GCIS budget vote 2000: Communication to promote Government's mandate

 7 March 2000

GCIS is tasked with promoting communication that facilitates the implementation of government’s democratic mandate. This involves developing a national communication strategy, understanding the communications environment and assisting in its implementation through particular strategies for departments, provinces and campaigns and their concrete realisation in communication projects. It also requires building capacity throughout government for developing and implementing communication strategy -- as well as overseeing the restructuring of communication structures.

1. Building a communication system in government

Development and implementation of strategy

In July 1999 the Cabinet approved a Government Communication Strategy reflective of its broad mandate and programme, with the core message: A Nation at Work for a Better Life. The strategy was to guide the work of communicators in government for the period up to the opening of Parliament in February 2000. GCIS facilitated, through work with communicators, the development of 21 (out of 27) departmental communication strategies, to reflect the overall theme and programme.

GCIS’ strategy for the period February-July 2000 was recently approved by Cabinet, with the core message: A Nation at Work: Dawn of the African Century – to reflect the priority accorded in government’s programme to African renewal in the new millenium, and carrying forward the theme of the Inauguration of the new government, Faranani: Towards the African Century.

Much work remains to be done in giving practical effect to strategy through the programmatic work of each Department. A large proportion of communicators have found it difficult to concretise their strategies and programmes because they do not have a direct influence on the activities of the Ministries.

Restructuring communication components

At this stage, it appears that 14 Ministries have restructured according to Comtask – not necessarily with the appointment of a Chief Director, but in terms of a qualitative improvement in strategic communication planning, access to the Minister, integration between Department and Ministry, and so on. At least four other key departments are in the process of reviewing their communication structures, among them Foreign Affairs, Trade & Industry and Finance. Ministers, through Cabinet, have been urged to complete the restructuring process as recommended by Comtask in order that there be more consistent quality and strategic planning in government communication.

Regular co-ordination

During the year under review, GCIS has continued to regularly bring government communicators together to brainstorm on issues and campaigns, review progress made and concretise the overall communication strategy.

Bi-weekly meetings of Heads of Communicators have been replaced by quarterly strategic work sessions of the Government Communicators’ Forum, as a mid-year review indicated this would be a more appropriate system for the circumstances.

In addition, clusters of communicators meet once a month, hosted by GCIS, to facilitate creative, cross-sectoral planning of programmes and message. The clusters mirror the five Cabinet Committees and clusters of Directors-General that became operative in January 2000, and a communicator from the lead department in a cluster is responsible for linking the work of communicators to this integrated approach in government.

The clusters of government are:

  • Crime Prevention and Integrated Justice;
  • Social Sector;
  • Economic and Employment;
  • International Relations, Peace and Security; and
  • Governance and Administration.

GCIS is about to pilot a modest web-based system to support these clusters, whereby communicators can share their communication programmes.

Facilitating strategic planning

GCIS has continued, over the past year, to facilitate strategic communication planning on request from Departments or clusters. The following have been completed or are work in progress: Finance, SARS, Foreign Affairs, Correctional Services, Crime Prevention and Integrated Justice cluster.

2. Key campaigns and projects

Over the past year, much of GCIS’ work in communicating government’s mandate has been project-based, as will be elaborated on in other presentations. Following are some of the key campaigns in which GCIS has been (or continues to be) involved, in partnership with other departments:

  • Presidential Inauguration (June 1999)
  • HIV/Aids
  • Y2K
  • Anti-corruption summit
  • Arms procurement package
  • Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting (November 1999)
  • President’s visit to the US (September 1999)
  • St Lucia Wetlands Park as World Heritage Site (December 1999)
  • Taxi Recapitalisation

Two critical projects bear specific mention as contributing towards the promotion of government’s mandate: international communication, and the development of a corporate identity for government.

3. International communication

GCIS has identified as a priority area the international promotion of South Africa, in collaboration with a team of departments such as Environmental Affairs and Tourism, Foreign Affairs, Trade and Industry, Finance and Sport.

A framework for a communication strategy in this regard has been prepared and approved by Cabinet, and we will soon announce the appointment of a project manager to spearhead this initiative which, we hope, will form the basis of a real partnership between government, the private sector and civil society. The project manager will work with a team of GCIS staffers and project managers from the key departments, conceptualising a campaign to develop a "brand" for South Africa.

It is intended that the campaign plan be put to the first meeting of an International Marketing Council at the beginning of April. The council will include Directors-General from the core departments, the CEOs of GCIS, Investment South Africa and SATOUR, and 10 individuals who will act in an advisory and lobbying capacity on the marketing of South Africa abroad.

Among the initiatives that will be put in place to support this campaign are:

  • More regular briefings by Ministries for the diplomatic corps in South Africa, to be facilitated by GCIS;
  • A more consistent programme to assist foreign correspondents;
  • An improved South African Year Book;
  • A more comprehensive system to keep South African missions abroad briefed about government business, and;
  • The launch of a single Web access point to information about South Africa, primarily for an international audience.

Further information about the proposed campaign will be released once the necessary planning and conceptualisation has taken place.

In addition, GCIS has begun discussions with the Department of Foreign Affairs to propose ways in which we can impact on and improve the communication capacity in the missions, which we regard as critical vehicles for communication and information.

4. Corporate Identity Programme for Government

The pending approval by Cabinet of a new Coat of Arms will lay the basis for the introduction of a corporate identity programme in government, as proposed by the Comtask Report. To quote, the report identified: "The failure (by government) to present a coherent corporate image to the public. This is reflected in a diverse array of stationery, in the failure to identify public buildings outside or to supply adequate signage inside, the way government presents to the public telephonically and by letter, etc.

Such a programme would be critical to allow government to streamline its image and identity, as well as create cost savings in important areas such as the procurement of paper and signage. The proposed programme is a central aspect of the Batho Pele project and, as such, would be embarked upon in partnership with the Department of Public Service and Administration. A programme of this kind can only succeed if it is premised on a training and sensitisation programme with government staff, towards service delivery around an agreed set of values.

Portia Maurice-Mopp: Chief Director, Government & Media Liaison, GCIS