About us

The National Heritage Council of South Africa is a statutory body that is responsible for the preservation of the country’s heritage. Since its existence on 26 February 2004, it has managed to place heritage as a priority for nation building and national identity.


A schedule 3A public entity that came into existence through an amendment of the Cultural Laws Second Amendment Act 69 of 2001, The National Heritage Council of South Africa was officially constituted through the National Heritage Council Act 11 of 1999, which was assented to on 14 April1999 and officially proclaimed on 26 February 2004.

The important areas that the NHC focuses on are:

  • Policy development for the sector to meet its transformation goals.
  • Public awareness and education.
  • Knowledge production in heritage subjects that were previously neglected,
  • Making funding available to projects that place heritage as a socio-economic resource.


  • Definition of HeritageHeritage is what is preserved from the past as the living collective memory of a people not only to inform the present about the past but also to equip successive generations to fashion their future. It is what creates a sense of identity and assures rootedness and continuity, so that what is brought out by dynamism of culture is not changed for its own sake, but it is a result of people’s conscious choice to create a better life.


  • Definition of Culture“Culture is the sum total of what is produced collectively by a people’s creative genius. It is dynamic and it is always in motion. It is, therefore, always developing as a result of human action and interaction. Every society has a culture and at times a heterogeneous society like ours has several cultures. Some of these cultures are exploitive while others are liberating. All cultures have a material base and values which are reflective of a people’s creativity and uniqueness. They include tangible and the intangible”.

Discussion Document towards defining ‘Heritage’: Discussion Document_ Definition of Heritage_Final



A nation proud of its African heritage.


To transform, protect and promote South African heritage for sustainable development.

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Council Members

National Heritage Council Members for the period of 2017/18 to 2020/2021

Members appointed by the Minister of Arts and Culture in terms of section 5(1)(a) of the National Heritage Council Act, 1999 and Provincial Representatives


Section 5(1) (a)- Minister Appointments
1. Dr Thulani John Mbuli Ministerial Appointment: Chairperson
2. Ms Salome Mabilane Ministerial Appointment
3. Chief Livhuwani Matsila Ministerial Appointment
4. Mr Zolani Mkiva Ministerial Appointment
5. Mrs Reyhana Gani Ministerial Appointment
Section 5(1) (b)- Provincial Appointments as appointed by the Provincial MEC’s
6. Adv Mathealira Mopeli Free State Province
7. Mr Mlawu Tyatyeka Eastern Cape Province
8. Mr Kagiso Johannes Seleke North West Province
9. Ms Ms Laura Robinson Western Cape Province
10. Mr Tsheko Tsehlana Gauteng Province
11. Mr Moses Makhweyane Mpumalanga Province
12. Ms Keneilwe Mable Modise Northern Cape Province
13. Mr Serogole Shylock Leshilo Limpopo Province
Section5(1)(c)- Chairpersons of Cultural Institutions as appointed by the Minister
14. Prof Susan Bouillon SAHRA
15. Ms Karabo Rapoo Ditsong Museums
16. Ambassador Dikgang Moopeloa IZIKO Museums
17. Prof Tenjiwe Meyiwa Heraldry – Nominated Deputy Chairperson
18. Mr Themba Cyril Dlamini National Library


Chief Executive Officer: Advocate Sonwabile Mancotywa


Born in Mthatha, Advocate Sonwabile Mancotywa is the first and current Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the National Heritage Council (NHC) serving his third term.   He is nationally acclaimed for his devotion to heritage matters.  

As an activist and progressive cultural worker at the University of Transkei where he read for his B. Juris and LLB degrees graduating in 1990 and 1993 respectively, he served in the Student Representative Council (SRC).  With the help of his fellow students he asserted himself as a student leader, also serving as deputy chairperson of the Juridical Society and founder of the then highly popular Unitra Cultural Society (UCULSO).   Before his university career, he had served in one of the most effective clandestine structures of the liberation movement which engaged the Transkei regime by heightening the levels of political consciousness in the bantustan.  Highly politicised, he swelled the ranks of the Umtata Youth Congress (UMTAYCO), SANSCO and later leading the re-establishment of the ANC Youth League and ANC structures after the unbanning of the liberation movements.  He exhibited the same vigour and foresight when called upon to lead the over-board structures of the movement.  His strength lies on discipline, tolerance and personal drive. 


He later obtained a certificate in Management Practice and Legal Practice.  He completed his Management Advanced Programme with the University of the Witwatersrand Business School in 2005.  He is an admitted Advocate of the High Court of South Africa.  His expertise and knowledge transcend the heritage sector to include law, executive management and policy analysis.  He was part of the team that initiated the Africa Position Paper which was later adopted by the 29th Session of UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee, hosted for the first time in South Africa in 2005. 


He draws most of his ideological and critical outlook from his membership and leadership of the ANC which he served in the Eastern Cape as a Member of the Executive Council (MEC), Member of the Provincial Legislature (MPL) and as a Provincial Executive Committee (PEC) Member.  He is amongst the first young cabinet members in the new dispensation having assumed that responsibility at the age of 29.  He is well trained in the democratic exchange of ideas and has been part of the discursive engagement pre and post liberation.  He has commented extensively on political, economic and cultural challenges facing South Africa and the continent.


He brings his distinctive flair, creativity and passion to the heritage sector. Some of the ground-breaking projects pioneered by Adv. Mancotywa are the following:

  • Heritage Transformation Charter;
  • Research on early African intellectuals;
  • The Liberation Heritage Route;
  • Ubuntu Honour; and the
  • Heritage Impact Study


Critical programmes which he has led include the African World Heritage Fund, African Liberation Heritage Programme, World Heritage Listing, and the highly successful SATMA musical awards.  Through his leadership of the Heritage CEO’s Forum, he made tremendous contributions in the policy and legislation discourse. 


He has travelled extensively throughout the world representing South Africa.  Worth mentioning are official visits to Russia, China, Columbia, Ethiopia, Canada, USA, Botswana, Tanzania, France, Senegal, Greece, Germany, Cambodia etc. He was part of the Ministerial delegation to the Brics meeting in Russia. Annually he represents South Africa in the UNESCO World Heritage Committee meetings under the auspices of the United Nations which rotate country by country.   


He has served on several boards including the Gauteng Premier’s Excellence Awards, National Lottery Board’s Distribution Agency, Gauteng Provincial Gambling Board and the Gauteng Liquor Board.


He was appointed by the Minister of Arts and Culture to Co-Chair the Ministerial Task Team on the Transformation of the Heritage Landscape following the #Rhodesmustfall campaign by students across South Africa.


He has also led the following ground-breaking legacy projects:

  • Research on the history of Mpumalanga which influenced the Provincial Growth and Development Strategy positioning heritage as a strategic economic resource; and
  • Research for the Home of Legends campaign, conducted by the NHC on behalf o the Eastern Cape Office of the Premier.

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