The City of Joburg is refusing to answer why many of the city’s libraries and municipal museums remain closed or are only open for returning books and not for studying, the borrowing of books and computers. File Picture: Dumisani Dube
The City of Joburg is refusing to answer why many of the city’s libraries and municipal museums remain closed or are only open for returning books and not for studying, the borrowing of books and computers. File Picture: Dumisani Dube

Joburg mum on why City’s museums and libraries remain closed

By Anna Cox Time of article published Dec 4, 2020

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Johannesburg - The City of Joburg is refusing to answer why many of the city’s libraries and municipal museums remain closed or are only open for returning books and not for studying, the borrowing of books and computers.

Many of the museums are being vandalised and broken into because the city has withdrawn its security budget.

Flo Bird, from the Heritage Foundation, said she hasn’t received any clear answer as to why libraries and museums are not open.

“It is really very hard on students who do not have the luxury of a computers and internet at home. They cannot get into the Central Library. Researchers are becoming outraged.

“There is no substitute for the Johannesburg Public Library and there is no private equivalent of Museum Africa. They have been closed so long that the virus will have died months ago. And what exactly are the members of staff able to do while these facilities are closed?

“They have had one very, very long holiday. I know some members of staff will have been able to get some work done remotely, but those who deal with the public?

“What is going on in the City of Joburg and why will no one tell us? We have heard that the Johannesburg Property Company managed to swindle the public purse for sanitisers and cleaning materials, but why are we being punished for this?

“Surely the enquiries and the law can take their course without closing public libraries and museums? The officials have been suspended, but we don’t need them to operate the public facilities – there are hundreds of their members of staff who were not involved in any corrupt practices.

“Some rumours have it the city is saving costs. What costs are they saving? They are still paying the staff who are presumably still energetically dusting and mopping floors since there isn’t much else to do.”

The DA in the city claims that the metro has taken “the bizarre decision” not to spend its security budget of over R3.5 million, leaving the city’s parks, libraries, recreation centres, heritage sites, and museums wide open to thieves and vandals.

DA’s city spokesperson on community development Belinda Kayser-Echeozonjoku said: “Museum Africa in Newtown recently suffered a break-in and vandalism which completely destroyed Osmic Menoe’s Museum of Hip Hop, which has taken three years to curate.

“The museum is home to one of the largest historical photograph collections of South Africa, which still has not been properly digitised, and a significant collection of indigenous visual culture from the 19th century and before.

“Heritage groups have been warning the city for years about the poor state of this facility, particularly the lack of security. The museum remains closed as staff still have no access to protective personal equipment (PPE), nor has the building been decontaminated. Why would decontamination need be done on buildings that have been closed since lockdown started?

“What happened to all the PPE donations to the city and the hundreds of millions spent on PPE which went to unqualified and unlicensed cadres?

“We already know of the events and investment companies who became overnight experts in PPE at the expense of Joburg residents.

“We depend on these facilities which are vital for a thriving arts and culture scene, along with proper spaces for us to relax and enjoy time with friends and family,” she said.

“It makes no sense that the city can rush through over R70 million in dodgy tenders for Covid expenses when they can’t even spend R3.5m on getting the basics like security right.”

The city did not reply to repeated requests for comment .

The Star

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