There has been an increase recently in the export of South African art and objects of heritage value and we regularly deal with queries regarding the relocation of art works. All art and objects of cultural significance form part of the National Estate and are protected in terms of the National Heritage Resources Act No 25 of 1999 (the Act).  Government Notice No 1512 of 6 December 2002, describes the List of Types of Objects that are protected that may not be exported without a permit from the South African Heritage Resources Agency (SAHRA).

The Act states:

For the purposes of this Act, those heritage resources of South Africa which are of cultural significance or other special value for the present community and for future generations must be considered part of the national estate and fall within the sphere of operations of heritage resources authorities.

The South African Heritage Resource Agency (SAHRA) is a body corporate established in terms of the provisions of s11 of the Act and it is listed as a public entity in terms of the Public Finance Management Act No 1 of 1999.  SAHRA is accountable to the Department of Arts and Culture.

How do I know if I should apply for a permit to export a Heritage Object?

The List of Types of Objects describes the objects that are protected and for which a permit must be applied for from SAHRA.  Upon receipt of a permit application, SAHRA, with the aid of relevant scholars in the field, apply criteria stipulated in the Act to determine the significance of the object and whether a permit may be issued or not. Artworks of 50 years and older are protected and Irma Stern’s works are older than 50 years, therefore application for an export permit must be made.

What is the process of obtaining an export permit?

SAHRA has developed the South African Heritage Resources Information System (SAHRIS) as a tool to manage South African heritage resources.  Permit applications must be made on-line by either the owner or a third party.  In order to do so, go to SAHRA’s website, www.sahra.org.za, click on SAHRIS and register as an applicant.  The permit fee is R150,00.  There are tutorials that guide applicants on how to apply for permits on SAHRIS.  A permit application must be lodged prior to purchasing an object intended for export.

Upon receipt of a permit application, SAHRA, would designate experts to assess the significance of the object based on criteria as per the provisions of the Act. An expert examiner and SAHRA must consider whether the object is — (a) of outstanding significance by reason of its close association with South African history or culture, its aesthetic qualities, or its value in the study of the arts or sciences and (b) is of such a degree of national importance that its loss to South Africa would significantly diminish the national heritage.

If these criteria are not met, an export permit may be issued.  However, if the object does comply with certain criteria then a permit will not be issued. If a permit is refused, the owner has the right to appeal against the decision in terms of S49 of the Act, read with Regulations published in terms of the Act (GNR.323 of 7 April 2000 or within thirty days after such refusal, by written notice, require the compulsory purchase of the object concerned, as set out in S32(25) of the Act.

If you are considering exporting a collectable object and would like to obtain more information about it and its cultural significance in relation to its relevance to the National Estate, please do not hesitate to contact one of our specialists.