Speech notes by DA MPL, Ross Purdon – ECPL Sports, Recreation, Arts and Culture portfolio committee

Good afternoon all

September is Heritage Month and the theme for the 2015 Heritage Month reads as follows –

Our indigenous knowledge, our heritage: Towards the identification, promotion and preservation of South Africa’s living heritage.

Living heritage or cultural heritage refers to cultural expressions and practises that reside in individuals and communities. It is transmitted from generation to generation and is a vitally important part of the tapestry that forms South Africa. It allows communities and groups to keep their history alive and provides them with a sense of identity.

A recent government circular emphasised that our National Heritage month and our living heritage should be used as a vehicle for nation building, national reconciliation, and moral regeneration, economic and social development. Heritage Day and the month of September are to be used as a platform for communities to showcase different aspects of South Africa’s diverse heritage.

Honourable Speaker, it is against this background that I would like to highlight the plight of the Grahamstown Foundation which is based at the 1820 Settlers National Monument in Grahamstown. I am sure most of you know of this living monument which sits on the hill overlooking Grahamstown.

The Grahamstown Foundation is in severe financial difficulty. Until March 2011 the Foundation received an annual Heritage Grant from the Department of Arts and Culture. This grant ceased without warning or consultation on 30 March 2011 when the 2010/2011 tranche was paid in arrears. The last grant payment being R2, 8 million.

The Grahamstown Foundation is home to the National Arts Festival, the National Science Festival (Scifest Africa), the National Schools Festival of the Arts and Creativity, the Eastern Cape Eisteddfod, the Amaphiko Township Dance Project, the National English Olympiad and the Makana Edu tourism Project.

Honourable Speaker, the Honourable Vumile Lwana sits on the Foundation Council and can testify to the great work of this council and its projects.

The Foundation is fully dependent on this funding to maintain the building and to continue operations.

Honourable Speaker, the reality is that if this grant is not forthcoming the Foundation will be forced to close the institution and its projects.

This will be tragic for Grahamstown, the Makana Municipality (which is in enough trouble as it is) and the Eastern Cape. This would also have a hugely negative impact on the arts and education as well as leading to devastating job losses not only at the Foundation, but the whole area. Grahamstown survives on these festivals. The Foundation plays a major role in improving our education system to enable more young South Africans to take advantage of opportunities.

The Foundation and the Monument are vital to the Eastern Cape and we cannot afford to lose any precious jobs.

I know that the Honourable Majodina has given a huge amount of support to the National Arts Festival in her short term. I would like to commend her for that and we all know she appreciates the arts and culture.

Honourable Speaker, I moved a motion to highlight this serious situation in the NCOP last week but I would like to appeal to the Honourable Majodina to approach National Minister of Arts and Culture, Nathi Mthethwa, to urgently try and find a way forward.

Honourable Speaker, we are fast approaching another initiation season here in Eastern Cape. Earlier this year we lost over 30 young men with many more being hospitalised.

A recent commission revealed that since 2008 over 400 young men have died from botched circumcisions. These are horrific figures and a National Disaster.

While I am sure that everyone here today agrees with me the reality is that to most people these are not young lives but merely statistics.

The sad fact is that in South Africa we only count our dead. We don’t name them.

Dead South Africans become statistics!

The late Patrick Cull once wrote an article stating that our public at large suffers from denialism or in other words an immune syndrome.

South Africans have become immune to how many people are killed on our roads over Easter Weekend and Christmas. We have simply accepted the fact that so many people will die. We have also become immune to dismal education results, to corruption, high levels of crime and the shocking state of our health system.

Let us not become immune to the fact that the coming initiation season will result in many more deaths.

I would like to appeal to all relevant MECs and their departments to ensure that we don’t have a repeat of previous seasons and if we tragically lose some young men let us name them and don’t just count them. We have to protect them.

I thank you.

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