Last chance saloon for Robben Island

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iol travel aug 27 Robben Island Museum AP A tourist looks at photos on Robben Island.

Cape Town - Robben Island Museum hopes to appoint consultants to overhaul its management before the end of next month, says museum chief executive Sibongiseni Mkhize.

Earlier this month the museum put out a call for companies to submit proposals to help its restructuring.

Mkhize wants to improve visitors’ experience and ensure the buildings and natural environment are properly conserved at the World Heritage Site. He said the museum had received several proposals from companies already but did not want to say how many and from which companies.

“We hope to finalise and appoint a new company before the end of September,” he said.

The Robben Island Museum, which manages the island, has had the same structure since 1997.

Earlier Mkhize said the structure of the museum needed to be reviewed.

“But it needs to be done objectively, so that is why we’re calling for proposals to facilitate the process,” he said.

Mkhize said the museum had experienced problems over the years with staff going on strike and poor quality of service.

Issues of mismanagement and poor visitor experience have plagued the island for years. There have also been problems with the ferries that transport visitors to the island.

Many tourists were unable to visit the island in December, the month Nelson Mandela died, because management failed to secure enough charter boats. Some visitors have complained that the island tour is disappointing.

There have also been problems in implementing the programme required by Unesco to keep the island’s status as a World Heritage Site. The programme is designed to conserve sites of “outstanding cultural or natural importance to the common heritage of humanity”.

The museum employs 196 people.

Two weeks ago the provincial government called for an urgent meeting with Minister of Arts and Culture Nathi Mthethwa to discuss the province’s proposal for a “turnaround strategy” to help sort out problems in the management of Robben Island.

MEC for Cultural Affairs and Sport Nomafrench Mbombo spokeswoman Siviwe Gwarube said the province and the minister were still finalising a date for the meeting.

The Western Cape government had repeatedly called on the national government to relinquish some of the management rights and responsibilities to the provincial government, along with its budget, for “better and effective running of the museum”.

These included making financial audits public, privatising the ferry, creating economic opportunities for some ex-prisoners and investigating new opportunities to increase the international appeal of the island.

Mkhize said the museums were “in good order” and Mthethwa would table its annual report in the next few weeks.

Cape Times

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