An aerial view of Robben Island

Cape Town - Robben Island Museum is set to overhaul its management of this unique piece of South African history in a bid to improve visitors’ experience and ensure the buildings and natural environment are properly conserved.

But the museum’s management does not want to undertake the venture alone, and has put out a call for companies to submit proposals to help in the restructuring.

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

“This needs to be reviewed, but it needs to be done objectively, so that is why we’re calling for proposals to facilitate the process,” its chief executive, Sibongiseni Mkhize, said on Monday.

“There have been problems over the years, staff going on strike and poor quality of service, that sort of thing. No matter how good your plans are, if you don’t match the right people with the goals and objectives, you won’t succeed. This has been a concern for some time.”

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 is looking for a consulting company to reorganise and restructure the Robben Island Museum so it fulfils its mandate as a business entity. The museum

employs 196 people. The call for proposals went out on Friday.

“The intention is that this will make a difference in one of the biggest areas of concern, and that is customer service. We need proper visitor management systems in place.

“The other big area is the implementation of the integrated conservation management plan, which sets out what we need to achieve as a heritage site. This includes things like strengthening and enhancing of historic buildings on the island. That is a core issue,” Mkhize said.

Cape Times