Cultural heritage protection: the authority and functions of municipalities
Historically, the heritage sector in South Africa was primarily focused on the preservation of architecture, monuments and buildings. The threat to tangible manifestations of heritage was also globally acknowledged. The scope of protection of cultural heritage has broadened, however, since the enactment of the National Heritage Resources Act 25 of 1999 (the NHRA). Cultural heritage resources subsequently include objects, items or expressions, including traditional and religion-affiliated practices. Cultural heritage is therefore viewed in a broad context that is not limited to the arts, customs and traditions, but incorporates anything and everything about life pertaining to human experiences. The management and protection of heritage resources are governed according to the provisions of the NHRA. Cultural heritage resources are increasingly threatened by factors such as external environmental pressures, urban development, warfare, poverty and a lack of awareness, which are especially encountered on a local level. This raises the question on what the role of state governments and specifically, local authorities are in cultural heritage management. This study explores the authority and functions of local government in relation to cultural heritage resources management and protection. In terms of the schedules of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996 (the Constitution), the matter of culture is not a function of local government. This is a function assigned to the national and provincial spheres in terms of Schedules 4A and 5A of the Constitution. However, it can be argued that in the collective, municipalities (as the government sphere closest to the community), have a responsibility to execute any aspects of this function that are incidental to other typical local government affairs. This view finds support in the interpretation of other rights in the Constitution as well as the heritage, environmental and local government framework legislation and policy documents of South Africa. The study further unpacks the cultural governance instruments that have been used by a selected number of municipalities to enable them to protect and manage cultural heritage resources.
- Law