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Robben Island Museum to develop a new business model within three months

Deputy Minister of Tourism Fish Mahlalalela (centre) during his visit to Robben Island early this year to promote tourism. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency (ANA)

Deputy Minister of Tourism Fish Mahlalalela (centre) during his visit to Robben Island early this year to promote tourism. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Dec 3, 2021


Cape Town - The Robben Island Museum (RIM) is expected to come up with a new business model and partnership prospect within the next three months.

This was revealed by Sport, Arts and Culture Deputy Minister Nocawe Mafu when she was answering questions in the National Council of provinces (NCOP).

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Mafu was asked by ANC MP Elleck Nchabeleng whether the department had conducted assessments of or received any reports on the state of and challenges facing the Robben Island and Lilliesleaf Farm museums.

Nchabeleng also asked whether the department had considered any sustainable collaboration with the big businesses and civil society in order to preserve the two sites.

In her response, Mafu said the executive team has had engagement with Robben Island Museum executive management and its board as well as a session with the ex-political prisoners last month.

She also said there were structures involving the ministers and the directors general of her department and Department of Public Works and Infrastructure (DPWI) as well as steering committee to deal with challenges at the museum.

“There is an addition of R113 million which was approved for the next three financial years for DPWI to implement the total facilities management which deals with repairs, emergencies and preventive maintenance on the island.

“In addition, the department has reprioritised the budget to the amount of R59m to assist RIM to deal with revenue loss due to Covid-19. This has assisted RIM to starve off salary cuts and possible job losses.”

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Mafu also said there was a resolution that the RIM should develop a business model which has value-proposition for partnerships with the private sector by identifying partnership revenue-generating projects based on commercial opportunities to be unlocked.

“This business review model and the partnership prospect will be developed in the next three months,” she said.

On the Lilliesleaf Farm Museum (LLM), Mafu said the department had not received any assessment report on the challenges facing the museum.

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The deputy minister also said the department had on several occasions requested the Lilies Farm Museum consider declaration as a cultural institution to ensure operational sustainability – without success.

“Despite this the department has over 9 years been giving about R70m to develop the museum.”

She stated that the business model of the museum was determined by the institution's board.

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“We met in May and September on the preferred operational model for the protection and preservation of this site.”

She also said museums and heritage sites had their own administration and boards.

“The department is not directly involved in their running. Most of the time we give funding.”

Mafu said problems arose in how they were managed.

“We need to do better how we monitor and how they are run by the board and management.”

She noted that the institutions have had sources of income from visitors but Covid-19 caused them struggle to perform their functions.

“Some are looking for extra funding from the department and the department is unable to do so because Covid-19 has put strain on government funds,” Mafu said.

The deputy minister scoffed at a suggestion from the DA that come 2024, the DA coalition would safeguard “the ANC’s” heritage, Robben Island Museum, disgracefully neglected by the government.

“I want to assure you that there is no hope in hell that the DA will even be able to safeguard RIM. It is not in their interest,” she said.

“Historically it (the DA) has got nothing to do with RIM. If they want to do so, they will help uplift the name of the ANC.”

Mafu insisted that her department and the government had always had an interest in the Robben Island Museum and that’s why the department made R59m virement (of funds) and R113m set aside for three years. “RIM is important to us as the ANC,” she said.

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Political Bureau