17 May 2006
By chance, tomorrow marks an anniversary which has correctly but regrettably not been included in the national calendar of high profile national anniversaries.
Eight years ago on 18 May this House gave its assent to the first GCIS Budget Vote, and formally it is the date on which the Department was launched.
This coincidence serves to remind us of the long journey that we have travelled in ensuring strategic content and coherence in government communication, the better to serve the people as demanded by our Constitution.
Critically we 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.
It is accepted without question that good communication lies at the root of success in the fast-moving, global world in which we live - particularly in matters of delivery and development. It fosters the necessary environment for the pursuit of partnerships leading to shared growth and a better life for all.
For those of us who enjoy the freedom that came through struggle, and who today live in our country's Age of Hope, the question must be: to what extent are we acting to build on our country's achievement in order to help ensure that the public is informed about its rights and responsibilities; to what extent are we co-operating to ensure that those who are disadvantaged know about the opportunities that democracy has brought, and are then able to take advantage of them.
The core mandate of Government Communications is to meet the communication and information needs of Government and the Public. The Government's mandate requires that communication should expand access to opportunities and help the people of South Africa to act as their own liberators. It should bring the realities in an emergent and thriving democracy to the attention of the international community. It should promote the renaissance of Africa, including regional integration and the implementation of people-centred development programmes.
In the current period, guided by the popular mandate of the 2004 and 2006 elections, government communication is a critical instrument in harnessing the groundswell of hope and optimism in our nation into concrete action for higher rates of growth and development.
The experience of government over the First Decade of our Freedom has taught us that, for social change to succeed in changing people's lives for the better, it is critical that we should build partnerships across society in a national effort to lift the country to a faster trajectory of development.
In this context, four critical issues in government's programme for the decade will have significant impact on progress towards the society envisioned in our constitution. They are:
- fulfilment of the socio-economic goals defined in government's mandate;
- Accelerated and Shared Growth Initiative for South Africa (AsgiSA) as the focus of a national effort to create employment and fight poverty;
- the formation of new local government with a five-year mandate
- hosting the 2010 Soccer World Cup
The central question of this GCIS Budget Vote debate, therefore, is: what is the GCIS doing to promote the achievement of these common national objectives.
On that day eight years ago when I had the privilege of presenting the plans of Government Communications to use their first budget, I reported that GCIS would “work with the provinces to complete a model for provincial communication structures”. Today I can report with confidence that we have forged a system that integrates provincial government; and a breakthrough has been made in extending the system to the local sphere.
Last week a national conference on local government communication was convened to consolidate a year of provincial workshops in every province that grappled with building local government communication capacity.
Over two hundred municipal communicators as well as many newly elected councillors with responsibility for communication and some municipal managers gathered to deliberate on draft guidelines for a municipal communication system. They also developed a draft communication programme to support the five-year strategic plan for local government and to help communities become more active in their municipalities. Foremost amongst issues in the plan is a mass door-to-door campaign to raise awareness of the priorities in the municipal Integrated Development Plans (IDPs) and to improve the functioning of Ward Committees as principal platforms of communication and governance. Attention was paid to building a network of communicators, councillors, Community Development Workers, social workers and others that are working in partnership to listen to communities and explain how they can change their lives for the better.
At the close of the conference the municipal communicators adopted the ‘Tshwane Declaration', committing themselves to a sustained communication programme over the next five years to advance the development agenda of government in the local sphere. They committed to building a partnership with the public that includes:
- enhancing community participation, and local government accountability and transparency through improved communication
- strengthening local government communication as a development tool
- enhancing service delivery and development programmes through intensified communications support.
There can be no doubt about the significance of this development. In the same measure as national and provincial priorities find expression in the crucible of local activity, so should the broad messages in these other spheres find concrete articulation in local communities.
In this context it is relevant to reflect on the level of participation in the recent local government elections. There were many predictions, especially amongst some media analysts and commentators, of a turbulent local election with low levels of participation and reduced support for the incumbent party. There were suggestions that the levels of protest and dissatisfaction indicated alienation from the democratic system and put a question mark on the country's stability.
But the voting trends and published research conducted before the elections throw a different light on the situation. Not only was registration up, but the turnout of registered voters was also slightly up. As a result 1,3 million more citizens cast votes than in the previous local election. What is more, in many of the wards affected by civic protests turnout was above the national average
This divergence between the analysis of the media experts and the opinions of the citizens should be food for thought. What is clear is that the citizens of this country are deeply committed to our democratic system, and to working with their elected government to improve their lives.
Parallel but intimately related to this initiative to build local government communication capacity, has been the further evolution of the Imbizo programme during the past year.
The Municipal Imbizo Programme, co-ordinated by GCIS, The Presidency and Department of Provincial and Local Government (dplg), brought the executive from all spheres into direct interaction with elected representatives, municipal managers and other officials to identify the concrete things that need to be done to improve provision of services to the public. Combined with interactions with local communities, these izimbizo have created the platform to attend to concrete problems in a concrete way. Virtually all Project Consolidate municipalities were covered, either through District izimbizo of the President and Deputy President or local izimbizo of Ministers and Deputy Ministers.
The National Imbizo Focus Week held a month ago focused on interaction around local programmes of action to promote speedy implementation of government programmes including AsgiSA.
Through this programme we have in actual practice come better to appreciate the dynamic link between communication and project implementation, between information dissemination and development, between knowledge management in communities and people-driven development.
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 each sector of the population.
Language and format is one dimension. The annual mass campaign to popularise Government's Programme of Action for 2006 again has used all official languages – including Braille; it has included a photo story in publications with wide reach especially amongst the poor, and a series of radio dramas in all languages except English.
The placing of photo-stories is part of government's advertising expenditure, trends in which the Portfolio Committee on Communications has for some years shown a keen interest.
I am happy to report that about half of the national departments of government make use of the GCIS bulk-buying facility; and as a result, trends of government advertising expenditure are increasingly matching trends in public media usage, with a focus on those who need government information most, in order to improve their lives.
Preliminary indications from recently conducted research are that the patterns of adspend by government departments that use the GCIS facility are closer to the patterns of public media usage as measured by readership and audiences compared with those that don't. It will therefore be a continuing priority to promote wider use of this facility across government.
Government regards the media as an extremely important institution and a partner in ensuring that citizens have the greatest access possible to information.
The regular media briefings on implementation of the Programme of Action and updating of progress on Government on-line continue to provide the public with factual information on the basis of which analysis and assessment of progress can be made. Content from BuaNews Service continues to gain increasing profile in both domestic and foreign media. Usage of the BuaNews site has increased by some 20% a month since its recent upgrade.
These, then, Honourable Members, are some of the ways in which 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 lowest amongst those most in need of such information.
In order to enhance our reach in this regard, last year we launched the popular government magazine, Vuk'uzenzele. With a circulation of one million copies, the magazine is now in its fifth edition and it has consistently elicited enthusiastic response and requests for more copies than it has been possible to supply. What we can say with confidence is that the practical information it provides in all official languages and Braille is clearly meeting a public need.
The Batho Pele Gateway Call-Centre is used by Vuk'uzenzele as a back-office to provide its readers with a one-stop source of further information. This has increased calls to the centre many times over, particularly amongst African-language users. Most calls by far are either from people wanting to know where to get copies or seeking further information about opportunities and programmes covered in the magazine.
The mass communication campaign to broaden access to economic opportunities continues, using a second edition of the core publication also in all languages. The information is being disseminated through workshops across the country. The 13-part TV series on economic opportunities, flighted on SABC2, Azishe Ke!, which was broadcast from October 2005 to January 2006, will be re-broadcast in October this year.
The Multipurpose Community Centres (MPCCs) provide an important and expanding infrastructure for people to access government services and information about opportunities. By the end of March 2006, 88 MPCCs were in operation, and we look forward to celebrating during the course of this year the 100th MPCC to come into operation.
As the MPCCs are rolled-out, research has been conducted in 66 MPCCs on their impact and functioning. Centre managers have been trained in customer care and Batho Pele principles of service delivery. The goal remains an MPCC in each local municipality by 2014. Better funding mechanisms for this programme are being finalised in discussion with National Treasury.
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.
GCIS therefore places a high premium on partnering communicators in the private sector, non-governmental and community-based organisations and State-owned Enterprises in addressing the communication needs of Second Economy communities. One of the critical questions we have posed is whether as GCIS we do fully understand the dynamics of life in these communities. To take this matter further, and in addition to utilising the practical experience of our operatives on the ground, we are planning a workshop of all role-players to see how the many current initiatives can be expanded and what new approaches we can adopt to extend our reach.
Part of the communication partnership finds expression in the Media Development and Diversity Agency (MDDA) which is now three years old. We are proud that the MDDA is succeeding in doing what it was established by law to do, namely providing support to the development of the small media sector.
I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the very great contribution that was made by its first CEO, Libby Lloyd, who with the support of the Board and the staff put the agency on a sound footing. The way it has conducted its business has gained wide respect, including from those who doubted the feasibility of this initiative. We wish the newly appointed CEO, Mr Lumka Mtimde, and staff the very best in continuing this important work.
The MDDA was able to report to the Portfolio Committee before this debate that it had complied with all the regulations and requirements of the Act; that it had disbursed all the funds it had received from government; that since 2003 it had approved support for 97 media projects across all provinces; and that it had been able to continue to complement financial support with quite extensive support-in-kind by tapping networks of expertise.
The process towards the transformation of the marketing, advertising and communications industry has moved steadily forward following a ceremonial signing of its Transformation Charter in November 2005. Since then work has been done to bring still further role-players into the charter process, while ensuring that its content complies with Phase two of the Codes released by the dti in December 2005. This meant, for instance, incorporating into the Charter the industry's target for completing the first round of implementing the Charter earlier by 2014 compared to the dti 2016 timeframe.
The Monitoring and Steering Committee is finalising, in consultation with the dti, a draft constitution for a Charter Council and its funding. We are confident that, in the coming few months, the committee will be ready to submit the Charter to the Minister of Trade and Industry for approval and gazetting for public comment.
The Academy of Government Communication and Marketing, a partnership with Unilever, the Mandela Rhodes Foundation and Wits School of Public & Development Management, this week began teaching its third intake of 40 students from all spheres of government and some state-owned enterprises. The demand for places on the course remains high and as the initiative enters its third year the partnership will be taking stock of progress and charting the way forward.
As already noted, the hosting of the first African World Cup in 2010 represents a great opportunity for South Africa.
After consultation with the Federation of International Football Association(FIFA) and the 2010 Local Organising Committee, the 2010 National Communication Partnership held a launch workshop in November last year with the support of about 150 delegates from public and private sectors, representing the spectrum of communication disciplines. Working through the International Marketing Council and GCIS, the partnership is preparing for the time, at the end of the 2006 Soccer World Cup in Germany, when South Africa's communicators can make the most of the communication opportunities of the first African World Cup to build national unity and African solidarity; to market the country and continent; and to foster the climate for faster and shared growth.
At the same time the experience of other countries hosting very large events tells us that there is a premium in such situations on ensuring co-ordinated and consistent communication about the state of readiness and the myriad of opportunities the event offers. From our own recent experience we can learn how narrow communication can undermine the interests of South Africa, how much more will this be the case when the whole world focuses on South Africa?
The IMC, which is a key element of the 2010 Partnership, is itself a partnership of various sectors of our society to ensure that our country‘s communicators in all walks objectively reflect the realities of our society, to ensure that as a people we close the gap between perceptions and reality in this regard, so that the world can appreciate all those attributes that make South Africa, as the IMC puts it so aptly, “Alive with Possibility”.
During the past year the IMC has made progress in its mandate to engage with stakeholders and other role-players to promote co-ordination and coherence in branding the country. This has included important work with a number of provinces to ensure that the branding of provinces is aligned with that of the country.
The emphasis of the IMC's work has decidedly shifted to the international stage, both in intensity and scope. In this regard it is most welcome that it is extending its country brand manager formula, initiated in Britain and the United States of America (USA), to a third continent, with the appointment soon of a country brand manager in India. There the emphasis will be less on correcting a false image of our country, but rather of ensuring that investment and tourism opportunities are taken up by one of the emerging giants of the world economy.
The task of shifting negative perceptions of our country is one that will take time, effort and skill. The commitment of the IMC to put AsgiSA at the centre of its marketing campaign will advance that task by helping to focus international attention on the strengths of our economy and the opportunities of participating in our programme of accelerated and shared growth. Indeed, through its work, the IMC is emerging as one of the vital weapons in the armoury of our quest for national reconstruction and development.
Progress in the work of the IMC depends also on how South Africans deal with the kinds of events that are so easily turned and manipulated to confirm negativity about the country. Do we take a spike of high profile crime incidents occurring in the context of a positive trend and suggest that the country is in an upward spiral of crime? Do we take the trial of a prominent member of society as a rupture in our body politic or as an affirmation of the strength of our democracy? Do we take the exposure of malfeasance in the public and private sector as a reflection of the character of our society or as the exception to the rule; the exposure of such activities being a pointer to our open democracy?
These questions are challenges for all of us, both media and society.
What has been outlined is both an account of the use we made of the funds allocated last financial year and our priorities for 2006/07.
The budget allocation for 2005/06 of R249,130 million was spent as planned. There was however an expected saving in the budget for Vuk'uzenzele, based on the fact that we only received notification of the allocation in February last year. Even so, we managed to establish the magazine and produce four editions in the first financial year.
The allocated budget for 2006/07 is R288,037 million representing an addition to the baseline of R38,9 million. These additional funds will go towards: the Government Magazine Vuk'uzenzele, the Media Development & Diversity Agency, the Multi-Purpose Community Centres programme and the International Marketing Council.
We are very grateful and appreciative of the work and support provided by the Portfolio Committee on Communications and in particular the former Chairperson of the Committee, Mr Kgaogelo Lekgoro. We wish Mr Lekgoro well with his new responsibilities as a member of the executive in Gauteng Province.
I take this opportunity to express my gratitude and appreciation to the members of the Board and staff at the International Marketing Council, in particular the Chairperson Ms Wendy Luhabe and the CEO, Ms Yvonne Johnson, as well as the members of the Board and staff at the Media Development and Diversity Agency for their tireless work and commitment.
I should like to offer a word of warmest congratulations to Mr Joel Netshitenzhe and his gallant GCIS team for the impressive way they have run this crucial Government operation over the past eight years.
Finally, I commend the GCIS budget to the House.
Minister in The Presidency, Dr Essop Pahad
Issued by: Government Communications (GCIS)