Information for Empowerment of Citizens: Our guiding principle to move South Africa Forward
Statement by the Minister of Communications Ms Faith Muthambi MP, at the Cluster Media Briefing, Cape Town
24 June 2014
A warm greeting to members of the media and the diplomatic community gathered here. As part of transparency in our governance system we are once again organizing all the ministers in their numerous clusters to address through yourselves, members of the media to give more details to the State of the Nation address as well as give a glimpse into some of the highlights of the programme of action of government.
The detail of the programme of action will appear in the budget votes that are planned to take place over the next few weeks. For colleagues whose ministries are either new or reconfigured or for those who have moved to new portfolios the last few weeks have seen us familiarising ourselves with the new responsibilities in order to be able to face the public through their democratically elected representatives about how we intend moving South Africa forward.
We look forward to this engagement hoping that it will be a constructive one that will lay a basis of how we want to relate with the media in this new term.
Three cardinal principles will guide us – accessibility of information through our professional army of public sector communicators at all levels of government. Simplification of our communications to reach all our people – this will include intensification of such communications by working with the media on projects that will make government communications a lot more meaningful and useful for the empowerment of our people.
Finally a culture of mutual respect between the state and the media. Our constitution is one of the few that names the Freedom of the Press by name. The press in return must ask themselves a deeper question of how else they can contribute to the rebuilding of this nation and moving South Africa forward.
Many people do not realise that poor information dissemination begets inequality. Over the last twenty years government has created numerous opportunities for people to get out of poverty. A number of these opportunities have passed many communities by – reason –poor information accessibility especially to rural communities. Government for examples a couple of years ago designated certain areas on our country as nodal points for rural development. Urban Development Nodal points will soon be upon us. Schemes for supporting up and coming farmers were put in place for communities to take advantage of – research shows that half of these were either not taken up or neglected for the simple reason that their existence did not fall into the right ears. This must change as one of the basic things to accelerate the reversal of poverty in our communities.
At the beginning of the previous administration billions were set aside for a jobs fund. Half of these funds were not taken up purely on the basis of scant information grasp by those who applied and simple no take up for those who did not know where to begin. With the level of unemployment amongst our youth – this state of affairs is unforgivable.
South Africa is well endowed with communication resources. The public broadcaster alone has 19 radio stations and 4 television stations . The question must be how effective can the public broadcaster be as a dependable partner in education and empowerment. Its slogan Total Citizen Empowerment must come to live a lot more - Similarly with government collaboration with a network of over two hundred community stations and numerous community newspaper there needs to be more that we can do as a nation to drive an information culture that can break the back of ignorance. Let me hasten to say that no one in their right mind will suggest that this will be the answer to all the problems – but without an urgent change of how we level the playing field of information dissemination in this country we are headed for the deepening of inequality.
We on our part as government, are readying ourselves to implement an information revolution that will place crucial information in the hand of every citizen to ensure that the ideal of freedom from poverty happens faster.
Like the RDP at the dawn of our freedom in 1994, the NDP is the answer to the next thirty years carrying the hopes of many in our country whose freedom to vote in 1994 has not yet translate into economic liberation. This is the policy that seeks to move South Africa forward.
- Over the next few weeks we will be traversing the length and breadth of our country to listen to stakeholders about how this landscape can be changed radically. Through our Information for Empowerment Dialogues. We will focus on the question of media diversity and transformation of the media in general as well as exchange ideas about how to attend to some of the challenges in this Industry.
- We are aware that there are many South Africans who are highly skilled and would like to contribute to this information revolution. To this end I will be establishing the National Communications Task Team to advise me on the most effective way to integrate the functions that have been assigned to this ministry, help refine the National Communications Strategy of government and also help steer the process towards legal alignment of the work that we have to do probably through a white paper that will pronounce on the overarching communications policy of government. The Task Team will commence its work sometime in July and report to me within thirty days. It will take into account other stakeholder inputs such as the Government Communicators Forum. Forum of SA Directors General and other stakeholders who will make inputs throughout the envisaged parliamentary process.
- The entities reporting into the Ministry have a clear directive from me to stabilise their leadership. To this end I have recently indicated to the SABC to ensure that we can appoint a Chief Executive Officer within the next three months. All other entities will also be attended to and pronouncements in this regard will be done after consultation with their leadership. Although we are a shareholder Ministry we are determined that the boards of directors must do their work without needing the minister to interfere into their operations. However where necessary and as the law empowers us to do so we will step in as the shareholder on behalf of the People of South Africa.
- I have instructed that a process of the Merger of MDDA and USASSA should commence without delay. The Deputy Minister of Communications will lead this process and report to me regularly. For the sake of all involved I am determined that this process must take place without undue delay. Details will be announced during the budget vote.
- The image of our country abroad has taken serious battering in recent times. Discussions between DIRCO the International Division of the Ministry as well as Brand South Africa have commenced to look at how we can raise our level of International Marketing. This effort will require all stakeholders to pull together. It is crucial that we realise that we are global player and through our access to the UN, G8 countries and BRICS we have to be more deliberate in the manner in which we can communicate the good story of South Africa’s recent past through the story of the 20 years of our freedomand the future as encapsulated into the National Development Plan.
- The question of Digital Migration is crucial to our country being on the cutting edge on technology and it is long overdue. I have issued a directive that a programme of action to bring us up to speed be ready for pronouncement before the end of the 100 days period. I will be consulting through focused meetings with key Industry players to see how this process can be set on a faster course of implementation. (The finalisation of this process will unlock huge exposure to content giving the ability to the SABC for example, to add multiple channels to what already exists as platforms for information to reach our people.)
- Connecting with our people is going to be crucial in moving South Africa forward. The revival of the Imbizo programme where government listens to the people will receive special attention. Ahead of Mandela day on the 18th of July we will be launching Imbizo Focus week where members of the Executive will be going out there to interact with our people across the country. The Ministry will release details of this focus week at a later stage.
Over the next hundred days, our focus of course is to establish the department in as quick a pace as it is possible so that we are able to give the necessary oversight to the numerous entities for which we are responsible. The Boards of Directors of the Entities have a responsibility to ensure that there is prudence in the transitional period and decisions made take into account the pending radical changes that may come following the public consultation.
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Issued by: Department of Communications