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LIASA Statement: Burning of the Ratanda Library
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March 2012

The Library and Information Association of South Africa (LIASA) is shocked and appalled at the burning down of the Ratanda Library, Lesedi Municipality, during the protests on Human Rights Day. It is particularly ironic and sad that this happened during the celebrations of SA Library Week. South African Library Week is celebrated across the country during 17-24 March 2012 with the theme: “Develop @ your library”. This annual event is aimed at raising awareness of the critical role of libraries and to encourage the public to use this resource.

The Ratanda Library serves a community of 70,000 residents and had a collection of 11, 807 catalogued library books. These books were completely destroyed, as well as a photocopy/fax machine and 8 brand new computers for library patrons, 3 admin computers, a large screen television and of course furniture. The total value amounts to R2 957 615.00. The following services were rendered to the community:
• Computers used by 1000+ patrons per month;
• Over 900 telefaxes sent per month;
• 2, 594 photocopies made during January;
• Circulation of materials of 3 146 items per year;
• On-site use of 10, 133 items per year;
• Outreach programmes for the elderly and the youth.

The library depot in Ratanda Extension 7 was also looted and damaged.

The destruction of this valuable resource is a great loss to the community and should be condemned. LIASA calls upon all stakeholders, the government and the community to speak out in support of libraries, to strongly condemn such actions and to protect libraries as valuable national assets. The library as an institution is critical for the preservation of our culture and heritage, the growth and development of individuals and the community, the stimulation of a culture of reading, plays a fundamental role in education and learning and contributes to the well-being of South Africa. The community at large and South Africans should defend and protect their libraries and not tolerate such acts of violence.

The theme “Develop @ your library” focuses attention on the role that libraries play in developing their respective communities. The Library Week theme aligns to government’s agenda of encouraging job creation by focusing on the role that libraries can and do play in contributing to this call by the government. Libraries are perfectly situated to contribute to this agenda through the various programmes organized by libraries. Libraries enable their users to find information for their development whether it is to find a job, doing research, or starting a business. Libraries are also instrumental in developing programmes and activities to increase the knowledge and skills of members of their communities. These programmes can include:
• providing access to computers for internet access and word processing for job hunting, honing computer skills, typing a C.V. or doing research;
• programmes to teach a craft or skill;
• literacy and abet programmes, to improve the nation’s literacy levels;
• programmes to help learners find information, enabling them to become independent in finding credible information;
• Story-telling.

A selection of programmes and activities for SA Library Week at libraries from around the country is availablehere.

LIASA is the national professional association for all library and information workers in South Africa. LIASA aims to unite, develop and empower all people in the library and information field. It represents the interests of and promotes the development and image of library and information services in South Africa. More information can be found at:

Naomi Haasbroek
LIASA President 2010-2012


Anonymous contributions:

" While destroying and burning of Ratanda pivotal resources should be condemned, it is still with great sadness that Ratanda/ Heidelberg leaders hasn't be able to master the Batho Pele Principles. Ratanda community has been engulfed with anger, bitterness and frustration of issues that needed to be addressed by their leaders.

If consultation, redress, and empathy was applied during the engagement with the residents prior to the protests all of these could have been avoided. A municipality is a municipality beacause of its community, no municipality is above the community. The current leadership and stakeholders who are running the offices of Lesedi Municipality are didactors, authoritanians who are not prepared to engage and address community's challenges.

This has been long time coming, hence the elections of 2011 office-bearers, whereby there has been a protest of this kind except the destroying and burning down of municipality' premises. I say it is about time that the Ratanda/ Heidelberg community leaders work together with the community in issues and concerns involving the community.

With good knowledge of leadership, community involvement and, engagement all of this could have been avoided. Pity that I am also a librarian who knows how frustrating it can be to obtain budgets for the advancement of our community libraries. Community libraries play a centre role in the socio-economical developments of its communities, as well as support for general education and life-long learning of its residents.

Certainly, Ratanda Community Library didn't deserve this BUT, let it start with our leaders!"



"No amount of frustration and anger should license protesters to take the law into their own hands. We are just ten months from local government elections, arsonist are undermining the popular mandate of the ANC councilors to improve the lives of ordinary people. We can conclude that the burning of houses is purely motivated by criminal inclination and hatred of the ANC.
Any violent conduct and burning of houses of councilors and Municipal Buildings to highlight certain demands cannot be accepted because it is tantamount to anarchy and disorder. The majority of the people voted overwhelmingly because they want to strengthen democracy and any violent conduct reverses all the gains. I call upon ANC structures and communities to protect their public representatives and become more vigilant against destroyers of democracy."


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