Essop Pahad - GCIS budget vote 2008/9

14 May 2008

14 May 2008

Madam Speaker
Honourable Members

On May 18, 1998, this House approved the first GCIS Budget Vote, and this pioneering department was formally launched. As we look back over the ten years, and as we realise that this government’s term will be ending within the next year, we can reflect on our successes as a country; far reaching, unprecedented, deep-rooted, society-changing successes in which we in the executive, the legislative and the administrative branches of government can all take pride. We reflect on our success as a government not from a partisan point of view but inclusively, to ensure that the track record of this government is understood and recognised.

Today we live in a stable democracy; we have a Constitution that is regarded as one of the best in the world, we have macro-economic stability, budget surpluses which are being used to improve the socio-economic conditions of all South Africans, especially the poor, and we are going to host the most spectacular and successful Soccer World Cup - ever. As a government we have a responsibility to communicate our successes to our people and to the world. We have not only good grounds but a duty to do this, in the interests of balance – bearing in mind the nature and intent of attacks unjustly launched on us locally and abroad.

In 1994, we understood that we needed both political and economic stability to undertake the enormous task of dealing with social and economic inequalities. Prudent fiscal management by the state including debt reduction was an essential precondition for freeing up much-needed fiscal resources for social development. We understood that inflation hurts the poor the most as does high debt to GDP ratios. So pursuing macro-economic stability was essential to creating a better life for all South Africans.

The International Monetary Fund in its 2007 Report on South Africa was of this view: “South Africa’s recent economic performance has been strong. Real GDP growth has been robust, employment has risen, the fiscal position has strengthened further … but unemployment and poverty remain major challenges”.

These challenges should impel us to redouble our efforts at poverty eradication. To date, despite the magnitude of these challenges, we need to reflect on what our government has accomplished. The results of the Income and Expenditure Survey 2005/2006 (released this year) show that:

  1. Real per capita income increased in all income deciles from 2000 to 2005-06, which can only be good for the economy and society – though the increases were uneven;
  2. Social grants play an important role in reducing inequality as they constitute a major source of income for the poor;
  3. Real income per capita increased at above-average rates for the poorest 30% of the population as well as the richest 10% contributing significantly to improvements in the socio-economic condition of the poorest in our country.
  4. Today over 11 million South Africans receive some form of social grants which ameliorate the impact of poverty.

We can also be proud that we live in a South Africa that cherishes the rule of law and protects the fundamental rights and freedoms of its citizenry - which includes the right to know what their government is doing on their behalf. This right to know is intimately linked to freedom of the media which we also cherish and protect in South Africa. We hold this view even where media might, wittingly or unwittingly, get it wrong.

So grant me the latitude of a personal interjection. A well known weekly paper last week reported that “… Presidency strongman Essop Pahad … angrily faced down MPs in a marathon study group meeting that lasted until just midnight, according to a person who was present” (Mail and Guardian, May 9 to 15, 2008, p 6). On Wednesday night last week I did not attend the study group. I had dinner with relatives and after dinner went home. So I was able miraculously, to achieve a state of “bilocation” – to be in two places at the same time!

But I digress.  At the recent Heads of State Progressive Governance Summit in London, there was a great deal of intense discussion about the critical challenges facing us in the contemporary era. There was agreement that the issues we need to address and solve collectively cut deeply across national boundaries but that our collective capacity to deal with them is weak. The four most critical challenges we face today are all very much a function of globalisation and they are: Global, regional and national poverty and unemployment; the current international monetary crisis occasioned by the sub-prime debacle in the United States – the first since the Great Depression and monetary crisis of Europe in the 1930s; the re-emergence of food inflation and the potential for global food shortages; and, fourth but not last in importance, environmental degradation and global warming.  These four challenges find different national forms of expression but the reach of each is undoubtedly global.

We in South Africa recognise that we operate in this global environment and that there are a range of other challenges we face at this juncture, including:

  1. Inflation – and in particular the global trend to higher food prices;
  2. Higher crude oil prices which are clearly rippling through domestic economies;
  3. The slowdown of the economies of the North;
  4. Higher than expected domestic interest rates;
  5. Currency fluctuations;
  6. Sectoral skills shortages;
  7. Load shedding and its impact on production, productivity, trade and commerce; and
  8. A decline in our exports (except for primary products).

Despite these challenges, we are confident that, while South Africa’s economic growth for this year will slow a bit, growth will still be range bound. We need to cut through the noise of pessimism and communicate this message. South Africa is not entering a recession and we will be ready to host the 2010 World Cup. We need to communicate, communicate and communicate some more.

It is imperative for a democratic 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 identify the challenges we face, we need to ensure that the citizenry know their rights, can access services and know what is happening at the local level. In turn, we need to hear about the challenges the people face, about the blockages to service delivery, so that government and other agencies can make informed decisions about public policy and strategic state intervention at the local level.  The focus is on direct, unfettered and unmediated communication. It is imperative for the state and for Parliamentarians to hear directly from the people, for both derive their legitimacy directly from the will of the people.

For this we need a strong GCIS. From its inception with a staff complement of just over 300 GCIS has grown to over 400 staff members with responsibilities ranging from developing strategies for government communications to ensuring that all government communicators develop their communications strategies. 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 to become active agents informing decision making.

The priorities of GCIS for 2008/09 to 2010/11 and beyond are to provide communication on mandated targets of halving poverty and unemployment by 2014, realising the Millennium Development Goals, progress with respect to the APRM Programme of Action, the Accelerated and Shared Growth Initiative for South Africa targets, hosting the 2010 FIFA World CupTM and the Five-Year Strategic Agenda for Local Government Communication. Greater emphasis in this first year of the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) will also be on providing communication support to the Apex priorities mentioned by President Thabo Mbeki in his State of the Nation Address on 8 February 2008. GCIS has identified four communication priorities:

  1. Building communication partnerships
  2. Expanding access to opportunities
  3. Promoting continental institutions and programmes
  4. Enhancing the government communication system

Central to the implementation of the priorities is the continued building and strengthening of communication partnerships. Fostering the Partnership against AIDS has been a commitment of GCIS since the partnership was established in 1998. The communication partnership of government and civil society has resulted in the establishment of various task teams, including the communication task team convened by the GCIS and Soul City. The team has to date produced a simplified version of the National Strategic Plan for HIV and AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections for 2007 – 2011 (NSP) and translated it into all official languages.
Our partnership with civil society to eliminate violence against women and children continues under the auspices of the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence against Women and Children Campaign, which constitutes a foundation for the 365 Days Programme and National Action Plan. Both these campaigns are proof that the partnership between civil society and government is critical if we are to address issues of gender abuse, which wreck the lives of children and women.

Communication for the 2010 World Cup is being used to foster a new level of partnership and integration between the GCIS, key government departments, communication agencies and the private sector. The department has been facilitating the 2010 National Communication Partnership, a voluntary association of public- and private-sector communicators working together to take advantage of the 2010 World Cup opportunities for the country and continent. GCIS has upgraded the 2010 Unit to Chief Directorate level to help improve coordination and cooperation amongst key role-players.

In 2007, the partnership started to link up with communicators on the continent, including through the African Editors’ Forum and African Union of Broadcasters. This will facilitate communication of an African World Cup and will also assist with long-term communication of the African Agenda. The annual Partnership Conference is scheduled for July 2008.

The 2010 website, launched on 7 June 2007, is linked to FIFA. During the second quarter of 2007/08, a 1,000-day countdown to 2010 was done with 40 community radio stations through live, phone-in broadcasts. A government information booklet was printed and distributed. The mass publication of one million copies in all official languages and in Braille has been produced and distributed. In 2008/09, our 2010 Unit will contribute towards an information document, which will communicate the benefits of hosting the 2010 World Cup. Our work on 2010 is strengthened by the establishment of the Marketing and Communication Task Team that profiles the benefits to the country and the nation as a whole of hosting a World Cup.

The Izimbizo Programme continues to demonstrate the value of unmediated, face-to-face communication as the most appropriate method for communication across government.

The transformation of the marketing, advertising and communication   industry has made progress in 2007-08. It is envisaged that the gazetting of the Charter for the industry will be finalised in the 2008 calendar year. GCIS is also a provider of bulk media strategy and buying on behalf of participating national government departments.  In this role, the GCIS facilitated the expenditure of R205 698 448,55 during the 2007-08 fiscal period, including media expenditure and related production costs. The largest proportion of the media expenditure accrued to radio (44.2%), followed by newspapers (22.8%), television (22.0%), outdoor media (7.4%), direct and specialist media (3.7%), magazines (1.8%), cinema and internet (both at 0.01%). Savings accruing to government departments as a result of their participation were more than 39% of expenditure and were reinvested into government communications.

In collaboration with National Treasury and the Association for Communication and Advertising, the GCIS also developed Best Practice Guidelines for the Procurement of Advertising to facilitate participation by emerging Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment companies in government contracts.

The GCIS public entities – the Media Development and Diversity Agency (MDDA) and the International Marketing Council (IMC) – are also making great strides in fostering partnerships in developing media diversity and marketing the SA Brand, respectively. 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.

The primary focus of the MDDA and the IMC is to ensure alignment between the vision and mission of the agencies and of GCIS. There is also an urgent need to finalise the shareholder compact which addresses governance matters, including the clarification of roles and responsibilities between GCIS and the agencies.

The second communication priority is to disseminate information, to help overcome the exclusion or marginalisation of a substantial part of our society through shifting towards media with wider reach and by creating new platforms and products with wider appeal.

One of the GCIS’s core mandates is broadening the dissemination of the Programme of Action information as outlined in the President’s State of the Nation Address by introducing additional information communication platforms and mechanisms. It will include the development of material that will target specific audiences, such as women and youth. In line with the Languages Act, the department is setting up a language unit to extend its translation capacity of all communication products.

In relation to second-economy initiatives, a sound partnership between GCIS and departments within the Economic Cluster has seen the Economic Opportunities Project being more successful. The 13-part TV series will continue this year with innovative stories of ordinary people who have benefited from the economic opportunities offered by government to improve their lives. 

Vuk’uzenzele continues to make a positive impact on many of our people, with each edition eliciting a wave of enquiries and great interest as evidenced by letters and messages. Four editions of 1,6 million copies, including the Braille versions of each, were printed and distributed. This year, GCIS will continue with the same print run except for the two-million post-State of the Nation bumper edition out this month.

The use of communication platforms and products targeting Living Standard Measure (LSM) 1 – 6 groups continues. A key drive has been the development and distribution of products that target people living in the second economy. The products include using the South African Broadcasting Corporation’s African language radio stations and community radio stations for adverts and dramas; placing photo stories in the print media; the printing and distribution of the Programme of Action and Imbizo Junction booklet, covering the content of the 2008 State of the Nation Address, the Budget Vote Speech and progress with respect to the Programme of Action.

The roll-out of Thusong Service Centres (formerly multi-purpose community centres) to broaden public access to government information and services at community level is on track to meet the target of at least one per district municipality by 2014. By the end of March 2008, 27 new centres were operational, bringing the total to 123 operational centres.

In addition to the operationalisation of the new centres, the Communication Officers in the various centres implemented 3,396 development communication projects and campaigns including izimbizo, mass campaign on economic opportunities, 16 Days of Activism campaign, etc.

The third priority is to promote awareness of and engagement with institutions and programmes on continental and regional integration and development. This will enhance appreciation of the intimate link between our own future and that of the rest of the continent. It includes ensuring that the public are kept informed of South Africa’s efforts to contribute to the resolution of conflict and the promotion of peace, democracy and development.

Madam Speaker, we must as a government and a society condemn all acts of xenophobia including those that occurred in recent weeks and days. We need to understand that xenophobia has historically been used by right-wing populist movements to mobilise particularly the lumpen-proletariat against minority groups in society. Political mobilisation on the basis of xenophobia poses grave threats to progressive forces in our society and to our democracy.

We would not be here today were it not for the tremendous sacrifices made by our brothers and sisters in the front line states. They treated all of us in exile with the utmost respect and dignity.  Xenophobia and the related acts of violence against our fellow African brothers and sisters have no place in a democratic South Africa; they must be condemned in the strongest terms. I wish to extend my sympathies and condolences to the families of those who have been injured and killed in these dastardly acts.

GCIS continues to work with the Department of Foreign Affairs to raise awareness of developments regarding the African Union and its institutions as well as the Southern African Development Community (SADC). GCIS, through the International Relations, Peace and Security Cluster, profiles the trade agreement activities within the SADC region.

The Media Awards are currently in their fourth year. In 2008/09, GCIS will encourage the stakeholders in the media industry and civil society to review the purpose of these awards to ensure that a balance of nominations is maintained.

The fourth priority, to strengthen the working interface between government and the media, is a perennial challenge. This year GCIS will endeavour to improve access and interaction on information, focusing on the work of government so that journalists are better informed of government’s plans in order to be better conduits of information to the public. The South African National Editors’ Forum and the Foreign Correspondents’ Association of Southern Africa meetings with the Executive, which are scheduled for later this year, will be important to achieving better relations with the media. GCIS will continue to pay attention to improving relations with the media, including inculcating professionalism among communicators. A meeting between SANEF and Cabinet (June 2007); and a workshop between the media and government (September 2007) contributed towards strengthening relationships. Networking sessions between the media and government were held in September 2007 and February 2008, and more media networking sessions and workshops are planned.

Fostering a positive communication environment is one of our core priorities.  The use of BuaNews stories by both community and mainstream media continues to increase. GCIS has signed seven agreements with international news agencies to exchange news and information about the country and the continent. Tomorrow GCIS will launch the new Bua Features which will profile articles and commentary on issues of critical importance facing the nation.

A review of the functioning of the government-wide communication system is in its second phase. The results will inform interventions required to strengthen GCIS so as to fulfil its mandate more effectively. The system in the main continues to improve in terms of co-ordination and ensures integrated planning and implementation around communication priorities.

GCIS continues to work with provinces and the South African Local Government Association to strengthen the local government communication system. To date, provincial core team workshops have been held in almost all provinces to implement the guidelines adopted. Flowing from the provincial workshops held, 34 communication strategies were developed for certain district municipalities.

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 in 2006-07. The budget allocation for 2007-08 was R384,012 million and by March 2008, through close management of expenditure, GCIS had spent R380,915 million, which is 99,1% of the overall budget.
Today we are presenting a budget of R418,255 million – an increase of R28,702 million  for the 2008-09 fiscal year. Over the MTEF period, overall spending is estimated to increase at an average annual nominal growth of 9,8%, mainly due to GCIS and IMC activities in preparation for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, as well as government’s initiatives in second-economy interventions.

Our government’s communication strategy must be coherent and directed at realising the right of our people to information, the realisation of our national development objectives, the promotion of social cohesion and the empowerment of our people.  We must, all of us, actively participate in the debates and decisions about our collective future. To do this our people need information and they need their voices to be heard. This entails two-way communication where we account to the people and we hear from them. Participatory democracy places the people at the centre of the historic project of transformation. 

I would 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 the staff and the Boards of the IMC and the MDDA for their hard work and dedication. I would also like to thank the staff at all the Thusong Centres for all their efforts at bringing government closer to the people.  And finally I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Portfolio Committee for all their hard work and dedication over the past year.

I commend the GCIS budget to the House.

Thank you.

Minister in The Presidency, Dr Essop Pahad

Issued by: Government Communications (GCIS)



Share this page
Similar categories to explore