Push for Ramaphosa to intervene over Robben Island Museum ’mismanagement, lack of action’
Cape Town – Ex-Political Prisoner Association of South Africa (EPPA) national deputy secretary Mpho Masemola says the organisation will be asking President Cyril Ramaphosa to intervene after 11 years of allegations of mismanagement and fraud at the Robben Island Museum (RIM) have not been addressed.
The DA in the Western Cape has also called on Minister of Arts and Culture Nathi Mthethwa ’’to urgently do the right thing and make public the RIM report and the actions taken to address concerns at the island’’, despite claims of “100% transparency”. However, the EPPA has little faith in Mthethwa.
Mpho told IOL on Monday: ’’Minister of Arts and Culture Nathi Mthethwa is nowhere to be found. He doesn’t care what happens at Robben Island. We know because we have been dealing with him, so we don’t have any minister.
'’We cannot lose Robben Island. President Ramaphosa must put Robben Island under administration or institute a commission of inquiry. We will write to him and ask him to intervene.’’
In a statement on Monday, DA Western Cape spokesperson on cultural affairs and sport Reagan Allen noted with deep concern the reports of mismanagement of funds and resources at RIM. ’’This has led to alleged neglect of the island and reports of senior management receiving salary increases of over 250%,’’ he said.
Mpho said: ’’You can’t have the CEO earning R2 million at such a small institution such as Robben Island, and senior managers R80-90 000. Now they want to cut the salaries of the junior workers by 50% in June.
’’If there are people who have been charged in the RIM report, then they must be suspended so that we can see who the culprits are. Now they are talking in terms of retrenching the workers, but we told them you must look at all the alternatives.
’’The boat Krotoa was bought for R90 million (late Auditor-General Kimi Makwetu found RIM did not disclose R90.4 million in irregular expenditure in purchasing the vessel), but they cannot pay the workers. We don’t know what is happening with the money there.
Allen said: ’’We also note that RIM has tried to attribute the island’s deterioration solely to the effects of the Covid-19 lockdown, despite long-standing reports of mismanagement spanning at least 11 years when fraud allegations were first put forward.
'’The allegation of mismanagement is contained in a report first commissioned by the national Department of Arts and Culture, finding evidence for a disciplinary process to be held. Despite this, national government has refused to release the report publicly whilst still claiming 100% transparency regarding RIM.
“I will be visiting the island this week for a first-hand view of its conditions and to determine the next step to be taken in holding the RIM management and National Arts and Culture to account.
’’Whilst we acknowledge that Covid-19 has placed severe strain on the arts and culture sector, we cannot allow a pandemic to be used as an excuse for concealing a report on a World Heritage Site so fundamental to our country as Robben Island. The museum is, after all, funded by taxpayers.
’’It is important that the public knows what is happening at the museum. This museum contains a mountain of history within it, and the continued secrecy threatens its reputation.”
Masemola, who was on Robben Island last Friday to do an inspection and had a workshop with “shocked’’ RIM board members the following day, said: ’’The RIM management has been lying to the public about the damaged buildings; those buildings have been decaying for quite a long time.
’’The E section soccer field looks like a forest. The heritage pictures of ex-political prisoners in E section have been damaged and the path walked by political prisoners to the stone quarry is full of water despite a Zimbabwean contractor having been given a contract? We don't know for how much? The soccer field on which we used to play is in a shocking condition.
’’Those people who have been in charge of our heritage, unfortunately they messed it up. On Saturday, there was a workshop highlighting a lot of issues.
’’’There is no maintenance plan. We asked the RIM board why are you still here when place is decaying. You are supposed to take care of the heritage of Mandela. If you can’t do that, then you must leave.’’
RIM spokesperson Siphuxolo Mazwi said in a statement last week: ’’The narrative that the buildings on the island are in ruins, is completely devoid of truth as there is a Maintenance Plan in place.
’’Working with key stakeholders in heritage compliance, conservation and built environment, the organisation has further developed it’s Built Environment Conservation Manual which guides built heritage conservation projects on the island and ensures compliance with all regulatory bodies and legislation.
’’Repair works are currently under way to 60 structures in compliance with conservation and safety protocols relating to handling asbestos materials.
’’The photographs of damaged buildings that had been circulating on social media platform relate to storm damage in October last year and were taken during a site inspection and briefing with contractors that were called to assist with the repair and maintenance of the damaged structures. Such circulation demonstrates ill intentions by potential service providers or members of the public.”
Concerning the disciplinary processes relating to alleged mismanagement, Mazwi said: ’’Finally, RIM has been 100% transparent about the investigation into mismanagement, and while disciplinary processes are underway, we cannot speculate on the outcome. Once the disciplinary processes and/or related legal processes are concluded, the outcome thereof, as well as an executive summary of the report will be made available to the public.’’
A RIM staff member, who did not want to be identified for fear of victimisation, said on Monday: ’’When the Cape storm hit on 2 September, 2020 on the island, there was only one section of the admin block that was damaged when the mast was uprooted and fell on the roof.
’’Since then the mast is still not functioning, the island remains without network, no telephone, no wi-fi, nor printing facilities. The roof is still covered by a black plastic.
’’The Nelson Mandela Gateway Building is also in a bad state. A bed net which was installed is torn into pieces. That building is the only one in that precinct to be invaded by birds. The building walls are disgustingly covered in guano and the noise is unbearable.'’