18 June 2004
Promoting a people's contract to build a better South Africa and a better world brings particular challenges for government's communication agency.
It requires a consolidation and intensification of work in progress. And it calls for innovation and changes in mindset.
For government as a whole, embarking on a new term with an overwhelming mandate cannot mean business as usual. It is a time for more effective and faster implementation. The same must hold for government communications.
For government as a whole, drawing on the lessons of our first ten years of freedom and assessing the challenges of the second decade has been essential to defining strategic priorities for the coming period. The same is true of government communications, both for the medium term and for the 2004-05 financial year whose communications budget vote this House is debating today.
A review of progress in government communications during the first decade of freedom - or more precisely in the six years since GCIS was established - reveals a balance sheet in which great achievements stand beside many challenges in the detail of implementation.
In key areas of the core mandate of government communication system, a solid foundation has been laid and the past year has seen a consolidation of that progress.
I would like to focus on just a few of these core projects.
Earlier this week, when GCIS made a presentation to the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Communications, it was accompanied by the Chairperson of the MDDA Board, Ms Khanyi Mkonza as well as other MDDA Board members and the CEO of the MDDA. For the first time the MDDA was presenting its plans and perspectives on its own behalf, rather than through GCIS.
In other words, we have successfully institutionalised the vision, which emerged amongst the democratic forces in the 1980s, of an agency, which could support the development of small media in order to broaden access to the means of communication. By doing so we have created an enduring reference point for all those who need such support and for all those who wish to join hands with government, as private media sector has done, to provide such support.
I believe that the Portfolio Committee, which played a critical role in shaping the legislation, can take pride in the fact that one year after the President appointed the MDDA Board, the regulations defining criteria for support were in place and the agency was ready to provide support.
We can take pride in the fact that at the end of the financial year 2003-04 the rigorous prescripts in the regulations limiting the amount spent on administration had been complied with and that National Treasury was satisfied that the funds available to the MDDA had been spent or committed.
After two quarterly cycles, grants to 19 projects have been approved, including 11 community radio projects, 4 community print projects and 4 small commercial point projects.
In the way it is processing applications, the MDDA is confronting some critical challenges for the development of small media. Through research it has thrown light on the small media landscape in our country. It has adopted a developmental approach in providing support, interacting with projects to assess their needs before making a final decision and providing mentoring and capacity building where needed.
GCIS will continue providing such institutional support as the MDDA requires in order to fulfil the objectives of the MDDA Act. It will also facilitate interaction with, and support from, government departments and other agencies where possible. In this regard a Memorandum of Understanding has been signed between the MDDA and the Department of Communications, providing for MDDA participation in the allocation of Department of Communications support to community radio projects.
The process of converting the Memoranda of Understanding that media owners signed with government into funding agreements with the MDDA is almost complete and has proceeded without problems.
In the work that it is doing the MDDA is indeed a part of the emerging people's contract to broaden access to the means of receiving and imparting information and ideas.
Another aspect of that partnership is the programme to establish Multipurpose Community Centres (MPCCs). Co-operative efforts amongst all three spheres of government as well as parastatal and civil society organisations have brought the total of operational MPCCs to 56 by the end of the 2003-04 financial year. By the end of 2004 the target of 60 operational MPCCs will have been reached.
We will then be in a position to ensure that every district has at least one MPCC and to start on the process of having one MPCC in every municipality over the next ten years.
This will see MPCCs assuming an even more central role as part of an integrated government-wide effort to bring services and information closer to the people.
The Community Development Workers who are currently being trained and equipped will amongst other things have intimate contact with the MPCCs. Community Development Workers, like the MPCCs and the Citizen Post Offices, will also provide assisted access to the e-Government Batho Pele Gateway due to be launched in a matter of weeks. Those who use the internet will have seen the recent change in the home page of Government Online in preparation for the launch of Gateway, citizens of South Africa and people anywhere in the world will have a single-entry point to the information and services provided by the Government of South Africa.
Working with the Department of Trade & Industry, pilot Business Zones have been established at three MPCCs as part of a project to make economic opportunities more accessible to communities.
During the past year MPCCs have also hosted film festivals jointly with the Film Resource Unit, in an effort to use film as a medium of development communication. They hosted many of the Big Screen links to the Freedom Day celebrations and inauguration on 27 April, as well as the State of the Nation Address on 21 May. MPCCs are also regular venues for imbizo, about which I intend to say more during the debate on the President's Budget Vote.
Through integrated and coordinated efforts, with innovative use of the most modern information and communication technologies, government is finding ways of making the services and information it provides much more accessible to millions. The vision of community centres bridging the distance between government and marginalised communities is fast becoming a reality on the ground. Institutionalised in the fabric of an integrated people-centred government it is part of the people's contract.
The MDDA and MPCCs are institutions established by GCIS in cooperation with other departments and with civil society partnership, in order to give effect to our ideal of an informed citizenry participating actively in improving their own lives and the well-being of the nation. To the list we can add the International Marketing Council. The IMC also this year for the first time presented its own report to the Portfolio Committee.
The IMC justifiably prides itself on the strides taken in building consensus amongst South Africans that we are indeed a country alive with possibility; on the expansion of its presence outside the country; and on its plans for intensifying its international campaign.
As part of that campaign there is at this moment a delegation of some forty South African business people in the United States, carrying the message that ours is a country to do business with and to visit, narrowing the gap between pockets of negative perceptions in that country and the reality of a country that is succeeding day by day to reconstruct, reconcile, develop and unite.
Continued progress is being made towards the transformation of the marketing and advertising industry, which was initiated by the Portfolio Committee.
The joint committee steering this transformation is expected to report to the Portfolio Committee later this year. This will include the outcome of a survey on broad-based black economic empowerment, which would help the industry formally to set benchmarks and targets for transformation. Within government, guidelines have been issued to all departments to promote use of advertising that reaches representative audiences. At the same time all the partners are working together to ensure that procedures for the procurement of marketing and advertising do not inhibit the entry of small enterprises into competition for tenders.
The core mandate of GCIS requires a strengthening of the government communication system.
In this regard, we can report with confidence that there has been continuing improvement in integration and co-ordination across government. This has helped enhance communication around the milestone events of the past year, including the Growth and Development Summit; Imbizo; the Ten Year Celebrations and Inauguration and the 40th anniversary of Africa Day, to name but a few.
In order to enhance skills of government communicators, an Academy of Government Communication has been established, offering a Professional Certificate in Government Communication and Marketing. This joint initiative of GCIS, Unilever, the Mandela-Rhodes Foundation and the Graduate School of Public & Development Management at Wits University is currently taking its first class of 40 students through the staggered five-week course.
Welcome as the progress is in these key areas, our view is that further and faster progress will be needed if the government communication system is to make its contribution to taking the country as a whole to a higher path of development in the second decade of freedom.
Corresponding to each of the major thrusts of the new government's programme of action for the next five years and beyond, there are major communication initiatives, which have the potential to catalyse a general enhancement of the government communication system and its operations.
As its contribution to more effective and efficient performance by the state, GCIS will pay critical attention amongst others to improving its ability to respond effectively to developments and to identify initiatives to be taken in promoting implementation of government's programme of action.
To help build the people's contract GCIS must take overall responsibility for promoting active partnership amongst all communicators, inside government and outside, in articulating a shared vision and value system for a caring society. That would include consolidating and building on the partnerships that have brought progress through the MDDA and IMC, the transformation of the marketing and advertising industry, MPCCs and the training of communicators.
If government is to succeed in bridging the socio-economic divides and closing gaps rooted in the legacy of our past, then GCIS must work to ensure provision of basic information to the public about the rights of citizens and how they can take advantage of the socio-economic programmes. Since those who are marginalised economically and socially also tend not to access to essential information, attention will needed to broadening the platforms of communication and developing appropriate new products.
If government is making a priority of working to strengthen the Southern African environment and to promote the implementation of NEPAD, then GCIS must encourage and lead campaigns across government and society to promote public awareness of and engagement with the institutions and programmes of our region and continent of Africa. In this regard there will be special focus on implementation of concrete programmes in order to give sustained profile to the benefits of African development to South Africa and the rest of the continent. To these ends, we are able to report that there has been valuable interaction with countries on the African continent so as to deepen ties between the communication sectors and to raise levels of mutual consciousness. These contacts are proving to be a two-way learning process for us and for others whom we have met.
In order to fulfil all our aims, direct interaction with the public will be critical, through the initiatives referred to: MPCCs, Community Development Workers, imbizo, utilisation of African Language Stations and community radio stations, and so on.
But also of importance will be improved relations with the media. This would include taking forward the programme that emerged from the Cabinet/SANEF indaba, including improving the operation of the Presidential Press Corps. Perhaps the time has come jointly to assess progress since the indaba in order to take co-operation to a higher level. On the one hand, how can government improve its servicing of the media? On the other, how can the media improve its understanding of government policies and programmes? What part can it play in partnerships, such as the fight against HIV and AIDS and the campaign to broaden access to economic opportunities? How can it draw lessons from experience such as that of the elections, when the worst predictions regarding the performance of government were so resoundingly disproved!
These, briefly, are the steps GCIS will be taking in the coming period to meet its mandate.
These are the priorities that will shape the use of the budget of R203, 1 million for the financial year 2004/05.
That compares with the 2003-04 budget of R178, 1 million, which was expended in total without any request for rollovers, and with over-expenditure of 0.06 percent or R112, 000. At the technical level, this combines R1, 5 million under-expenditure on Capital Equipment with R1, 6 million over-expenditure on Operations.
The increase in the budget from 2003-04 to 2004-05 includes an additional once-off allocation of R10 million to meet communication needs of the ten-year celebrations. It also includes an increase in the allocation to the International Marketing Council, recognising the importance to our nation of marketing of our country to world. And, while on the subject of IMC funding, it is earnestly to be hoped that the private sector, which has been generally helpful and supportive in the establishment of the IMC, will pitch in financially to assist what is, after-all, a national collaborative effort. Such assistance should be seen not as charity but as a sound investment by corporates and others.
As GCIS uses its funds in the ways outlined, it will be consolidating, intensifying and building on what it has been able to do thanks to the support and partnership of the Portfolio Committee on Communications and of Parliament.
The people of South Africa have mandated this government to get down to work in a people's contract to build a better South Africa and a better world.
With the funds allocated for the year 2004-05 GCIS intends to play its part.
I take this opportunity to commend the GCIS budget to the House, as I offer my warmest thanks to GCIS and its able Chief Executive, Joel Netshitenzhe, and also to the MDDA and to the IMC, for hard work well done.
Minister in The Presidency, Dr Essop Pahad
Issued by: Government Communications (GCIS)