24 February 1999
The chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Communication, Mr Moeti opened the briefing at 09:45 and welcomed the GCIS Secretariat to a joint Parliamentary and NCOP sitting. He indicated that the joint sitting was cost-effective yet did not preclude either Houses from requesting an extra briefing of the GCIS Secretariat.
After the presentations a question and answer session followed. The most salient questions were.
Q: The public has an appalling perception/image of MPs, who are seen as being on the gravy train and not doing much. What can GCIS do to change the public awareness?
A: It is the responsibility of the GCIS to promote democracy and human rights amongst the South African population. There needs to be an understanding of the role of MPs, MPLs and local government councillors. We need to explain the different forums available to the public to ensure their participation in the law-making process. The GCIS has begun discussions with the communicators in Parliament around a possible relationship; but we should be sensitive to the guidelines of the relationship between the Executive and Parliament as well as political parties. Parliamentarians themselves could give input on this to the Presiding Officers.
Q: How does the GCIS intend addressing the issue of language? How will the needs of all languages be accommodated, specifically Afrikaans?
A: We have produced leaflets and radio packages around the President's speech in all eleven languages. Although our focus will be development communication we will not ignore other needs. A section of the previously disadvantaged people speak Afrikaans.
Aside from literate members of the public we need to ensure that other needs are met in creative ways through forms like folk-lore, videos community liaison forums and so forth.
Q: A big portion of the GCIS budget goes to personnel costs. Which urgent posts have been granted for this year?
A: Our establishment has increased by between 80 and 87 staff members. However, these posts have been budgeted for.
Q: The Provincial GICs are not equipped with Internet, when will they be?
A: This process is under way. This had been suspended during the transition from SACS to GCIS.
Q: How are you dealing with the issue of attracting communication specialists if you are unable to offer a competitive salary as you have indicated?
A: The new Public Service Regulations deal more adequately with a remedy for this issue. At present one is allowed to make a Buy Offer to meet the incumbent's current salary.
Q: What role will the GCIS be playing in the elections?
A: We will be scaling down our activities closer to the elections. Discussions are under way with the IEC and the Electoral Institute of South Africa as to the role Government Communication should play during the election so as not to promote one party's interests. The GCIS will continue with its normal campaigns like Masakhane and Aids.
Q: Was the GCIS asked to assist the Department of Home Affairs and the IEC with election registration?
A: We offered our assistance earlier on, but due to the sensitivity of the issue we did not assist. We recently held discussions with the IEC and assisted around the January registration period and we will be continuing with this.
Q: Do you have any specific programme for the March phase of the election?
A: Yes, a programme which will reach rural communities via radio, billboards and taxis.
Q: An important task of the GCIS is to inform and educate the grassroots yet the budget for the Provincial and Local Liaison Directorate is the lowest compared to Media Liaison. Is your emphasis not incorrect?
A: The assessment of the GCIS Budget is an ongoing process and it is reviewed constantly. However, remember that Provincial Governments have their own budgets for provincial communication. We further need to find the right ratio between Corporate Services and Communication. The retraining and development of people will be considered in this regard.
Q: What role does the GCIS play in disseminating information to foreign/trade missions?
A: Our International Relations Section has sketched a Business Plan. We are discussing relevant issues with DFA to find efficient cost-effective ways to disseminate information to our missions. This includes developing information capacity in missions. Further we are busy developing an International Marketing Strategy with role-players like the DFA, Investment South Africa and Satour. Research into international perceptions of South Africa is under way. After wide consultation the GCIS will present a memo to the Cabinet on the matter.
Q: What role is the GCIS playing in the restructuring of PANA and other continental activities?
A: The GCIS, together with Deputy Minister Essop Pahad, has been involved in this process. Its role will be determined at a later date when the privatisation process is completed. The GCIS also has ongoing relationships with colleagues in SADC. The GCIS will also be contributing to a conference of African journalists which will be held later this year re the African Renaissance.
Q: How will GCIS contribute to media diversity and, for example, the anti-competitive nature of newspapers?
A: We have had ongoing discussions with newspaper proprietors. Persons to work on media diversity issues will join the GCIS staff in March. By the first quarter of next year we plan to have draft regulations on media diversity in place; and later to set up the Media Development Agency.
Q: What kind of co-operation does the GCIS receive from provinces, particularly the Western Cape and Kwazulu-Natal?
A: We have ongoing interaction with both provinces. Representatives from both provinces have attended our communicators consultative conferences. While there were problems in relation to the Western Cape at the beginning, these are being resolved.
Q: How many functions are outsourced or will be outsourced?
A: We will maintain some production capacity. We have a small capacity for radio, video, design and photography. But in some instances actual production such as pinting is outsourced. We assist other departments upon request.
Q: If you have had problems finding the 'right people' to employ are you considering employing people with potential and training them?
A: One needs to strike a balance between employing communication specialists and people with potential. It depends on the kind of post and immediate requirements
Q: What plans does the GCIS have for transforming its regional offices?
A: The strategy for transforming communication at provincial level is being formulated in consultation with provincial and local government through a Memorandum of Understanding. The GCIS has embarked on a thorough assessment of all the GICs. In the process we are reviewing accessibility and visibility. Our focus will be community based with forums such as District Councils and TLCs and Multi-Purpose Community Centres.
Q: Should we not broaden Parliamentary coverage to the public even further as opposed to DSTV and M-Net's Parliamentary Channel?
A: The GCIS has met with DSTV and M-Net on the issue of broadening viewership. Consultations will take place with the SABC on this matter. Important questions around funds need to be explored. The GCIS would definitely like to improve the image of Parliament, within the parameters of the principle of the separation of powers.
Q: How do you intend making your building more functional with a Corporate Identity?
A: The GCIS is working on the project with the Department of Public Works . A decision will be taken later.
Q: Is the GCIS monitoring government department's expenditure on rural areas, women and children and imparting this information?
A: The GCIS intends tracking these trends as from the next financial year.
Mr Moeti thanked the GCIS Secretariat for the presentation. He was pleased with the goodwill from the department. He hoped the relationship between the two parties would grow from strength to strength. He further congratulated the GCIS on its wonderful work and thanked the staff for their openness and transparency during the Portfolio Committee's visit to the GCIS. The presentations were well focused and well prepared Mr Moeti added.