25 February 2004
Introduction to Programme
Friends, comrades: Most people know what it is like to be sent from one place to another to get government information and services. It can afflict all in society, but it bears down most heavily on certain critically important groups of our people. It is perhaps worst in areas where distances are vast and travelling becomes expensive. People who are already amongst the poorest in this country then carry this cost. It should not be the duty of citizens to go to such lengths to access what is, after all, their democratic right. President Thabo Mbeki has long supported the idea of one-stop government service and information centres where long delays and travelling can be cut. He has tramped the length and breadth of our country to spread this message, and it is being heeded.
One of the ways this is being done is by establishing Multi-purpose Community Centres (MPCCs) across South Africa, a programme that first began at Tombo in the Eastern Cape in December 1999. Since then a successful rollout of MPCCs has occurred nationwide with forty-six (46) MPCCs now existing in all provinces.
The Alexandra MPCC here in the Johannesburg metro is the 11th MPCC in Gauteng province established in response to the needs of communities for information and services. The project in Gauteng is spearheaded by the Premier's Office. In partnerships with Government Communication and Information System (GCIS), this initiative is being extended in the province and two more MPCCs are planned for this financial year, before March 2004.
Through this initiative, more than 500 (five hundred) government services from national, provincial and local government as well as parastatals and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have been taken to areas where they never were. The community is now able to get services and information closer to where people live and in a more accountable manner ... that is, people are closer to the public servants and can hold them accountable and can expect service in line with Batho Pele principles of our public service.
All this is part of a historic process, which one sees forging ahead all over our country, in terms of delivery. For instance, nine million South Africans have had fresh water brought into or near their own homes in a decade. The process is to bring the better things of life to the people, not the other way around, and MPCCs are essential parts of this. Precisely the same principle applies when the President himself, his Deputy President, Ministers and MECs go out, all over the land, and spend not hours but days meet with the people in great interactions under the banner of the imbizo.
It brings government to the people, not the other way around. That is the democratic way. That is the South African way.
And we can point to achievements, on the ground. For instance, the government plans to have no fewer than sixty (60) MPCCs, one in every district and metropolitan municipality in the country by the end of this year.
What is an MPCC?
I want to believe that this concept of an MPCC is well understood in Gauteng. This is manifest in the number of MPCCs operationalised in the province. An MPCC is a place where a number of services are provided by local, provincial and national government as well as parastatals, NGOs, community-based organisations (CBOs) and the private sector. The services offered at an MPCC are those that have been identified by you, the community. Every MPCC is different; some will be made up of just one building with a number of service providers in various offices. Sometimes a number of them will be on one site providing a variety of services.
Why are MPCCs important?
The MPCC will be an important place:
- For communities to tell government what information and services they need. Government departments and other partners from parastatals and NGOs can then respond to these needs. Those of you who listened to the speech of the President when he opened Parliament will know that the President cited two examples where government and private partners responded to the call of the communities during the recent Imbizo in KwaZulu-Natal.
- Where communities can develop their skills and knowledge - this will see many different types of training and skills development which can help in promoting employment in the community and also help local leaders to be better equipped to promote community development.
- Where many activities and programmes will happen and many networks can operate - an MPCC is a stable place, properly managed by partners especially those from local government and this will encourage investors and development groups to want to link with communities through the MPCC. Public and private sectors can have a common place where they can work together in a co-ordinated way. MPCCs arise from successful partnerships
The MPCC programme of government is an exceptionally comprehensive one and a good example of how successfully government departments from local, provincial and national level can work together with parastatals, NGOs and community groups to make development a reality. This project rests on strong partnerships, and we are proud that many of our important stakeholders and partners are here today, to ensure that more than twenty (20) services are brought closer to the communities. It is important to mention that the following stakeholders will be providing services here:
- City of Johannesburg Metropolitan Municipality
- City Power
- Department of Land Affairs (Regional Office Gauteng and North West)
- Independent Electoral Commission
- Premier's Office
- Department of Home Affairs
- Department of Labour
- Gauteng Provincial Government (GPG) Housing Department
- GPG Social Services
- Post Office
NGOs and CBOs
- Association for the Physically Disabled
- Phambili Youth Development
- Alexandra Reference Library
- Computer Centre
There are also services from Alexandra Kopano Centre, which is located at 12th Avenue - we encourage you, the people of Alexandra, to make use of these two centres.
Social problems that gave rise to the programme
Alexandra has been sharply in the focus of government programmes. As you are all aware, it is a nodal point identified by the President when he announced the Integrated Sustainable Rural Development Programme and Urban Renewal Programme. We are responding to that call and in fact extending something that empowers the nation, i.e. information and integrated service delivery. The statement (Bacon) that knowledge is power is a reminder of how valuable access to information in fact is.
Communities, groups or individuals targeted by the programme
This programme targets specific groups, some of which are pensioners, women, youth, disabled persons and all those people who have been disadvantaged in the past, those who were discriminated against because of status and illiteracy levels, etc. The programme seeks to level the previously bumpy playing-field of society. A most interesting development is that it has emerged that even those people who have traditionally had the means, economically and otherwise, to secure their needs, are beginning to use the MPCCs for accessing services. This is a type of commendation for the efforts that are being made. The MPCC is providing the integration that government has been talking about. These places are becoming centres where the electronic government programme, e-gateway, is to be launched, with the promise of seamless services being accessed electronically. This will promise an end to the long queues that communities must join if they want to get particular service.
As we move into the next trajectory of the MPCC rollout we need to understand that government has decided to establish one MPCC in each of the local municipalities. It is ambitious but, I believe, achievable. And it is only fair. There are lessons and challenges that have been drawn from the first generation of MPCCs, which assisted in informing the way the programme is to be facilitated in the next decade. The second-generation rollout will take other initiatives like labour centres, people's centres, multi-purpose halls, etc. into cognisance so that duplication of resources is minimised.
We can now see the clear outlines of a future society, which is based on efficiency, speed and accuracy in information and service delivery - we can see, most clearly, a winning nation right ahead of us.
Minister in The Presidency, Dr Essop Pahad
Issued by: Government Communications (GCIS)