Libraries across the province, which serve as cornerstones for reading and learning, are at risk of permanent closure as much needed funding has been delayed by a broken bureaucratic system.
Not one municipality in the province has received their 2020/2021 library subsidies from the Department of Sport, Recreation, Arts and Culture (DSRAC).
These subsidies total R73,9 million.
DSRAC MEC, Fezeka Bayeni, in response to a parliamentary question, said the delays in funding being released was due to municipalities failing to submit their compliance documentation.
Libraries are opportunity centres that go far beyond the provision of books. They are knowledge centres that provide resources for communities to search for jobs, conduct research, experience new ideas and expand one’s horizons.
In the DA-led Western Cape, the importance of these public institutions is recognised, with 53 new libraries built in the past 10 years, and a further 18 upgraded, investing in excess of R1,5 billion. The province has also connected 200 libraries to broadband and provide free high-speed internet access to rural libraries across the province.
This is because the DA realises the importance of these institutions in building better communities through empowering individuals. Without a capable state these hopes cannot be realised.
National funding for these institutions are being reduced, and the subsidies provided by DSRAC are insufficient to maintain libraries in the province. Municipalities have been expected to carry the shortfall but are battling to make up the difference.
This has exacerbated the situation and many libraries in the province are on the brink of collapse.
I will now be writing to the MEC of COGTA, Xolile Nqatha, to request that his department instructs municipalities to submit the relevant documentation to DSRAC as a matter of urgency, so that these funds can be released.
I will also be requesting MEC Bayeni to ensure that the matter is expedited and that the funds are released. MEC Bayeni must also ensure that the libraries are adequately resourced, and that they receive whatever support her department can provide.