KZN’s historical records at risk

May 15 2015 at 02:53pm

Durban – KwaZulu-Natal’s archives are bursting at the seams and poorly protected, putting precious historical documents at risk and making it hard to access legal records.

Arts and Culture MEC Ntombikayise Sibhidla-Saphetha disclosed this in tabling her department’s R783 million budget for 2015/16 on Thursday.

Sibhidla-Saphetha said all three archives were full to capacity, and another was no longer suitable for safe preservation of records.

“The Ulundi archive repository is housed in an old administrative block of a closed and derelict school, with no adequate fire control,” she said.

The Durban archive, Sibhidla-Saphetha said, was in a rented facility and “surround-ed by unsafe buildings in a run-down part of town”, while the Pietermaritzburg archive was bursting at the seams.

“Precious records pertaining to our history since 1995 have no space for safekeeping. This implies that our heritage for the past two decades is at risk,” Sibhidla-Saphetha said.

“The situation is so dire that even records of court proceedings are inaccessible to judges,” she added.

Despite the sad state of affairs at the province’s archives, there is a budget allocation for revamping of the archives in this financial year.

“The department will continue to source funding to build a new provincial, state-of-the-art archive repository to ensure that our priceless heritage records are not housed in rented, hazardous and an inaccessible environment,” Sibhidla-Saphetha said.

She said R113m in the department’s budget had been allocated for administration, R198m on cultural affairs and R471m for libraries and archives.

But, ANC acting chief whip Nontembeko Boyce said the construction of the provincial archive should be prioritised in the next three-year financial cycle.

“If need be, we must as patriotic legislators request Treasury to intervene and consider tapping into the emergency reserve fund,” Boyce said.

Sibhidla-Saphetha further said the department was in the process of fencing off the unmarked graves found in Dududu on the South Coast.

She said officials would examine the records of prisoners who had been sent to the Glenroy farm decades ago.

“We are working with the Department of Correctional Services to access their archives and to begin this research,” she said.

Sibhidla-Saphetha also said an undefined amount had been set aside for the review of 100 geographical names identified though a consultative process.

“These names were submitted the South African Geographical Names Council for consideration by the national minister of arts and culture.”

Reacting to the budget, the EFF’s Vusi Khoza complained about libraries that were still full of irrelevant material produced by descendants of foreigners and colonisers.

“It’s about time our libraries were stocked with material produced and developed by indigenous black Africans,” he said, adding that an old government shed should be converted into a museum to house colonial statues.

While Sibhidla-Saphetha made no mention on the controversial removal of colonial statues, the DA’s George Mari said: “A policy must be devised to deal with this situation so that our history and heritage can be preserved for future generations.”

Daily News