disease burden
  • Communities that remain divided
  • The uneven performance of the public service
  • Apartheid’s spatial patterns continue to marginalise the poor
  • Too few South Africans have jobs
  • Increasing levels of corruption
  • Economy is dependent on resources
  • Crumbling infrastructure
  • Poor educational outcomes

In addition, it speaks of the weakening of state and civil society institutions, poor management of the economy, the flight of skills and capital and politics dominated by short-termism, ethnicity and factionalism as factors that contribute to a decline, and that need to be arrested.

Based on this diagnostic study, the NDP makes comprehensive proposals to alter the direction of our society and to reduce inequality and eliminate poverty.

While the RWP makes much of the NDP, in truth, the NDP devotes little more than two paragraphs in its 440 pages to arts and culture.  As a document that interprets the NDP, and integrates arts, culture and heritage into the NDP vision, the RWP is as weak as the NDP is in integrating arts, culture and heritage into its vision.

Reference is made to the Cultural Industries Growth Strategy (CIGS) – initiated in 1998 – and to research that shows how well the music, craft and visual arts industries contribute to the GDP and to employment; if this is the case, should we not simply be continuing what has been done in the last while?  On the other hand, if the cultural and creative industries have been making such significant contributions over the last twenty years, how come inequality and unemployment have increased?  Are there broader factors that impact adversely on the potential contribution of the arts, culture and heritage sector to these noble goals, and over which the sector has no control?

The political imperatives of the RWP (NDP goals, social cohesion, etc) are the over-arching and dominant drivers of the RWP rather than a vision for arts, culture and heritage.  There is no guarantee that taking this approach will realise the goals of the NDP.  A case could be made for an alternative approach (contained in the 1996 White Paper) – for a vision for the development of arts, culture and heritage among all the people of South Africa, that with proper management and resourcing, could realise the goals of the NDP more effectively than the approach taken by the RWP.

  1. Reports and documents

The RWP references a number of documents and claims to be informed by these.  These include:

National Development Plan Vision 2030 (2011)

Constitution’s Bill or Rights (1996)

African Charter on Human and People’s Rights (1981)

Charter for African Cultural Renaissance (2006)

UNESCO Declaration on Cultural Diversity (2001)

Convention on the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage (2003)

Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions (2005)

The African Union’s Agenda 2063 (2014)

Charter of the United Nations

IDC Music Industry Study (2013) – as yet unpublished (p19)

Research Report: An Assessment of the Visual Arts in South Africa (2010)

DAC National Mapping Study (2014)

Towards Optimally Functioning Community Arts Centres in South Africa (2002)

However, there are no links to these reports or documents as an appendix.  The drafters of the RWP may have had insight into many of these reports, but the creative sector has not necessarily had similar access.

It would have been really helpful to have a document that combines the key findings of these various reports and lists the international protocols referenced by the RWP, which would then also have saved the drafters from having to include so much descriptive text within the policy document.

Within the RWP itself, there is little clarity about how a particular document informs a particular recommendation.


  1.  Theatre

It is a substantial improvement on previous editions to include bold and precise policy recommendations (pp15-17), based on submissions made by theatre practitioners.  Some of the recommendations though e.g. “introduce a formula of 50% in-house productions and 50% external independent productions” – which are not from the sector – are potentially unworkable and restrictive.  The implementation of these recommendations – necessarily summarised from the larger Dance and Theatre Discussion Document – need to be done in accordance with the recommendations in that Document (it should be referenced in the RWP along with other reports and documents which inform this RWP).

  1. Dance

This section is not written by someone informed about dance; changes to the dance sector (aesthetically and in terms of collaborations) began in the mid-80s through Dance Umbrella.  Some excellent dance companies e.g. Vuyani are still dependent on international funding, and other excellent companies e.g. First Physical, have collapsed because of the lack of local support!  The recommendation of employing dancers on a 50/50 basis (p18) is illiterate.  This section needs to be rewritten to make it consistent with the kind of recommendations made in the theatre section as dance employs similar principles – theatre infrastructure, companies, resident choreographers, touring circuits, etc.

  1. Music, Visual Arts, Audio-visual Media, Heritage, Literature, Language, etc

As with dance, these sections are poorly articulated in policy terms, and require significant editing.  There appears to be much copy and pasting e.g. the Heritage and Literature sections, without editing this copy for the purposes of policy.  There is too much repetition, generalisation, broad meaningless statements in these sections for a policy document; a good edit is required.

On page 22, we are introduced for the first time to “the governance body for the National Arts and Audio Visual Council of South Africa”, an amalgamation of the National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF) and the National Arts Council (NAC).  There is no introductory motivation for this, nothing till/at this point to indicate that it is necessary for social cohesion, NDP, transformation, or other purposes – and yet, this is a pretty major structural change being proposed.  It also needs to be pointed out that both these bodies – NFVF and NAC – are post-1994 structures; the reasons for their proposed amalgamation then would be instructive.

4. The Cultural and Creative Industries

After the section on policies for the different disciplines, there is a section on the cultural and creative industries that is almost as long as the preceding section.  What is the relationship between the creative and cultural industries on the one hand, and the core disciplines and the policy recommendations associated with these on the other?  Again, there appears to be much description, copying and pasting in this section with little reference to or resonance with the policy proposals related to music, theatre, heritage, etc.

This is a structural problem within the RWP, and it reflects a lack of coherence and the kind of woolly thinking mentioned earlier.

  1. Arts, Culture and Heritage Education and Training

The RWP correctly pays attention to the urgent need for the development of human resources and capacity within the arts, culture and heritage sector.  However, much of the relevant section is about description, with few practical policy recommendations, and the reader has to imply potential policy recommendations from the descriptions.


There is much more than can be said and written about the Revised White Paper on Arts, Culture and Heritage.  However, this intervention seeks to address some of the more fundamental issues; others will provide their perspectives and submissions, and hopefully, the next version will be a better one.

This White Paper has been in the process of becoming for such a long time, more than three years!  And yet, the arts and culture sector has kept functioning.  As with other sectors of our society, it is the resourced, the educated and the networked who are able to get on and prosper with limited, if any government assistance, while the marginalised and the poor for whom government and policy should most work, remain on the fringes due to the delays in policy formulation, and more importantly, in the poor implementation and management of policy.

That this process is still open, represents an opportunity for a visionary, inspirational policy to be drafted, and for relationships between key stakeholders, including civil society actors, to be brokered.

Very little in the last three years though give one hope that the DAC – principally – and the Minister will grasp these opportunities.

This, however, does not mean that the arts, culture and heritage sector should not find ways of addressing the key challenges within the sector, and the key challenges in our society through the sector, whether with, or without government.





About mikevangraan

Mike van Graan is currently a Richard von Weizsaecker Fellow of the Robert Bosch Academy in Berlin. He is a playwright, and most recently served as the Executive Director of the African Arts Institute. He was the founding Secretary General of Arterial Network, a civil society network of artists, activists and creative enterprises engaged in the African creative sector and its contribution to human rights, democracy and development on the continent. Currently, he also serves as a Technical Expert to UNESCO on the 2005 Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s