Na­tional em­bar­rass­ment

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - COMMENT -

ROBBEN Is­land Mu­seum is adrift again. Its act­ing chief ex­ec­u­tive Pro­fes­sor Jatti Bre­dekamp is poised to de­part, leav­ing our fa­mous World Her­itage Site once again without a leader.

There is also no Robben Is­land Mu­seum coun­cil in place and it ap­pears the na­tional Depart­ment of Arts and Cul­ture is hav­ing con­sid­er­able trou­ble find­ing suit­able peo­ple will­ing to serve, not to men-

tion a full­time chief ex­ec­u­tive, to run the trou­bled mu­seum.

This is af­ter the en­tire coun­cil and the then­act­ing chief ex­ec­u­tive, See­lan Naidoo, quit last May amidst po­lit­i­cal wran­gling.

A pre­vi­ous CEO and other top of­fi­cials de­parted some time ago un­der a cloud of mis­con­duct charges.

The mu­seum has had the blem­ish of damn­ing re­ports from the Au­di­tor-Gen­eral who high­lighted in­com­pe­tence with tick­et­ing, con­trol of as­sets and ba­sic ac­count­ing.

Robben Is­land Mu­seum has be­comea by-word for in­ep­ti­tude and chaos, not least be­cause tourists have re­peat­edly been left dis­ap­pointed at the quay- side when the multi-mil­lion rand ferry has failed to run. In­deed the Sikhu­l­ulek­ile, the main tourist ves­sel, con­tin­ues to be plagued with prob­lems.

When Arts and Cul­ture Min­is­ter Lulu Xing­wana asked Bre­dekamp to help out at the mu­seum, she re­port­edly termed the sit­u­a­tion “volatile”, and ad­mit­ted the in­sti­tu­tion was in a state of dis­ar­ray.

Capeto­ni­ans and our vis­i­tors can think of stronger ways to de­scribe the dis­mal state of af­fairs at the mu­seum – such as mor­ti­fy­ing, dis­grace­ful

and ut­terly un­ac­cept­able.

The Sea Princess, the re­place­ment Robben Is­land ferry, hit a rock at the en­trance to the is­land’s har­bour on Thurs­day. This seems em­blem­atic of the mu­seum it­self.

As we mark the 20th an­niver­sary of po­lit­i­cal pris­on­ers be­ing freed from Robben Is­land and other apartheid jails, it is sad that the gov­ern­ment seems in­ca­pable of run­ning this his­tor­i­cal site ad­e­quately.

It is high time for the Arts and Cul­ture min­is­ter to turn the tide and re­store our pride in an im­por­tant na­tional trea­sure that is quickly be­com­ing a na­tional em­bar­rass­ment.

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