Collins Chabane - Budget vote of the GCIS

17 June 2009

17 June 2009

Collins Chabane - GCIS budget vote

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Honourable members
Honoured guests
Friends and comrades
Members of the media
Ladies and gentlemen

It is both an honour and a privilege for me to address this House on the occasion of tabling the Budget of the GCIS.

This is my first budget speech to the House since my appointment as Minister in The Presidency. I am looking forward to working with all members of the House, particularly, members of the Portfolio Committee on Communications. As members may be aware, my portfolio is broad and includes other functions which do not fall into the mandate of the Portfolio Committee on Communications. These other functions include monitoring and evaluation and youth affairs. I will get the opportunity to address the house on the other aspects of my portfolio at a later stage.

This budget debate is taking place against the background of excitement and a positive mood in the country due to the successful general elections that saw millions of South Africans participating in the fourth general elections, and the hosting of both the FIFA Confederations Cup and the British Lions Tour. This positive mood means that we have a wonderful opportunity as a country to unite South Africans at a time when they are feeling positive about their country.

This budget speech is also taking place just a day after the country celebrated Youth Day. This day, 16 June, is an important day on our calendar as we remember the scores of young people who were killed by the security machinery of the apartheid state. Their crime was simply to protest against the imposition of Afrikaans as a medium of instruction in black schools across the country. On this occasion of the GCIS Budget Vote, we remember not only those who lost their lives, but those who decided to go into exile to continue the fight against apartheid as the situation inside the country had become unbearable.

This institution passed the very laws that made life unbearable for the majority of South Africans, particularly, black women, youth and workers of all races, especially, African workers. It is therefore appropriate that I have decided to dedicate my first budget speech in this House to all those who lost their lives during the uprising that began in 1976.

At that time, the youth protested about the compulsory use of Afrikaans as a medium of instruction in schools. This recollection reminds us how important it is for citizens to have access to information in a medium and form that is accessible and that they can understand. A denial of access to information is a denial of a fundamental human right and the power to better one’s life and contribute to society.  

In its 11 years of existence, the GCIS has gone a long way to create a communication system that serves the people, as enshrined in our Constitution.

We have proceeded from the understanding that without information, there can be no popular participation; without popular participation, there can be no lasting legitimacy or transformation of society.

Without the means to access information and to communicate their own activities, ideas and opinions, citizens become hapless observers subject to the world they find themselves in. An uninformed citizenry undermines our objectives to transform society.

Good communication lies at the heart of success in the fast-moving, global world in which we live. It lies at the heart of development and delivery. Communication in our context must enable people to be their own liberators, to take control of their lives and to participate in governance. It must foster partnerships, leading to a better life for all.

In this way, communication contributes to the transformation of the country and its people. It contributes to fulfilling the overwhelming government mandate for economic growth, social equality and the fulfilment of human potential.

Such communication is based on the notion of dialogue; a clear departure from the old-style notions of mistaking communication as “telling people things”. We need to communicate our successes in improving the quality of life of our people, we need to ensure that the citizenry understand their rights and responsibilities and know how to access services and opportunities. In turn, we need to listen to the challenges the people face, hear about the blockages to service delivery, and use this to make informed decisions about public policy and delivery.

This understanding of communication has made us determined to place communication at the centre of government’s work, not as an add-on or afterthought.

The larger issue behind the GCIS Budget Vote debate, after the presentation to the Portfolio Committee on Communications is to assess our progress in achieving the vision of developmental, transformative communication and what more we can do – as government and as Parliament. It is also to ask media and communication in all sectors to reflect on how they contribute to our collective agenda to transform the lives of the people. To what extent are we cooperating to ensure that those who are disadvantaged know about the opportunities that democracy has brought, and are then able to take advantage of them?

This Budget Vote debate is also taking place against the background of 15 years of a stable democracy that had started a firm fight against poverty. However, we are cognisant of the prevailing economic crisis that is affecting the world economy. We are equally aware that such conditions may have an impact on our ability to fulfil the mandate given to us by millions of those who still have confidence and deep trust in our policies and programmes.

The core mandate of Government Communications is to meet the communication and information needs of government and the public and to provide strategic leadership to all government communication. Our mandate enjoins us to consistently ensure that the public has access to information on programmes, policies and opportunities so that they can actively participate in the transformation agenda for a better life for all.

The GCIS provides strategic leadership and is coordinating a government communication system to fulfil this mandate. The GCIS also ensures that South Africa is marketed abroad through the International Marketing Council (IMC), in partnership with other state agencies such the Department of International Relations and Cooperation, South African Tourism and Trade Investment South Africa. It oversees the Media Development and Diversity Agency (MDDA), whose mandate is to ensure the development of media diversity in the country.

We turn now to the detail of what GCIS is doing to fulfil its mandate and the mandate of government from our people.

The GCIS has concluded the review of the Government-Wide Communication System, which coincided with the GCIS’ 10th anniversary.

The review identified a number of achievements in the government communication system. It found that the GCIS had established effective coordinating fora to promote coherent and common messages across government; that our government communication system has features that can catapult our country onto a plateau for strategic, disciplined and coherent communication.

While recommendations from the review require consultation and approval by Cabinet, some have no far-reaching implications and the GCIS has commenced implementation.  The review challenged the GCIS to ensure better strategic support to the Government-Wide Communication System, including effective government communication across the three spheres. In the coming period, attention will be given to establishing well-functioning government communication units for all the various departments, with special focus on the newly established departments.

In the next weeks to come, as indicated at the induction of new ministers, training interventions to strengthen the skills of government communicators will be conducted.

Working with the various directors-general, the GCIS will ensure that policy guidelines and score cards to guide government communication are approved and implemented.

The GCIS will ensure that communication is implemented along the Government’s strategic priorities identified in the State of the Nation Address informed by the renewed mandate. Among these, will be communication of key programmes to build an economy that creates jobs; to address the education challenges; and to focus on rural development and sustainable livelihoods.

The socio-economic profile of the South African population implies that reliance on conventional methods of communication is not adequate to engage many of our people. It is critical to utilise innovative and appropriate ways to reach the information-deprived. Ensuring information reaches all citizens is one of the key challenges we face.
The GCIS has emphasised socio-economic development channels to reach the marginalised and direct dialogue, especially with people in disadvantaged areas.

When the GCIS was established 11 years ago the task was to “work with the provinces to complete a model for provincial communication structures”. Today, we have a system that integrates provincial government; and working with the provincial communication units we will strengthen the local sphere of government that is vital for service delivery, community participation and development.

Through the provincial communication units, a network of communicators, including community workers, ward committees and imminent community members are central in disseminating communication on programmes of government.

To date, 15 new Thusong Service Centres have been established, bringing the total number of operational centres to 137 countrywide by the end of March 2009. These one-stop centres bring government services to the people. Typically they include the departments of home affairs, labour, social development, health, and the GCIS, the South African Social Security Agency, as well as tele-centres, the South African Post Office, libraries, agricultural extension offices, municipal services and community development workers. The programme to create a centre in each district by 2014 will continue in the next financial year. I must hasten to say that we are aware of the challenges in these centres and are working together with key stakeholders to find solutions to these, including long-term appropriate locations for the Thusong Centres.

In an effort to enhance unmediated communication, the izimbizo programme remains a unique approach to ensure that our messages reach the public unpolluted. It is one platform, among many, that we will continue to use. Research has shown that direct interaction with communities is seen as most valuable by citizens. The GCIS will make sure that izimbizoplatforms are used creatively as part of government’s participatory democracy platforms to build and strengthen strategic sectoral and general community partnerships.

We know that more often than not communities have solutions to their problems for they know better the challenges that are rife in their neighbourhoods. During this period, the GCIS will work to ensure that government mobilises forums of academics, opinion-makers, and non-governmental and community-based organisations to build a shared vision for our country.

Our focus on direct engagement with communities where they live will continue to be a priority. In particular, there will be a focus on reaching rural communities in support of the rural development programme.

We have also ensured that interactive communication is accompanied by a multimedia approach to communication, using products and platforms that meet the needs and preferences of various sectors of the population.

The mass campaign to popularise government’s Programme of Action for 2009 is using all official languages, including Braille; it will include a comic book publication with wide reach, especially among the poor, and a series of radio dramas in all official languages.

The government magazine Vuk’uzenzele was established in 2006 to provide government information to those in need. In the last financial year, there was a print run of 1,6 million on a two-monthly basis – but demand far outstrips supply. As a result, the print run has been increased to 1,8 million per issue. The Braille version of Vuk’uzenzele provides information to the visually impaired.

Over and above, Vuk’uzenzele has carried true stories of people who have benefited from programmes targeting the economically marginalised communities, those in the Second Economy trap, with much focus on an inclusive economy. The GCIS will sustain this platform and channel its content through the public service’s African language stations to reach more and more people who must take up these opportunities.

We live in an age of extremely rapid changes to communication, enabled in part by developments in information and communications technologies. The GCIS has begun harnessing cellular phones as a platform with tremendous reach across the population.

MXit was used to profile the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children Campaign. MXit is a free instant messaging programme for cellphones and PCs. The 16 Days splash screen (visual advertisement) on MXit was delivered to 2,8 million users during the campaign and some six million text messages were broadcast.

Government website usage statistics increased from 17,8 million in 2007/08 to 20,8 million during 2008/09. Usage statistics for the Government Services Website totalled 4,78 million in 2008/09 compared to 4,47 million in 2007/08.  

The GCIS will continue to improve communication techniques, tools and methods based on scientific research – critical to improving the communication landscape for ease of access to government programmes and policies. Emphasis will be placed on delivering integrated, easily accessible information in the languages and channels most preferred by the public, and especially the marginalised.

These, then, honourable members, are some of the ways in which the GCIS has during the past year sought to expand public access to government information.

Research indicates that these efforts have had impact, and that the proportion of the public who feel that they are receiving “enough” information from government has significantly increased. Nevertheless, that proportion is still too low – and it is the poorest among those most in need of such information.

It is gratifying to record progress in the efforts to make information about opportunities more accessible. But welcome as this is, it needs to be multiplied many times over to meet the public need. As in all crucial initiatives to transform our country, government cannot on its own bring about what must be done. To succeed, government must work with the private sector and civil-society groupings in their various forms.

Government regards the media as an extremely important institution and a partner in ensuring that citizens have the greatest access possible to information.

This government is committed to transparency. Cabinet communicates its decisions after every meeting through the GCIS to keep the public up to date about the decisions of the Executive. The regular media briefings on the implementation of the Programme of Action – and updating of progress online – provide the public with factual information on the basis of which analysis and assessment of government progress can be made.

Usage of BuaNews – government’s news agency – by community and some national media continues to grow. Internationally, stories were used in the United States of America, the United Kingdom, the Middle East, South East Asia, India and Pakistan, among other countries. This translates into nine agreements signed with agencies that continue to use BuaNews as a source of news from South Africa. We are the first to admit that a lot more needs to be done.

The GCIS will continue to give support to Cabinet in its interaction with the South African National Editors’ Forum (Sanef) to ensure media has access to Cabinet as the highest policy decision-making body of government. Work will continue in reducing levels of antagonism between government and some media houses by building better relations and engaging journalists on government programmes and policies aimed at building a country that belongs to all.

The Media Diversity and Development Agency (MDDA) continues to play a vital role in fostering diversity and development within the media and communication landscape, supported by the GCIS and the broadcast, print, and electronic media houses.

I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the contributions made by the MDDA CEO, Mr Lumko Mtimde, Ms Gugu Msibi and her board as well as the MDDA staff.

The MDDA was able to report to the portfolio committee before this debate that it continues to fulfil its regulatory obligations as stipulated in the Act; it has disbursed all the funds received from government and has signed funding agreements with print and electronic media. Appreciation goes to these partners; that to date, it has approved support for 239 projects in community media and small commercial media across all provinces; and that it will now work on its international funding strategy by tapping into the expertise of former members of the board.

Similarly during the coming period, more attention will be paid to building communication partnerships with communicators in state-owned enterprises and community fora that have the expertise to enhance government communication to promote a better life – understood, witnessed, believed and lived by all South Africans.

As we deliberate on the GCIS Budget, South Africa is hosting the FIFA Confederations Cup, the British Lions tour and also participating in the ICC Twenty Twenty Tournament in the UK. These sports events are positioning South Africa as one of the top sporting nations around the world ahead of the 2010 FIFA World Cup. These events offer an opportunity of a lifetime to market the country, build national pride, unite South Africans and foster African solidarity.

As part of the communication partnership, the GCIS continues to ensure integration and implementation of communication for 2010, working with all key stakeholders in government and other sectors and with the 2010 FIFA World CupTM Organising Committee.

The GCIS will continue to lead and anchor communication for this prestigious tournament. But, fundamental to this will be building on the collaboration of communication experts in all sectors via the 2010 National Communication Partnership, a voluntary public-private partnership.

We live in a globalised world where an event in a community in South Africa can become an international story in hours. Countries have to compete for investment and tourism – and especially so in the context of the global recession. This makes the work of international marketing so important for the future growth of our country.

We have recently confounded “doubters” around the world yet again with our successful fourth democratic elections and the proof of the strength of our institutions. It is the work of all of us to make sure the world appreciates those attributes that make South Africa so unique and so alive.

The IMC is itself a partnership of various sectors of our society. The review of the IMC has been completed. This will enable more effective collaboration between the different public- and private-sector role-players for international marketing. The staff of the IMC are thanked for their ongoing efforts, which have seen the South African brand well established in the global marketing place.

A key focus will be to build pride and social cohesion around the founding values of our Constitution and to mobilise South Africans at home and abroad to become ambassadors for the country.

During this week, the GCIS will ensure that the articulations in the various budget vote speeches by the respective departments are used to profile the Programme of Action of government so that we continue to work hard in communicating the commitments we made to all who displayed confidence in our policies and programmes.

Government communication will pursue what it has done for the past 15 years of democracy – a developmental agenda to meet the millennium development goals to reduce poverty by half by 2014, to ensure that millions of job opportunities are created by 2012 and that our fight for a country free of poverty is won through a vision crafted and shared by all.

What has been outlined is both an account of the use we made of the funds allocated in the last financial year and our priorities for 2009/10.

The original budget allocation for 2008/09 was R418 255 million. After the adjustment estimate in September 2008, the Budget increased to R439 832 million. At the end of the financial year, R427 484 million (97,2%) was spent. The bulk of the saving of R12, 348 million (2,8%) relates to two projects:

  • R7,4 million for the Energy Efficiency Campaign was unspent due to the late allocation of the Energy Efficiency Campaign funds of R15 million
  • R4 017 million allocated to the Communication Strategy for the Opening of Parliament and Presidential Inauguration was not used as these took place after the financial year-end.

Over the (Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) period, expenditure will increase at an average annual rate of 4,7%, mainly because the GCIS and the IMC will have completed their activities relating to the 2010 World Cup.

Over the MTEF period, the department receives additional funds of R16 million (2009/10), R33,1 million (2010/11), and R33,2 million (2011/12). The additional funds will mainly be used for:

  • accommodating the Re Kagiso Tshwane project in 2010/11 and 2011/12
  • increased support to provincial offices
  • the SoNA and the opening of Parliament in 2009/10
  • establishing the government community radio link in 2011/12
  • running the Energy Efficiency Campaign
  • inflation-related adjustments in compensation of employees and payments for capital assets
  • facilitating briefings by cluster ministries on progress on the implementation of the Programme of Action
  • sustaining interaction between public representatives and the public
  • better organised and strategic communication leadership of government communication
  • improved imbizo – sectoral izimbizo
  • interaction with media houses domestically and abroad.

We are very grateful and appreciative of the work and support provided by the Portfolio Committee on Communications and in particular, the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee, Mr Ismael Vadi, who has been reappointed to chair the committee.

I take this opportunity to welcome the new members of the portfolio committee and I’m looking forward to working very closely with you to ensure that the GCIS and its agencies, the IMC and MDDA, will continue to have a meaningful relationship with Parliament.

I would like to offer a word of warmest congratulations to Mr Themba Maseko and his GCIS team for the impressive way they have run this crucial government operation.

Finally, I commend the GCIS Budget to the House.

Thank you.

Issued by: Government Communications (GCIS)


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