National library

2008-10-28 00:00

The importance of journalist Max du Preez’s recently-published investigation into the National Library of South Africa lies not just in the disturbing trends he has unearthed about administrative, financial and custodial incompetence. Even more alarming has been the reaction of those who carry the responsibility of accountability.

They have deployed obstructive tactics which have become all too familiar, including the race card. When members of the board of a national heritage institution resign, the country is entitled to know exactly why. Instead of receiving answers to his legitimate questions, Du Preez was subjected by officials to an outrageous attack on his journalistic ethics.

While his report seems a little short on facts, the reaction he has provoked suggests that the lid has been lifted on major problems. National library collections belong to the people. Those who manage them are merely custodians who need a stern reminder of their obligations to the public.

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