Acting Minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni: Government Communication and Information System Dept Budget Vote 2021/22

21 May 2021 

Informed Nation: Empowered Citizenry

Madam Speaker
Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Communication, Honourable Boyce Maneli
Members of the Portfolio Committee on Communication;
Honourable members
Director General of GCIS, Ms Phumla Williams and the management of GCIS
Ladies and Gentlemen;

Good morning

We are here today to present Budget Vote No. 4 for the Government Communications and Information System for the financial year 2021/22. We are tabling this Budget when the world is still in the grasp of the deadly Covid-19 pandemic, that is leaving behind a trail of deaths in our communities, families, places of work, even in this House, we continue to lose members – our dearest colleagues. As we continue to pray for our country, nations of the world, our families and self, those infected and those who have lost loved ones, the responsibilities entrusted to the GCIS during its conception have never been more relevant.

Just for collective memory, the government communications system was created with the following objectives in mind:

  1. Ensure coherence in the communication such that all citizens and communities have access to information that adequately allows them to take advantage of the opportunities to improve their lives and take part as citizens in the public affairs.
  2. Drive government to speak with one voice.
  3. Maintain a citizen-focused continuous dialogue, and
  4. Harnessing goodwill for productive purposes by helping to shape the national mood and nation-building.

Faced with continuous emergence of new waves of infections; new variants of the virus; vaccines hoarding by developed or vaccine producing nations; decimation of livelihoods and lives; worsening hunger and conditions of living; and mixed economic recovery prospects; the global picture has never been this depressing at least in our life time. The responsibility for government to work to restore hope is paramount and the Government Communication and Information System must not only coherently communicate this hope but the work that government is doing to rebuild the nation.

When Covid -19 hit our shores, government activated the state of disaster to enable access to key resources and the reprioritisation of budgets to save lives and livelihoods. At that point, it was clear that the global community had limited resources for medical interventions, and South Africa was not an exception. Government had to strengthen partnerships, what we commonly refer to as social compacts with communities, business and labour for an effective response to the pandemic.

Honourable Members

The social compacts required South Africans to become our first line of defence as a nation by adhering to the Disaster Management Regulations and implementing the non-pharmaceutical health protocols. As a country, we owe a debt of gratitude to my late colleague, Minister Jackson Mthembu and the GCIS team that led the mobilisation of South Africans behind the calls to ‘Stay Home and Stay Safe’, to wear masks, wash hands with soap or sanitise with 70% alcohol-based sanitisers, and maintaining 1.5 metre social distance.

Through these campaigns, South Africa was able to get through our first wave of Covid-19, and the devastation of the second-wave, although it was harsh, we were spared the worst. Unfortunately, it was the second-wave that could not spare us the life of Minister Mthembu, our many other colleagues and many other South Africans. However, the collective effort, that social compact amongst South Africans enabled us to  come out of the second wave, we were highly rated across the world, maybe the best paraphrase was by renown CNN medical correspondent and associate professor of neurosurgery, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, who said “that steep decline is not because of vaccines…This is a reminder that basic public health measures work. South Africa reminds us what is possible”. 

Honourable Chairperson,

In the 2021/2022 financial year, the GCIS is required to deliver on the four objectives that I have stated earlier but on four (4) key programmes of government, which are:

1. To mobilise South Africans to continue the fight against Covid-19, in two ways

(a) Promote continued adherence to the non-pharmaceutical health measures of wearing masks in public, washing hands with soap or sanitizing them with 70% alcohol-based sanitiser, and  maintaining a social distance of 1.5 metres;

(b) To mobilise South Africans to join the Covid-19 vaccination programme, because it is only when the country attains population immunity through vaccination that our new normal life will commence; and

2. Provide adequate information about the Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan to enable citizens to take advantage of the opportunities to improve their lives;

3. To mobilise South Africans for the fight against corruption and a quest to build a capable state as part of citizens contribution nation-building; and

4. Enhance and maintain continuous national dialogue on the fight against gender-based violence and femicide and the pursuit of safe communities.

Honourable members,

The budget we are tabling today will never be sufficient for the task at hand and updating the institution to the communication system of the future – which has become the communication system of today – of digital technologies and other related technologies.

Over the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF), the GCIS has been allocated a total of R2, 17 billion, which is a continuous declining budget. This budget include includes allocations for BrandSA and Media Diversity Development

 

MTEF Allocation

2021/ 2022

2022 / 2023

2023/24

GCIS

R2.17 billion

R749, 684 million

R709, 968 million

R711, 862 million

BrandSA

 

(R213,4 million)

(R218,1 million)

(R291,6 million)

MDDA

 

(R33 million)

(R33,8 million)

(R34 million)

Actual

R1,347 billion

R503, 284 million

R458,068 million

R386, 262 million


Brand South Africa

An allocation to BrandSA is made when we are fully aware that the founding prescripts of this Agency envisaged an entity that will be self-sustaining and not be reliant on the fiscus. The objective of a self-sufficient BrandSA remain illusive and material conditions make it impossible for BrandSA to can commence a path towards self-sustenance. In 2019, Cabinet took a decision to rationalise BrandSA and Tourism South Africa into a single marketing entity of the Republic.

The bulk of the work towards the rationalisation of the two (2) entities was done by my predecessor, the late Minister Mthembu together with the Minister of Tourism. Some of the measures he instituted was the introduction of a moratorium on the filling of Executive positions. Given developments that also affect Tourism SA, the Minister of Tourism has now instituted measures that triggered the need to commence the rationalisation and we will work together towards this. In addition, the acting Minister is considering proposals from both the Board of Trustees and the GCIS on how to improve the performance of BrandSA as we work towards a rationalised entity.

Given the challenges that beset BrandSA over the years, the acting Minister has directed the DG of GCIS to work with BrandSA on the programmes that must be implemented to ensure the agency executes in line with its Mandate as per the founding papers. Therefore, the tranches to BrandSA will be transferred based on agreement on programmes except the tranches related to administration, e.g cost of employees, accommodation and related costs.

Media Development and Diversity Agency (MDDA)

The budget allocation to the MDDA will support the work  to transform the media industry. The development of the Media Development and Diversity Amendment Bill, 2021, which will review the MDDA Amendment Act to align it to key technological developments in the sector and good corporate governance practices has commenced. In addition, the MDDA will submit comments on the amendments of the Electronic Communications Act and the SABC Act because the opportunities for advancing media development and diversity will be widened by the digital migration. This opportunity must be used optimally to advance true transformation of the media and enable participation by blacks, women, youth and persons with disability in the sector which ownership is still almost exclusive.

Budgeted Programmes for GCIS

The budget is allocated as follows:

Administration: R275,1m  for Cost of Employees; and R125m for Administrative costs (office accommodations, information technology contracts - audit fees, travelling costs, and data costs, training and development)

Special Covid-19 Communication (once-off): R50 million

Production and Distribution: R178, 2 million

Provincial Outreach Programme: R13 million

Research: R5 million

We continue to prioritise these limited and continuously declining resources to fund the execution of such critical mandate:

Ladies and gentlemen;

To mobilise South Africans to continue the fight against Covid-19. Through this budget, the GCIS will continue to implement our outreach programmes designed to reach people where they work or reside. These will include at taxi ranks, mall activations, panel discussions on local community media, and mainstream radio and television stations. Messages will continue to be packaged in all the eleven official languages.

I must concede that getting messages across to the people has been a mammoth task, but one which GCIS has embraced and made considerable gains in this front through a combination of old style outreach activities and activations, coupled with a massive presence on government websites, social media and  other messaging platforms such as WhatsApp. Our communication approach was based on the need to inspire behaviour change and instil hope.

As indicated earlier when I quoted the words of Dr Sanjay Gupta of the CNN, the response to GCIS campaigns and social media drives have been positive. South Africans in their numbers have continued to adhere to the call to wear masks in public, observe social distancing, and wash their hands with soap and water or 70% alcohol based sanitiser.

As our country commences with the mass vaccination programme and despite the challenges of access to vaccines that have plagued majority of the vaccine non-producing countries, GCIS is leading the mobilisation of South Africans to register for vaccination through the Electronic Vaccination Data System (EVDS). To date, over 1.606 million senior citizens and over 850,000 healthcare workers have signed up on the EVDS. Working with the National Department of Health, provincial departments of Health, the Offices of the Premiers and community health workers, GCIS is coordinating, through its provincial offices, the registration of those with no access to technology through home visits whereas Department of Health continue to assists with manual registrations at vaccination sites.

Honourable Chairperson,

The new normal forced everyone to adapt and change how they did things, and this was more noticeable in how GCIS adapted its communication interventions. GCIS introduced family meetings led by the head of family South Africa, His Excellency, President Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa. Initially, GCIS held weekly briefings with Ministers which were disrupted during the second wave because we needed to protect lives of not only Ministers but staff who had to enable them even when they moved virtual. For the first time in the history of our nation, GCIS facilitated a virtual imbizo.

The Plan is to re-introduce more family meetings that are not only focused on the fight against the pandemic but will provide information about the Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan to enable citizens to take advantage of the opportunities to improve their lives; mobilise South Africans for the fight against corruption and a quest to build a capable state as part of citizens contribution nation-building; and enhance and maintain continuous national dialogue on the fight against gender-based violence and femicide and the pursuit of safe communities. These will be supported by media briefings led by Ministers. Therefore, the GCIS will continue its co-ordination of the Cluster Communication programme although the agenda will be more programme based to ensure a single message – different angles communication, which is more impactful.

In addition, various virtual platforms such as webinars continue to be used to enable participation of both experts and ordinary South Africans on various national dialogues. The GCIS like other departments equally adopted virtual platforms to interact with its stakeholders and its staff across the country to communicate in real time and more frequently . Regular meetings to share ideas and information, and to identify and ultimately solve challenges became possible without leaving the comfort of one’s home/ desk.  The GCIS has been able to interact with Communicators across all the spheres of government more regularly. These regular interactions have deepened our understanding of each other’s roles, responsibilities and challenges. These types of interactions will continue as they are also cheaper.

Honourable members,

Community Radio became one of the most effective platform we utilised during this pandemic. In the process, GCIS increased its network of community radios from 60 to about 199 connected Community Radio stations. This increased network has sharply challenged progress attained in the transformation of the media through community media. The experience we have had has proven that the current model is not sustainable and does not impact on transformation. GCIS has been directed to work with the MDDA and the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies, led by Minister Ndabeni-Abrahams to review the model with the current legislative reviews. We are counting on the support of the Parliament to ensure that any legislative review benefits the transformation agenda of our country.

One of our flagship communication product, the South African Government News Agency (SAnews.gov.za), continues to grow its presence in the digital media and communication space. Its content provides hard news, human-interest features, social-media links and audio inserts, photographs and videos.  The Agency has been at the forefront in providing pertinent information to citizens daily, including on health related Covid 19 protocols. This financial year, the coverage will include the other 3 key government programmes.

GCIS continues to challenge itself in ensuring most of their products reflects all the official languages of the country.  The Government website (www.gov.za) managed and maintained by GCIS continues to provide its visitors with all information they need on government. For the past financial year, we were able to record 83 million page views.

Furthermore, GCIS continues to maintain the multilingual Vuk’uzenzele newspaper to provide government-related information and opportunities, mainly to persons without access to the mainstream media. GCIS prints about 850 000 copies every two weeks, which makes it the largest print circulation in South Africa. It reaches even the most remote parts of the country and it is also produced in Braille, online and on the Gov APP. Given the penetration of digital media and for the protection of our trees, GCIS will survey the utilisation of the hardcopies for possible switch and the protection of trees and management of costs.

Ladies and Gentlemen 

Throughout this period, GCIS also relied heavily on our colleagues in the media to carry messages from government to homes and communities and we are indebted to this support. We are determined to sustain and build on the partnership with the media in the years ahead, including with media houses from across the continent and all other foreign correspondents.

These partnerships will, however, not dilute our aggressive drive for direct and unmediated communication. In the 2020/21 financial year, the direct communication reached approximately 53 million people (some being repeat audiences).  

Honourable members,

The period ahead will be one of the most challenging in the history of our nation.  Many new challenges lie ahead as we seek to rebuild our lives and our economy through both non-pharmaceutical health measures and the mass vaccination programme. The country will have to hold the local government elections under the new normal but GCIS is ready to work  with COGTA and the IEC to get the public ready for   the local government elections.

Honourable Chairperson

I hereby table Budget Vote No. 4 of the Government Communications and Information System (GCIS) to achieve the goal of an informed citizenry that is empowered to participate in the nation’s public affairs.

We remind all South Africans that basic public health is our best chance of survival against the Covid-19 pamdemic. We are therefore reiterating our call to Wear Masks in public, Wash hands with soap or 70% alcohol-based sanitisers, and maintain the 1.5 metre social distance.

Ndi a livhuwa, inkomu, thobela, thank you.

Speeches: 
Year: 
2021
Speech date:: 
Friday, May 21, 2021