Essop Pahad - GCIS budget vote 2005/6

15 April 2005

15 April 2005

Madame Speaker
Honourable Members

All of us in government must measure our actions, and the public resources appropriated to us by this House, against the aspirations of our nation and the mandate which the electorate has set us.

We must ask ourselves: what have we done to narrow the gap between aspiration and reality? What are we planning to do in order to fulfil our mandate?

In twelve days’ time we will be celebrating the eleventh anniversary of our Freedom, reminding ourselves of the progress that freedom has brought and doing what we can to mobilise the nation in a way that translates the encouraging trends into further united action, as we move forward.

As we reaffirm our commitment to Building a South Africa that truly belongs to all, we will be speaking of a South Africa in which all citizens would have access to information about government services, about government’s programmes and how to access them, empowering them to be active agents in improving their own lives and participating in the building of the nation.

In a South Africa that truly belongs to all, the various social forces and structures, whatever differences they might have, would work together for the achievement of shared development goals. They would, whatever their differences, present a shared understanding of their country and its possibilities to the rest of the world.

The 11 years since we achieved our freedom has seen great strides in expanding access to information - both in general and with respect to information about government and the programmes that have come with democracy to create rights and opportunities for our people to improve their lives.

At the same time, each advance throws into sharp relief the inherited imbalances that are still to be addressed. The more technology expands our capacity to communicate, the more we feel the imperative of using it to short- circuit the slow evolution of access to information occurring in the past.

For the Government Communication and Information System (GCIS), given its mandate as government’s communication agency, expanding access to reliable and practical information to all citizens about what their government is doing, is an enduring preoccupation. It takes its place alongside the imperative of building partnership as a guiding principle in the programmes that GCIS has undertaken to improve the capacity and performance of the government communication and information system. It is complemented by efforts to contribute to the democratising of the communications and media environment.

Madame Speaker

The decision at the beginning of this government’s term to publish its Programme of Action on the Internet with detailed targets and timeframes has increased the possibility for the public to play a more active role in the work of government.

This it does by enabling the public to participate in the monitoring and evaluation of government’s performance, to follow the implementation and call for account where they see little or no progress; and gives citizens and organisations the opportunity to come forward with ideas on the role they can play in realising the objectives of the programme.

This new way of doing things has brought new challenges for the government communication system – sustaining the flow of reliable and detailed information; logistical challenges of more frequent briefings of the media; strengthening the integration and coordination of communications on the basis of the clusters of government.

The regular update on progress – or lack of progress – in implementation, in line with the two-monthly cycle in which clusters report to Cabinet, has sustained the contribution this initiative is making to the realisation of transparent government in practice. It has also meant that where the media or political parties wish to criticise government - as they are justified in doing - they can now base their reports and evaluations more solidly on regular and comprehensive information.

The regular efforts to disseminate the contents of the programme of action as widely as possible have been sustained and enhanced, with continuous emphasis on direct communication in multimedia campaigns using languages and platforms best suited to reaching sectors of our diverse population.

This has brought important shifts and innovations in pursuit of expanding the reach of communication and access to information.

In its recent presentation to the Portfolio Committee on Communications, which has sustained a close interest in the way government has used advertising, GCIS reported a continuing and marked shift towards the use of radio, which has a very wide reach amongst the public, especially the poor who are not as well reached as others by print media. Spend allocation for radio from January to June 2003, shows that 18% of government advertising handled by GCIS went to radio – during the same period in 2004, this increased to 33%, and then to 48% from July to December 2004.

In publicising this year’s programme of action, a further innovation was introduced alongside a four-page tabloid version in all languages. This was a five part “photo story” version that appeared over five weeks in newspapers reaching some 4,7 million people mainly among the poorer sections of newspaper readership.

This innovation was in part motivated by the publication of a booklet on Economic Opportunities. This was done on behalf of the Forum of South African Directors General (FOSAD) Economic Cluster and brought together in popular format and all languages practical information about all the programmes of government that bring economic opportunities especially to those marginalised in the Second Economy. The first phase of this programme involved over 90 workshops in all provinces and the dissemination of 800,000 copies of the booklet. The reception was highly positive – confirming the crying need for the dissemination of such information to the poor on a more regular and ongoing basis.

Reflecting a shared understanding about the importance of meeting this need as a public service, agreement has been reached in principle with the public broadcaster to broadcast a serialisation of the publication, the production of which would be funded by GCIS.

The need for greater efforts to disseminate this kind of information is reinforced by the results of research which shows that awareness of the economic opportunities and of government programmes addressing the challenges of the second economy are well-enough known amongst the rich who have access to media of all kinds – but very much less so amongst those whose access to the media is more restricted, precisely those who could benefit from these programmes.

This has informed government’s decision to introduce a popular magazine. It is to be a two-monthly 32-page publication whose main emphasis will be on practical information of this kind as well as on the programmes of government generally.

Madame Speaker,

Imbizo, one of the most innovative initiatives, probably in the world today, has been implemented since 1999. It remains a sustained opportunity for direct dialogue and interaction between government and citizens, and has proved to be a trusted forum. This critical aspect of our democracy has grown steadily, and will continue to do so as the public responds to the opportunity to engage with national, provincial and local government around the programme of action to improve their lives and build a South Africa that does indeed truly belong to all. The latest Imbizo Focus Week, earlier this month, shortly after the President’s ninth provincial visit, was again the largest ever. It encompassed over 460 events and 18 Ministers and 7 Deputy Ministers participating. As planned, it focused on popularising the programme of action, explaining how the budget enables implementation, and sharing information with communities on how to access opportunities.

Honourable Members

One of the most important ways in which access to government services and information is being expanded is the Multi Purpose Communication Centre (MPCC) programme.

By the end of last year, when 60 MPCCs were required in the Programme of Action to be operational, 66 were in operation. As Phase I approached completion – requiring an MPCC in each district municipality, a goal to be achieved by September this year - Cabinet in January adopted the Second Generation MPCC Strategy which will see at least one MPCC in each of the country’s 284 municipalities by 2014. GCIS is preparing to rollout this ambitious programme, learning from the lessons and challenges of the first phase and addressing problems that some MPCCs have experienced.

Integrated service delivery remains the watchword of the MPCC programme. This means integration of MPCCs with Community Development Workers and the Batho Pele Gateway. GCIS is also working with the Chamber of Business South Africa (CHAMSA) to align the MPCC programme and their envisaged business centres and with the Centre for Public Service Innovation to integrate the programme with proposed Urban Government Service Malls.

Responsibility for the content of the Gateway Portal (accessed via Batho Pele Government OnLine www.gov.za) has been transferred to GCIS. GCIS will be supported by Content Managers in every department, appointed to ensure that services offered to the public are fully and accurately reflected on this web site. It is intended that the content of this resource will be available in all official languages. Currently this Gateway is accessible from any computer, or from the General Services Counters at 9 MPCCs, over 600 Public Information terminals in Citizen Post Offices, and from the laptops of 40 Community Development Workers. This year will see expansion of access and a communication campaign to promote use of this one-stop entry point to information about all government services.

Madame Speaker,

Partnership runs like a thread through these efforts of GCIS to expand access to information. It is equally vital in a number of initiatives in whose early life GCIS played a part and which still fall within the scope of its budget responsibilities.

The partnership of government and private sector which helped to give rise to the Media Development and Diversity Agency (MDDA) is now a fully resourced partnership. The funding agreements with all the print and broadcast partners were concluded last year and funding has been received from all these partners.

The machinery of the MDDA as an agency is in place and operational and has worked within the prescribed limits on how much it can use for administrative purposes. The agency received applications totalling over R50m. So far it has provided support to 55 different media projects, covering all provinces. They include both non-profit and small commercial media; existing projects and new media projects; projects for specific communities of interests and geographical communities. Its early experience has led the MDDA to focus on the building of capacity in the small media sector and to that end is building a mentorship network.

As well as financial support, the MDDA is tapping material support for the small media sector. With the help of the advertising industry, for example, it laid on three workshops attended by 300 people from media organisations across the country who wanted to learn how to access advertising, a critical need for the sustainability of small media. It is working with the Audit Bureau of Circulation, the Universal Service Agency, the Department of Communications, ICASA, National Film and Video Foundation and the Open Society Foundation, as well as others, to leverage support for media development and diversity.

Honourable Members,

The importance of the transformation of the marketing and advertising industry is something that the Portfolio Committee on Communications has stressed for several years. This House expressed its support for that view in a motion shortly after the Portfolio Committee received a report on the process in November last year.

It is a pleasure to report that what then appeared as difficulty in moving forwards in a comprehensive way that united the whole value chain seems to have been overcome and all the sectors are working together on a scorecard within the framework of the Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment Act. Next week the different sectors will be meeting to discuss a draft scorecard that has been drawn up by the Monitoring and Steering Committee.

This unity in transformation speaks eloquently of a commitment to building a South Africa that truly belongs to all.

Honourable Members,

One of the greatest challenges South Africa has faced since we achieved freedom has been to engage with the international community on terms that promote our national interest. From a communications perspective that has brought the challenge of closing the gap between negative perceptions of our new democracy and the reality of a country steadily undergoing reconstruction and development, a country of immense opportunity, a country alive with possibility.

The International Marketing Council (IMC) has been working since its inception to address this. Starting from the premise that effective marketing requires a consensus amongst our people regarding how we project ourselves, the IMC’s early work emphasised its internal campaign- -building awareness of and support for Brand South Africa. 7 000 radio adverts reached 94% of South Africa’s adult population and over 560 TV adverts during the year – a combination of the “Today I woke up in South Africa” advertisement and the “Rhythm of the nation” one --, reached 95% of the television-watching population.

In the past year the gear has shifted towards the international side of the campaign, amongst other things taking advantage of the surge of positive interest created by the Ten Years of Freedom Celebrations.

This has involved production and international dissemination of an effective booklet, the SA Story, which is being updated for a second edition. It has included advertisements, e.g. on London taxis and in publications read by international economic decision-makers. A mission of business people visited the USA, in an initiative in cooperation with the US Commercial Services. A similar mission will be visiting Europe in a matter of weeks.

These are aspects of a new phase in the IMC’s campaign to improve perceptions of our country, to be intensified in the coming year.

In this regard one feels the need to comment on the persistence in some foreign media on being negative about South Africa. No doubt the Ten Year celebrations made an important contribution to shifting some of this. The ten year stocktaking helped lift perspectives from the day to day details of governance to the progress made in transforming our society. Yet, as further signs of the progress are being manifested, with more indicators of economic success and of South Africa’s contribution to progress in our continent, we find influential international media returning to negative stories. Each of us may have our theories as to why these things should be happening. It is, however, clear that we cannot relax in our efforts to ensure that the world gets a reliable and accurate picture of our country and of the opportunities that it offers to the rest of the world.

The work of the IMC therefore remains of paramount importance to the pursuit of our national interest.

Honourable Members,

These priorities and initiatives will shape the use of the allocated budget of R249,1 million for the coming financial year.

This allocation builds on the 2004/05 allocation of R203,1 million, which was nearly expended in total without any request for rollovers. The relatively small saving of under- 0,15 % or R306 000 is attributed to vacancies in the personnel structure that could not be filled as anticipated as well as resignations that occurred during the year.

The additional allocations in the 2005/6 budget are based on specific priorities which range from transferred functions in the case of the E-Gateway to the introduction of a two monthly popular government publication. Other areas where additional monies have been made available include responsibilities in terms of the Public Access to Information Act; additional costs in terms of the new targets for MPCCs and the regional offices; Learnerships and the 16 Days of Activism Against Violence Against Women and Children.

The funds sought will enable GCIS to intensify and build on what it has done in the past, specifically with the continued support and partnership of the Portfolio Committee on Communications and of Parliament. My appreciation goes to the Chairperson of the Committee and all the Committee members.

I would like to thank all government communicators for their commitment and professionalism in the past year. On their shoulders rests government’s capacity to speak with and to listen to the people of South Africa.

My gratitude also extends to the Members of the International Marketing Council (IMC) and staff of the IMC as well as the members of the Board of the Media Development and Diversity Agency and its staff.

For the contribution that is being made towards the achievement of these goals, and the successful implementation of the priorities and initiatives, I wish to thank the CEO of GCIS, Mr Joel Netshitenzhe, the GCIS Secretariat and all the staff both at the headquarters and in the regions.

I take this opportunity to commend the GCIS budget to the House.

Minister in The Presidency, Dr Essop Pahad

Issued by: Government Communications (GCIS)



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