Address by Minister of Communications - Intergovernmental Communication Forum

27 March 2015

Speaker Notes: Minister Faith Muthambi (MP)
Intergovernmental Communication Forum

Thank you very much for this opportunity to engage with you as government communicators, a few weeks after the state of the Nation address by President Jacob Zuma on Thursday 12 February 2015.

You are the face, eyes and ears of Government. Your role is at the centre of the achievement of the nine point plan that the President gave us during the SoNA.

With your help we need to reposition communications to be at the centre of policy development and implementation. This can only be realised if communicators reclaim their space and participate actively in all structures of governance.

South Africa is a success story. It will continue to be so, despite the challenges and the legacy of apartheid and colonialism that we are confronted with. Our task as communicators is to contribute in whatever way we can, in our areas of work, to tell this good story and mobilize communities to form partnerships with Government to take this success forward. Our democracy remains solid. All our democratic institutions, including government agencies are strong and functional.

Democracy is about public good and public interest and we therefore have to keep our focus as communicators to serve the public of South Africa by providing information on the programme of action emanating from the SoNA.

Nine Point Plan – A focused call to action to all government communicators

Energy, strengthening of mining towns, agriculture, small business development and cooperatives, infrastructure development including water, transport and information communication technologies, boosting the industrial policy action plan, attracting investments and Operation Phakisa.  A question to be asked is” What in the communication activities that we are implementing currently contain these elements alluded to by the President on the evening of Thursday, 12 February.

It remains a primary role of every developmental communication specialist to prioritise the developmental agenda of the government they serve. The marching orders have been clearly spelt out, what is required of us is to communicate, communicate and communicate progress on the programme of action, plans moving forward and the challenges that might delay implementation of some of the plans. This should be where we spend most of our money. We need to invest in mass based platforms to promote two way communications with our people”.

I am expecting the forum as well as your respective provincial teams to work together to develop an awareness campaign.

Back to Basics Strategy

Communications is a central pillars of the Back to Basics Strategy unveiled by the President six months ago. It serves to promote good governance and a more responsive Local Government.

What does the Back to Basics approach mean?

It means a recommitment to provide services in a professional manner and recognise each resident as a valuable client. As we recommit to serve our people diligently we should remind ourselves that Public Service is a not a privilege but a fundamental right to citizens.

It means reviewing of systematic blockages to service delivery meaning our communication activities should assist our people to grasp the programme of action of Government and how it translates into tangible services to improve their lives.

It also means strengthening of partnerships between government and the people.

It means institutionalising of Rapid Response systems to respond adequately to issues raised by our people at ward level. The Rapid response system is not prioritized by all provinces thus impacting on turn-around times for issues affecting some of the provinces.

It means a sustained interaction with the people even in trying times.

As of 30 October 2014, 158 co-operatives were approved for funding to the value of more than forty three million rand.

Five areas were identified for the pilot roll-out during the consultation phase, and they are: Mdantsane (Eastern Cape), KwaMai-Mai (Gauteng), Tshakuma and Modimolle (Limpopo), Mbombela and Lebombo (Mpumalanga) and Drakenstein (Western Cape). I am therefore expecting communicators from these sites to develop communication plans to support t these programme.

The process of identifying nine Community Education and Training Colleges for piloting in 2015 has been completed. This initiative will be implemented in collaboration with local authorities, Sector Education and Training Authorities, community organisations and business. This is in addition to the re-opening of teacher and nursing colleges. I am therefore expecting you all to infuse these programmes into your communication plans to communicate to communities on processes to access these institutions.

Some of you are successful NSFAS beneficiaries. The scheme is a major contributor to the development of the growing black middle class in South Africa. In 1999, NSFAS paid R441 million in financial aid to students and in 2014, this rose to over 9.2 billion rand to assist 450 000 students at 25 public universities and 50 Technical and Vocational Education and Training Colleges. What stops us from becoming ambassadors of NSFAS and communicate the responsibilities required with this ground breaking youth development strategy to counter abuse of the fund.

We welcome and congratulate students that assist others who are less fortunate, such as the Wits University Students Representative Council, working with the Wits Foundation who are running a campaign to raise funds to assist needy students to register. As communicators we should strengthen such campaigns and mobilise the business sector to partner with government to widen access to post school education. Tell the human stories and good news stories generated by different departments? Surely we can do better with the financial muscle we have.

ENERGY CHALLENGES

President Jacob Zuma devoted a large part of his State of the Nation Address to the current energy challenges in South Africa. The President indicated that the energy challenges would be tackled as part of a nine point plan to ignite growth and create jobs.

President Zuma acknowledged that the country is currently experiencing serious energy constraints which are an impediment to economic growth and is a major inconvenience to everyone in the country. He also said that overcoming this challenge is uppermost in the minds of government and that everything was being done to resolve the energy challenge.

The President confirmed that the country’s energy challenges will be tackled through a plan which involves short-, medium- and long-term responses.

The short- and medium-term plan involves improved maintenance of Eskom power stations, enhancing the electricity generation capacity and managing the electricity demand.

The long-term plan involves finalising the energy security master plan.

Government has committed to stabilise Eskom’s finances to enable the utility to manage the current period. Government will provide Eskom with R23bn in the next fiscal year to ensure greater energy security.

At the end of 2014 Cabinet also approved a five-point intervention plan to address the country’s energy constrains. Through the plan government is securing the country’s short and medium term energy supply.  It waits to be seen if all these interventions underway are communicated to our people.

Over the long-term South Africa will ensure future energy demand is met through an energy mix that comprises of collar, solar, wind, hydro, gas and nuclear energy. In future biomass, wind power, solar power and hydropower will contribute 11.4 Gigawatts of renewable energy to the grid. We owe it to our communities to educate them about implications of illegal connections, cable theft and non-payment of services

I am keen to know what the respective provinces have planned for the forthcoming Imbizo focus week to be held from 7-12 April 2015.

Let me reemphasise that the Imbizo Programme seeks to intensify engagement with communities and therefore has to be institutionalised across all spheres of Government.  It therefore cannot be right for the events of the Focus Week to be tracked through advisories issued out by respective departments and not through the e–platform as expected and this suggests that more work needs to be done with departmental al officials to improve reporting on the programme by Principals. This same principle applies to the local government officials who are expected to plan around the Imbizo focus week.

DIGITAL MIGRATION OR DIGITAL TERRESTRIAL TELEVISION

The broadcasting environment is going through an amazing change due to the development of digital technology. The Department of Communications has developed a leaflet called Go DIGITAL South Africa which aims to educate, inform and create awareness about the digital migration or Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT).

The digital migration process promises more channels, i.e more programmes like: sports, education, Health, children, parliamentary, entertainment, music and more vernacular channels, which means variety of choice to viewers.

Every citizen irrespective of geographical location, race, and economical status will enjoy access to all free-to-air channels of excellent quality picture and sound.

Also as an advantage, there will be an on-screen Electronic Programming Guide with program synopsis which include parental guidance and control of programs.

Disability services for hard of hearing and sight (sub-titles and large scripts) is included.

The Broadcasting Digital Migration Communication Strategy and Key messages are being developed and will be shared with you in due course.

COMMUNITY MEDIA

I appeal to you all to please relook at your relationship with community media. Very often we don’t have a structured and innovative relationship with media at community level, which is a critical sphere of government, where the current regime gets accessed whether it has delivered on its promises or not, notwithstanding the fact in less than two years we going to the Local Government elections!

I therefore hope that this forum will dedicate time to review progress on the implementation of the National Communications Strategy, communication of the energy efficiency campaign as well as the communication approach for the forthcoming MFMA 2015 audit findings.

I challenge you again as government’s machinery of communications to go back to basics and look forward to your input and feedback for us to move South Africa Forward through information.

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Speeches: 
Year: 
2015
Speech date:: 
Friday, March 27, 2015