South African govt. wants to study ‘distant past’

Government is forging a strategy to further the study of South Africa’s palaeontological and archaeological past, government spokesman Jimmy Manyi announced on Thursday.

Briefing media at Parliament in Cape Town following Cabinet’s fortnightly meeting the day before, he said the strategy was intended to provide a “holistic framework for the development of the palaeosciences”.

The announcement is likely to hearten those managing the country’s cash-strapped museums and heritage agencies.

Responding to a question, Manyi said the strategy — which was still under discussion — would see more investment in these institutions.

“There will be money that will be spent to ensure that we continue with the various archaeological and palaeontological researches… [and] more focus on the various museums and so on, to protect what we already have. Indeed, there will be more investment into this area,” he said.

Manyi later told Sapa that discussions were ongoing, and he could not at this point say what the size of such investment would be.

Noting that there were various conflicting palaeoscience theories, he said one of the aims of the strategy was to develop “concrete scientific data”.

In what appears to be a coincidence, the announcement comes a week after Freedom Front Plus leader Pieter Mulder was accused of distorting history with his claim — made in the National Assembly — that “Bantu-speaking” people had in the past not occupied about 40 percent of the country.

Asked if Cabinet had considered Mulder’s remarks during its Wednesday meeting, Manyi replied: “It was not on the agenda; Cabinet did not discuss it.” – Sapa