Obed Bapela - GCIS Budget Vote

10 May 2012

10 May 2012

Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Communications
Minister in the Presidency, Collins Chabane
Members of the Portfolio Committee
GCIS CEO and Management
MDDA Board Members and management
Members of the Media
Ladies and Gentlemen

It feels as if I am making my maiden speech in this Parliament of the People because this is my first Budget Vote as Deputy Minister in the Presidency for Performance Monitoring and Evaluation, As well as Administration, but I have been in this house for long.

Chairperson, last week on the 2nd of May, the world celebrated the “World Press Freedom Day”, arising from a declaration which was adopted by SADC in Namibia in 1991, calling for the observation and celebration of World Freedom Day. Experts, commentators, analysts, governments and civil society in general will pause and reflect on the freedom of the press.

I know that in South Africa the current debate on the State Security Info Bill has raised alarms that, maybe, we as government intend to stifle the media and curtail its freedom. We have in the struggle fought for freedom of press and we remain, as this government, committed to its freedom. How can we then, today, muzzle the media? The arguments and the debate should be on matters of self regulation vs independent regulation and the protection of state information against peddlers.

Democracy and freedom have rules and responsibilities that have to be respected and guarded by all. The rights we enjoy today have limitations as the Constitution dictates. I look around and can say with pride that South Africa remains one of those countries where journalist and media enjoy all the basic rights to perform their professional duties, without fear or prejudice. As to the matters relating to the Info Bill, I am confident that as we always do we will find solutions, in a robust and vibrant way as South Africans.

On the matters of the “media tribunal” v/s the “self regulation or independent regulation”, the debate is in progress. While acknowledging the good work done by the panel on Press Freedom Commission, we nonetheless should expand the matter through Parliamentary processes to include the ordinary people, who could not submit their views in the other process, and I agree with the chairperson of the committee that such a process should be initiated. Media reporting does affect the ordinary people on the ground and they must be heard.

When considering the Budget Vote No. 9, of 2012/2013, for Government Communication and Information Services (GCIS) should ensure this matter is engaged upon and debated, as the Media Diversity and Development Agency, which gets its budget from this vote was mandated, and must report on progress made and arising from such to initiate a process.
Chairperson, Honourable Minister and Members, to be part of the collective leadership that provides the programme of a government, for whom communication is an indispensable necessity.
The Honourable Minister has outlined in detail the practical programmes that will be undertaken by GCIS in this financial year. These details build in our minds a picture of an energetic, coordinated programme of communication spanning the three spheres of government.

The content of government’s communication is concentrated on our five key government priorities of Fighting Crime, Health, Economic growth and employment, Education and Rural Development, with an added focus on our Infrastructure Development programme.

The government infrastructure programme is a venture that calls for continuous engagement with partners who will help realize the constructions of major projects such as bridges, dams, railway, electricity, co and roads for which President Jacob Zuma called in the State of the Nation Address three months ago, almost to the day.

It is a venture that will create interest among the millions of South Africans who are keen to take up the vast number of job opportunities that will result from the development of public infrastructure over the coming years. This is also a venture that will stimulate international interest – and ultimately, confidence – in South Africa as a site of development that is becoming increasingly attractive to international investors and trade partners, this has to be continuously communicated to international investors, therefore fulfilling the mandate of GCIS of being the pulse of communication excellence in government.  
Chairperson, communications engagement within government and between government and citizens and stakeholder groups is another imperative driven by GCIS. In this regard, GCIS practises development communication, using mediated and unmediated forms of communication, and to building sound stakeholder relations within government and external stakeholders.

GCIS provides strategic leadership to the interplay between national government communication and that of provinces, in particular the communication components of Premiers’ Offices. This is done by presenting the National Communication Strategy to provincial and local structures for alignment and the outcome of seamless dissemination of government information countrywide.

GCIS visited Local Government Turnaround Strategy (LGTAS) municipalities to provide support with communication strategies and communication action plans and the establishment of stakeholder forums and newsletters.  

In terms of keeping government in direct touch with citizens, highlights from 2011/12 included local-level communication campaigns with a bias toward the five key priority campaigns, using various direct communication platforms.

Among these were information seminars led by Ministers and Deputy Ministers, campaigns in communities, activations in shopping malls, sport facilities and taxi ranks; distribution of government material, door to door campaigns, and above all, scaled-up use of community print and radio platforms. Through these means, more than 3 200 communication projects reached more than 21 million South Africans directly.

Chairperson, GCIS coordinates the Public Participation Programme/outreach events of political principals at national, provincial and local levels to reinforce dialogue and accountability to citizens.

Chairperson, GCIS also supports the implementation of access to government-wide information and services through Thusong Service Centres.

There are more than 170 such centres that take services into deep-rural areas, reaching more than five million people last year. To maximise information and service provision, GCIS works with departments like Home Affairs, Labour, the South African Social Security Agency and others to integrate and align their mobile service units.

Among other programmes:

  • GCIS partnered with the Transnet Phelophepa train to take integrated mobile units to 20 train stations in 4 provinces.  This gave more than 101 000 people access to services.
  • Over 1.3 million copies of government publications were distributed.
  • GCIS also published a weekly electronic newsletter, “My District, Today”

GCIS’s programme for the year ahead also acknowledges the utility and impact of social networks and the potential this holds for direct, two-way interaction between government and citizens.
GCIS will advance and enhance its own communication platforms because government should not rely exclusively on public media to communicate its programme to citizens, especially those who are not served by commercial media, because their location or buying power makes limited financial sense to profit-oriented media. Chairperson, with this in mind, GCIS will be working very closely with the Media Development and Diversity Agency to ensure that we build sustainable means of communication in informing poor and mostly rural communities. These channels will not serve government or government information only but will enhance the overall quality of life in communities where the poverty of information is part of a broader set of conditions of underdevelopment.

Since its establishment, the Agency has made significant achievements in its infant stage. With limited budget of just more than R200m accumulatively since 2004, the MDDA has supported more than 413 media projects, throughout the length and breadth of South Africa, in all the 9 provinces, focusing on historically disadvantaged communities, using indigenous languages.

Accumulatively since inception and as at 31 March 2012, the Agency has trained over 1304 people. It provided 247 bursaries to different radio and print media. It has created approximately 310 direct and indirect job opportunities and empowered more people with skills that enable them to participate in the broader media and broadcasting industry.

The Agency will continue to focus on ensuring that all citizens can access information in a language of their choice and contributing to the transformation of media access, ownership and control patterns in South Africa.

The major challenges that are faced by the MDDA include:

  • Limited funding
  • Declining funding for print media,
  • Regulatory framework that governs the MDDA in terms of the regulations requiring Tax certificates and audited financials from groups that are in their formative stages,
  • Disempowering environment in print media,
  • Lack of skills amongst the socio-economic groups that are targeted by the MDDA,
  • Limited broadcast frequency spectrum 
  • Limited exposure of the small commercial and community media to advertising revenues and marketing skills.

In its 2012/13 Strategic and Business Plan, the MDDA (amongst its other projects) wants to continue to support:

  • at least 1 community radio,
  • 1 community media and magazine,
  • 1 commercial newspaper and magazine at each District Municipality,
  • At least 1 community television in each province.

MMDA will conduct a study on the social impact of the community and small commercial media. THE Agency also plans to conduct more interventions in respect of the promotion of media literacy and the culture of reading in the rest of the other provinces.

Government will continue to support and increase the work of the MDDA in order to make a meaningful impact into the strategic objective of creating an enabling environment for media development and diversity that is conducive to public discourse, where a diverse, vibrant and creative media flourishes and reflects the needs and aspirations of all South Africans, thereby ensuring that each and every South African citizen should have access to a choice of a diverse range of media.

I also want to take this opportunity to thank the funding partners of the MDDA, who committed to support Government in the implementation of the Objects of the MDDA Act, these being SABC, Etv, Primedia, Kagiso Media, Jacaranda FM & East Coast Radio, Africa Media Entertainment, Algoa FM & OFM, MNET, MULTICHOICE, Kaya FM, Capricorn FM, Y-FM, Igagasi FM, The Heart 104.9 FM, Radio Pulpit and AVUSA, NASPERS, CAXTON and Independent Newspapers. We urge that they continue their support for the noble cause of media diversity and plurality of voices and opinions. Together, we will increase our funding for the MDDA and turn the tide in respect of the transformation of media in South Africa.

  • As the Chairperson has alluded earlier I believe that MDDA is a strategic vehicle to tackle the discourse of media transformation in this country
  • Media diversity,
  • Ownership & control,
  • Elimination of gender discrimination in the media,
  • Promotion of gender equality,
  • Promoting all languages (with particular reference to indigenous languages),
  • Promoting access to information by all,
  • Improvement in respect of children content,
  • Working conditions and challenges for media workers,
  • Employment equity, etc.

Chairperson this will also include looking at:

  • Media accountability mechanisms that; complement and strengthen self regulation with independent regulation,
  • Enhance media credibility and accountability,
  • Discourage irresponsible reporting,
  • Promotes high standards in the media, encourage professionalism and strengthen our democracy.

As the Minister has alluded to the Brand South Africa who have been moved to the new Vote in The Presidency, we will urge them to really brand the campaign in the domestic front, be seen, be visible and be felt. During the December holiday, while watching TV, I saw an advert that prided itself on our achievements, during the 2010 World Cup, like, “They thought we will not make it and we did”, showing our stadia and police, our happy children, and I thought it was the Brand South Africa advert, only to realise that it was the Coca Cola. We hope we become the one projecting South Africa’s achievements, our successes, our flag, our people, our cultures, our landscape and our national anthem.

Chairperson, we are gathered here more than a year after our President urged government, at the end of the January 2011, on promoting “Inspiring New Ways” and make 2011 a Year of Communication.
Our Ministry looks forward to the ongoing input and guidance of the Parliament and we appreciate the support we have enjoyed to date.
In conclusion, I wish to thank Minister Chabane for his leadership and guidance, and wish to thank the CEO of GCIS Mr Jimmy Manyi  as well as the management and staff for their dedication, energy and outputs.

The MDDA Board under the leadership the Ms. Gugu Msibi, the CEO of MDDA Mr Lumko Mtimde, the Brand SA, as they move into another Budget Vote, their Trustees under new Chairperson, Ms. Chichi Maponya, the CEO Miller Matola and wish them well in their new home. Finally, Chief of Staff, Ms. Bonakele Dlamini, my Content Advisor Ms. Nomvula China Mngomezulu, Private Secretary, Unathi Sityata, the entire staff in my office, and also to all members of the Communication Portfolio, under the leadership of the young and able, Mr. Eric Kholoane.
We have a great story to tell and are telling it well, and must continue to tell through the GCIS theme: “The Pulse of Communication Excellence in Government”.
Thanks to all of you.

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