26 July 2006
South Africa has reconstituted its legal deposit committee and designated two places of legal deposit in order to collect and preserve the country’s published documents comprehensively and systematically.
Arts and Culture Minister Pallo Jordan, officially re-launching the legal deposit committee in Pretoria on Tuesday, said the concept of legal deposit dated back hundreds of years.
The preservation of the country’s cultural and intellectual heritage was a matter of public interest and a state responsibility, he said.
According to the Legal Deposit Act of 1997, official publications depositories must be established to serve as centres for promoting public awareness of, and access to, official publications and information held by the government and institutions listed in terms of the Public Finance Management Act.
So far, the minister has designated two official publications depositories in the country: the Constitutional Court Library in Johannesburg, and the Phuthaditjhaba Public Library in the Free State.
Information and human rights
The Legal Deposit Act “also provides for public access to databases and other information sources,” Jordan said.
“It is my belief that information and access through libraries and other means will play a vital role in furthering democratisation and promoting human rights and development in South Africa.”
Jordan said that libraries played a crucial in the “knowledge economy”, promoting lifelong learning and nurturing social cohesion.
The re-capitalisation of South Africa’s libraries would ensure greater public access to information and communication technology and its related benefits.
Legal deposit in the digital age
“If we are to take advantage of the opportunities that the e-world offers, we have to think much more creatively, beyond our institutional boundaries and certainly collaboratively on a national scale.
“It is important that places of legal deposit commit themselves to sustainable development to meet the needs of our developing country, and preserve and make available to all users – without discrimination – the variety of published documents reflecting the cultural and linguistic diversity of our society.”
The biggest challenge now, the minister said, was to encourage private and commercial publishers to deposit their material.
Another major concern, he added, was that the constant updating of digitally stored information meant that data could disappear and no longer be available for the historical record.
“Does this mean that the national places of legal deposit should limit themselves to solely to [the preservation of] tangible materials? The answer is an unambiguous ‘No’.”
- Constitutional Court Library
- The Phuthaditjhaba Public Library is on the corner of Moremoholo and Motloung Streets in Phuthaditjhaba, Free State province. Postal address: Private Bag X805, Witsieshoek 9870. Tel: (058) 718 3782/90. Fax: (058) 718 3777.