15 May 2007
The core mandate of Government Communications is to meet the communication and information needs of government and the public, such that communication expands access to information and opportunities to enable the people of South Africa to become active agents informing decision making.
Communicating to realise the People’s Contract promotes the rule of law, inclusive political processes, good governance, accountability and transparency. It builds trust and an enabling political system that promotes debate and citizen participation in informed decision making. It encourages an active and engaged citizenry, one that is well informed, knowledgeable, politically literate and confident of asserting its right to equitable service delivery.
It is important to stress the total context in which two way communication occurs, because communication is about what is said and what is heard and interpreted as being said, it is contextual and is mediated by linguistic, cultural, socio-economic and political processes. It is verbal and non verbal, it is gendered, it has cross-cultural implications and it can further or set back social cohesion in a diverse society like ours. In this sense, communication and the mediums through which communication occurs are intensely political.
In South Africa, communication is not only or always through the mainstream media. Certainly such media play a vital role in information and communication flow. But the developmental state cannot rely solely on private mediums of communication for information and to communicate directly with the people.
The government has the obligation to inform the people about what progress has been made, and about the challenges the implementation of its mandate has encountered. For these reasons among others, the developmental state in South Africa pioneered a number of significant innovations to enable it to communicate directly with the people – most notably the Izimbizo programme and taking Parliament to the People.
The Imbizo remains an expression of true participatory democracy, it has strengthened the partnership between government and the people, including local and provincial stakeholders who have in many instances shared with government their ideas on how best to address some of the barriers impeding service delivery.
In the past 13 years we have moved from a highly closed and structured communication system where information was constructed and filtered and used to negate and stymie democracy. Under apartheid the right to know was for all intents and purposes non-existent. Information was disinformation, designed to maintain repression and reproduce racism as an ideology and racial discrimination as a system. Today we celebrate an open communication system.
Communication to realise the People’s Contract is not only about telling the people what services are available to them, it is not about voluminous information flow; it is about ensuring that the voiceless, the poor, the rural marginalised, women, children and people with disabilities are given voice. We must give voice to the powerless, providing the poor with the means to participate in democracy in tangible ways.
Communication to realise the People’s Contract requires active listening and it binds government and citizens in a pact of mutual accountability where political decision makers have to engage in a dialogue with, listen to and respect the wisdom of all including the poor, and then to use the knowledge gained to develop more informed public policy and thereby improve the conditions of life of all.
This people-centred approach to government communication means that we need to take a comprehensive approach. It requires respecting the constitutional rights to freedom of speech and access to information; being creative in our use of information and communication technologies; using multiple, varied and diverse mediums of communication to reach our people and in particular to reach women, people with disabilities, children and youth; to inform them and to hear from them, and to foster their increased participation in all aspects of South African life.
It is imperative for a young developmental state like ours to intensify open and unmediated communication with our people. We need to communicate our successes in improving the quality of life of our people, we need to ensure that the citizenry know their rights, can access services and know what is happening at the local level. In turn, the developmental state needs to hear about the challenges the people face, about the blockages to service delivery, so that it can make informed decisions about public policy and strategic state intervention at the local level.
The stress is on direct, unfettered and unmediated communication. It is imperative for the state to hear directly from the people for it derives its legitimacy directly from the will of the people and because the People’s Contract continually has to be validated by interactions with the people.
The more the people speak directly to the state about their quality of life, about conditions in their community, the more communication contributes to our democracy, development, governance, peace and prosperity. What many call ‘strategic communication’, is the managing of communication to build public understanding and trust between the developmental state and the citizenry. It is a necessary and legitimate task of government, and this House should be in no doubt about its importance.
But we must avoid the temptation to use communication to manipulate and to deceive, and to hide that which is uncomfortable. We must avoid the excesses of spin, which is communication that generates cynicism and increases public distemper. We must promote democratic communication that is open, vital, inclusive and reaches into all the corners of our country. In this endeavour we must actively promote community based communication mediums – whether radio stations, newspapers or localized government publications in plain language and in Braille.
Good communication enhances the legitimacy and credibility of the state. So the developmental state must strengthen all the mechanisms through which that communication occurs.
The Government maintains that our development needs to be pro-poor, and people-centred. This is the heart of the People’s Contract. Government has a responsibility to report on what progress it has or has not made with respect to its 2014 promises of halving poverty and unemployment, its electoral promises, its other national and international commitments to build a socially cohesive, non-racist, non-sexist democratic and prosperous South Africa – to ensure the progressive realisation of socio-economic rights, the Government Programme of Action, the Millennium Development Goals, and the soon-to-be-implemented African Peer Review Mechanism Programme of Action, which despite media reports is going very well for South Africa. All of this requires building a strong, comprehensive communications systems so as to have an informed and politically literate citizenry ready and willing to engage in debate about our national development objectives.
Government has adopted a multi-faceted approach to communication to ensure that people in every sector of our society in all their varied conditions do indeed in practical ways enjoy both access to information and the right to information.
This requires a continuous effort to find ways to enable the public and communities to access information for development, ensuring that such information is in the language they prefer, in forms that are accessible and through mediums that reach them.
It has required a continuous expansion of communication about access to opportunities so that citizens can better their lives by participating in government programmes designed to overcome the structural legacy of marginalisation. In a society which requires the joint action of all of society in practical action to undo the inequalities and divisions of the past, it has required the building of partnership through a social compact with the people. And where there is contestation of government policies and record - as there will and should always be - it requires engagement so that the public, the commentators and the media can make their judgments and conclusions on an informed basis.
Today we can reflect on how far we have come in the realisation of the People’s Contract through communication, and we can say with pride that, increasingly, our people are accessing information of all kinds from government. However, our own research tells us that many of the marginalised still do not have adequate access to regular information from government - about those public and private sector programmes and initiatives which could improve their conditions of life and living.
Much as we have an altered information and communication landscape, we must acknowledge that our communication efforts can be improved.
I raise these points deliberately so that we can assess the extent to which government, led by GCIS, needs to intensify its work of informing South Africans so that they become an informed and empowered citizenry. It is against this background that GCIS must strengthen its work to fulfil its commitment to inform and to communicate on behalf of government.
GCIS needs to centre its efforts on equitable access to government information to strengthen rights, improve service delivery and deliver on national development imperatives, for this is the key challenge for government in this Second Decade of Freedom.
The enhancement of existing diverse platforms to expand access to information has continued in the past year with emphasis on reaching sectors of society with the least access to mainstream media. The increased use of radio has ensured a wider reach of information. Innovative products such as radio dramas, photo stories and simple guides outlining Government’s Programme of Action need to be developed and distributed in all official languages. These approaches will be sustained and strengthened during this year.
Local governments are also now committed to building partnership with the public that enhance community participation, and local government accountability and transparency through improved communication.
Amongst the new initiatives is the adaptation to radio of the TV series Azishe Ke! produced and broadcast last year to expand access to information about economic opportunities provided by second economy initiatives and programmes. These episodes will go out on the public broadcast radio stations in all languages, reinforcing workshops designed to disseminate the information in a practical environment at community level.
Vuk’uzenzele, our popular magazine - continues to extend its reach into second economy communities. It profiles real stories of people who have initiated projects with government support. The demand and popularity of Vuk’uzenzele, continues unabated and the print run will increase this year from 1,2 million to 1,5 million. I should add that as the Minister with special responsibility for government’s programmes concerning people with disabilities, it has been especially rewarding to see the reaction of blind people to the Braille edition of Vuk’uzenzele.
Critical to bringing information closer to where communities live is the expansion of the infrastructure of accesses to information, in particular the roll-out of Thusong Service Centres - the new name for the multi-purpose community centres (MPCCs). Within weeks we will be celebrating the operationalisation of the one hundredth Centre. But while we are on track to meet our target of at least one Thusong Service Centre in every municipality by 2014, much more is needed to bring information closer to where people live. So even where there are no formal Thusong Service Centres, GCIS is working with other providers of information, ranging from police stations to council offices, to establish Thusong Information Points– so far agreement has been reached on over 500 such information points.
GCIS is also paying greater attention to improving quality of service. Research has provided insight into the challenges at existing centres and this will help ensure that the new centres address issues such as opening times and the availability of all critical services to communities who need them.
We can expect GCIS to continue mobilising partnerships for communication and action, intensifying its work through campaigns such as imbizo; mobilisation of sectors in managing HIV and AIDS; co-ordination of second economy communication; interventions within ASGISA, 2010 FIFA World Cup communication. Such partnerships and networks enable us to work together to speed up our advance towards a better life for all.
Some of our most important communication partnerships have matured from GCIS programmes or projects into institutions in their own right.
Through the Media Diversity and Development Agency (MDDA), government and the big print and broadcast media houses have contributed to developing pluralism and diversity in the media and the mediums of communication. This will change the media landscape by bringing new resources and skills into the small media sector. With a few years of experience already under its belt, the MDDA has come to understand the need to make a difference to the conditions under which projects operate, including creating regional media hubs and developing larger-scale training and mentoring programmes. The passing of the Electronic Communications Act brings the prospect of a considerable increase in MDDA funding and a challenge of ensuring that its expansion benefits print as much as broadcast media.
The transformation of the marketing, advertising and communication industry is moving to a point where it has become institutionalised. The Transformation Charter is now aligned to the Second-Phase Broad-based Black Economic Empowerment Codes of Good Practice and we expect to see the establishment of the Marketing, Advertising and Communication Transformation Charter Council by the end of this year. And those involved in the process have worked together to develop and introduce Best Practice Guidelines for the Procurement of Advertising to facilitate participation by emerging BEE companies in government contracts.
The partnership of GCIS, Unilever Foundation and the Mandela Rhodes Foundation has established and funded the Academy in Government Communication and Marketing, being taught at the University of Witwatersrand School of Public and Development Management. It is now teaching its fourth intake of students, raising the skills and professionalism of government communicators so that the public is indeed better informed. Given the growing demand for this programme, GCIS is currently engaged in discussions about the possibility of expanding this initiative.
Madam Speaker, during the past year the International Marketing Council (IMC) has been registered as a public entity, and has forged a close working relationship with the dti which has resulted in the hiring of a joint brand manager. The IMC worked with the dti on a very successful mission to the United States. It also hosted 14 top editors from major media from around the world who engaged Government and leading communicators on news selection so as to create a more balanced picture of the African continent.
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. Brand integration and alignment to Brand South Africa is in the final stages in Gauteng and Eastern Cape.
The emphasis of the IMC’s work has decidedly shifted to the international stage. In this regard it is most welcome that it extended its country brand manager formula, initiated in Britain and the United States of America, to India. A brand equity study first conducted in 2003 valued the South African Brand at R379,5 billion; today it is valued at R516,6 billion – a direct result of the of the work done by the IMC to elevate awareness of Brand South Africa.
Madam Speaker, communication in all these spheres to ensure a better informed and empowered citizenry, communicating to achieve our national development objectives in partnership with the people, civil society organisations and the private sector, requires both vigorous political will and increased resources.
Since GCIS was established the budget allocated to it has, thanks to the support of the Portfolio Committee and Parliament, grown from R48, 7 million (in 1998/99) to R294 580 million (2006/07). Today we are presenting a budget of R375 812m (2007/08) a further increase of 22% (excluding the once-off allocations such as the contribution to the Non-Statutory Force pensions).
If examined in detail it will be seen that this latest increase – like the earlier ones – arises out of the expansion of operations by GCIS; the IMC and the MDDA as they jointly work to implement the communication imperatives and fulfil the commitments of democracy.
GCIS is able to report that, on average, 51% of its budget is spent on personnel due to the upgrading of provincial offices. Its operational budget is aligned to its priorities - 32% of GCIS’s operational budget over the period has been directed at the production and dissemination of information; 9, 5% has been allocated towards the research projects that enhance the quality of the information and communication methods; 13% has been utilised for the running cost of the Communication officers in the Regions; 39% has been allocated to the administrative cost of the department; and the remaining 6, 45% was reserved for the maintenance of capital items.
With all these allocations, GCIS is happy to report that all the allocated funds were fully utilised except for the 2005/06 fiscal year when it had to roll over approximately R4m of the allocated budget reserved for the production of the Government magazine.
In 2004/05 financial year GCIS recorded a total of R95m worth of media space bought on behalf of government, resulting in a saving of approximately 12%. In the 2006/07 fiscal year GCIS purchased on behalf of government a total of R115m media space resulting in approximately 13,5% saving due to the negotiated contract discount.
In addition, in the past two years GCIS through the economic cluster has been able to negotiate joint projects that further empower the second economy sector.
Each department in the Economic cluster contributed its R250 000 toward a joint project of developing an information booklet which was to be distributed to communities on how to access economic opportunities, as well as a 13 series television broadcast profiling the success stories of small development projects of communities. GCIS contributed approximately R1 million to this project and was able to lever a further R5 million in resources from other departments to fund the project.
GCIS’s internship programme continues to grow with fifty-five (55) interns from different colleges placed at the GCIS, and 10 learners on a Marketing Communications learnership programme. When the learners complete the programme in June they will go to their different provinces and continue with their practicum until December 2007. For this programme, the organisation budgeted R903 000.00.
GCIS, the IMC, SA Tourism and the communication unit of the 2010 Local Organising Committee are all working together to develop and implement a sound 2010 communication plan, and to co-ordinate all the 2010 communication messages. We are fully confident that, despite what some sceptics may be saying, South Africa will be ready and we will host the best World Cup ever.
Honourable Members, what has been outlined is both an account of the use GCIS made of the funds allocated last financial year and its priorities for 2007-08.
In conclusion let me say once more that our Government’s communication strategy must be one that is coherent and directed at the realisation of the People’s Contract, the realisation of our national development objectives, the promotion of social cohesion and the empowerment of our people. The days of one-way communication in South Africa are gone. There are fewer actions nobler than giving voice to the voiceless.
I would like to thank Joel Netshitenzhe and Tony Trew for their dedication and immense contribution to the work of government and for strengthening the GCIS. Joel Netshitenzhe now designates all his time as the head of PCAS in The Presidency and Tony Trew will be retiring from government service very soon.
I would also like to thank the GCIS staff and in particular Themba Maseko and the senior management for their hard work. In addition I would like to thank Yvonne Johnson, the CEO of the IMC, Wendy Luhabe the Chairperson of the IMC and the entire Board for their efforts. And I would like to thank Lumko Mtimde, the CEO of the MDDA, Kanyi Mkonza the Chairperson of the MDDA and the Board and staff of the MDDA. Finally, I would like to thank the staff at all the Thusong Centres for all their efforts at bringing government closer to the people. I also want to take this opportunity to thank the Portfolio Committee on Communications for all their hard work.
I take this opportunity to commend the GCIS budget to the House.
Minister in The Presidency, Dr Essop Pahad
Issued by: Government Communications (GCIS)