7 March 2000
1. Introduction and overview of activities
- GCIS management last interacted with the Portfolio Committee some 5 months ago, when we outlined the strategic focus of our organisation in the next five years. Among the issues identified were: the setting up of One-Stop Government Centres; the establishment of a Media Development Agency; and the need for an effective campaign to promote South Africa abroad.
In this presentation, we seek to report on progress and future plans in respect of these and other issues, within the context of the budget that has been granted GCIS in the coming financial year. Details can be found in the Annual Report submitted to Honourable Members before this meeting. It should be emphasised that, because of the short notice, we had to speed up finalisation of the Report, and a number of the formulations in it may require some refinement.
II. Communication environment and policy
Because the mandate of GCIS is to ensure that the public is informed about government policies and actions, our organisation takes special interest in the communication environment within which we operate. Broadly, the public mood is a positive and buoyant one, in which a predominantly hopeful attitude is combined with some deep concerns. Economic recovery and a successful Presidential transition underpin the positive mood; while concerns are expressed on such issues as crime and job-creation.
- Markinor’s poll towards the end of last year found South Africa to be in step with the general optimism among the 62 countries polled. This mood was confirmed in the HSRC nation-wide poll in November which found a markedly more positive view of government and the general political situation compared with a year ago.
- From Focus Groups conducted by GCIS on behalf of Cabinet and the Presidency, the positive mood came through strongly, with qualifications regarding job-creation. The striking elements are, firstly, a sense developing among the population that government can only succeed if it is partnered by an active population; and secondly, that for the first time in about five years, a majority among South Africans is confident of the government’s will and capacity to deal with crime.
- From this qualitative research, a clear and positive perception has been established regarding the President as strong, firm, decisive, articulate and in control. Overall, however, there is a strong demand for direct "face to face" contact between government and the people.
- Our immediate assessment is that the State of the Nation Address, Ministerial Briefings and the Budget Speech have reinforced the positive mood. As will be later elaborated, GCIS is playing its own part in ensuring that the government’s programme for the year is communicated to as many South Africans as possible.
- A critical element in shaping the terrain of discourse is the establishment of the Media Diversity and Development Agency. This is a task that has been mandate to GCIS by Cabinet on the basis of the Comtask Report. The Directorate has been set up and it has completed consultations with relevant departments which are part of a steering committee to examine all matters pertaining to this issue. Consultations have been held with stake-holders, including FXI and NCMF, as well as various media regulators and media owners. In these consultations, including those with media owners which have been held over the past two months, broad consensus has been reached regarding the need of such and Agency, its status and mandate, and the principle that each sector should make a contribution. GCIS has engaged a consultant who will examine the details of sources of funding. The intention is to complete these processes by year-end, so we could submit relevant legislation to Parliament in the coming year. A detailed document reflecting all these views is being finalised and will be released for public discussion in a matter of weeks.
From the point of view of our interest in the environment of public discourse, GCIS has keenly followed the debate around the issue of racism in the media. Government’s position in this regard is that the HRC is an independent organisation, charged by the Constitution with reinforcing efforts to realise the Bill of Rights, and given the necessary powers to do so. We have been of the view that the detailed matter of method should be resolved between the HRC and the media; and that matters of form should not be allowed to cloud the essential question of dealing with racism. Indeed, this seems to be the outcome of these consultations.
III. Organisational milieu
- GCIS has continued during the course of last year to expand staff in line with our new mandate (50 new staff members); and we intend to reach our full complement of about 360 during this financial year. This will not entail any additional allocation to personnel expenditure. In terms of gender and racial demographics, there has been some improvement in the management echelon – i.e. Director and higher – with 75% black managers (compared to 73% last year) and the percentage of female managers remains at 40%. For the establishment as a whole, 51.8% are female (compared to 47.2% a year ago), and 75.1% are black (compared to 70% last year). The disabled remain at 1% of the establishment. Beyond these categories, the organisation prides itself with the fact that it is attracting professionals from both the private and public sectors who are adding to the depth and breadth of its theory and praxis.
- Among the major highlights in the development of the organisation over the past year has been the setting up of a fully-fledged corporate services structure with an appropriately staffed finance directorate. The Internal Audit Unit and Committee have started operating effectively, and they should reach their optimal level during the course of this year. An Audit Committee in line with the Public Finance Management Act will be set up in the coming weeks.
- Beyond these issues, four developments loom even more critical for us: firstly, the setting up of a Project Desk which has set the operations of the organisation on a more professional footing; and, secondly, the process towards finalising the Key Performance Indicators for the organisation as a whole, which helps more clearly to define our core functions and serves as a compass to guide and measure our day-to-day activities. Thirdly, GCIS has, over the past year made major strides in building partnerships across various sectors of society, including advertising agencies, design groups, private sector structures which will partner the international promotion campaign, and a whole gamut of civil society structures which are part of the One-Stop Government Centre/Multi-purpose Community Centre initiative. Lastly, the Communication Service Agency has been upgraded with the appointment of a Chief Director, creating even better conditions for professional production services.
As a result of continuing discussion with the Department of State Expenditure, and in recognition of the mandate of GCIS, the budget of the organisation has been increased this year, marking a trend whereby, at the end of the current MTEF, a new base-line will have been established. The support of the Parliamentary Committee in this regard is greatly appreciated.
|MTEF allocations: 2000 - 2003
|R47 279 000
|R60 687 000
|R64 312 000
|R69 675 000
IV. Leadership of government communication
A critical element in the mandate of GCIS to lead government communication is ensuring that all sectors of national government operate within the framework of an integrated communication strategy. During the course of last year, such a strategy was developed and adopted by Cabinet after the elections in July. One of the greatest achievements in this period has been to ensure a common methodology across departments and among provinces. This was attained through the Government Communication Forum (GCF), a conference including Provincial representatives and workshops. As a result, the majority of departments and agencies (21) developed their subsidiary strategies.
In so far as implementation is concerned, success has been registered in those areas where there was active leadership by Ministers and Directors-General. This is impacted upon by the extent to which there has been restructuring in line with decisions of Cabinet. A number of departments (18) have either done so or are paying serious attention to the matter. This does not necessarily entail appointment of Chief Directors to head the communication sections; but it means qualitative improvement in strategic communication planning, access to the Minister, integration between Department and Ministry and so on.
Last week, Cabinet adopted a communication strategy for the Year 2000. Under the theme, "A nation at work for a better life – Dawn of the African Century", the strategy is based on the President’s State of the Nation Address as well as other elements of the government’s programme for the year. A major focus of the strategy is mobilisation of the people to work with government to improve their conditions. In the next ten days, the GCF will process subsidiary strategies for clusters and departments. Cabinet also underlined the need to ensure that all departmental communication structures are on an operational footing.
The GCF is a critical forum to ensure integration of government communication. While its frequency has been reduced, clusters of communicators in line with new Cabinet Committees also play an important role to ensure such integration. Communicators are represented on the clusters of Directors-General, to take part in policy processes as they evolve. Regular meetings are held with Heads of Provincial Government communications.
During the course of last year, there has been greater appreciation within government of the value that GCIS adds to government operations. GCIS has taken part in communication planning for all major campaigns, including AIDS/HIV, Presidential inauguration, Voter Education, taking forward Jobs Summit decisions, Y2K awareness, Investment/Arms Procurement package, African Renaissance, organisation and framework of the content of February Ministerial Parliamentary briefings to Parliament and so on. One major development in this area has been the adoption of an international communication approach by Cabinet – referred to later.
Progress has been made in setting up national training infrastructure for communicators. This has included the establishment of a standards-generating body under the auspices of SAQA, and a quality-assurance body which has met several times to assess content of courses. A database of service providers is now available on the GCIS website; a national skills audit has been conducted in all three spheres; and courses have been run at various levels. Communication lines have been opened with SA Management Development Institute (SAMDI) to incorporate some of the GCIS initiatives into the SAMDI programme. Contact has been maintained with international agencies and individual countries for co-operation in this regard.
V. Development communication
On the basis of the research conducted by GCIS into information needs, a process is underway to develop a set of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) and the appropriate information for use by citizens. The research has identified "personal utility information" as the most sought after, such as bursary facilities and job opportunities. This requires co-ordination among various departments both in the determination of these questions and in working out responses. Further, GCIS has improved its servicing of community radio stations, and relations with SABC radio services have improved.
An instance of using various forms to reach out to the majority of South Africans is the multi-media popularisation of the government’s programme for the year. In addition to usage of the web for instant text and live visual and audio access to the President’s State of the Nation Address, GCIS this year ensured live broadcast over 20 community radio stations; a summary of the State of the Nation Address was provided in a number of newspapers; 4-million leaflets in all official languages will be distributed through GICs and Post Offices; 1-million booklets, including question and answer summaries will be distributed through these and other channels; public service announcements will also be made dealing briefly with content and "pick-up points". Research has indicated that citizens value personal direct contact with the leadership. Thus part of the strategy will be the intensification of visits by Ministers and others to communities where services are being rendered.
- A major highlight for the next two years is the establishment of Government Information Centres that are part of One-Stop Government Centres and Multi-Purpose Community Centres. Cabinet agreed last December that there should be one such Centre per district. This will mean establishing 46 new ones in addition to the existing 9 GCIS offices. One centre was launched in Tombo (EC) in December and two will be launched in March in the Northern Province and the Western Cape. The intention is to complete the programme by 2002. Training of officers is an important part of the programme.
VI. Media relations and international promotion
GCIS has continued to service Cabinet with regard to communication of its decisions, and ensuring follow-up by the relevant departments. In consultation with the media, February Parliamentary briefings by Ministers are continually being refined, among others, to reflect integrated approach to the development and implementation of government programmes. Among the major projects last year were the Presidential Inauguration, support to state visits and the introduction of the institution of "press breakfasts" for background briefings. At the same time, GCIS has served as a critical centre to assist in the processing of media requests and planning with the President’s Office regarding major initiatives. GCIS has also provided technical services and strategic advice to the political principals.
We have started a relationship with the Independent Newspaper Group for GCIS and government to run a monthly column (Letter from Tshwane) conversing with the public around major issues facing the country. This does not supplant relations with other media houses, including through articles from government.
Last December Cabinet adopted a broad framework of a strategy for international promotion of the country, which is meant to integrate the work done at various levels within and outside of government. This was preceded by research which established that there was goodwill across the board towards SA; but that the country was under-marketed. An International Marketing Council is to be set up, chaired by the Foreign Minister and made up of relevant DG’s and representatives of public and private bodies dealing with the international community. A Project Manager will be appointed in the next few days.
What has clearly emerged from this research is that success in international imaging and promotion will depend first and foremost on the attitude of South Africans towards their own country as well as visible programmes to address a number of problem areas in South Africa’s social fabric. In this regard, we believe that the Portfolio Committee on Communication has a central role to play in ensuring debate among South Africans on the development of a unique brand of the country, as well as the efforts required to build a positive national self-image that should characterise South Africans’ interaction with the world. GCIS intends to come back to the Committee with a detailed briefing on this matter.
VII. Other major projects
GCIS is completing research on the public awareness campaign around HIV/AIDS to develop further communication campaigns. This will lay the basis for a new drive under the aegis of the National AIDS Council.
In the next few weeks, Cabinet will complete the process of developing a new Coat of Arms for the country. Tied to this will be a campaign to take Batho Pele to new heights, as part of the corporate imaging of government.
Upgrading of communication technology and its wider usage form part of the GCIS’ core functions. This includes Government Online, the recent introduction of video conferencing facilities, and enhanced government-wide electronic co-ordination of communication programmes.
With regard to products and communication services:
- A major review is under way to change the format as well as elements of the content of the SA Yearbook
- The process towards bulk-buying of non-personnel advertising has culminated in the contracting of two companies, and there is increasing usage of the facility by departments.
- Promotion and marketing of GCIS services and government media products is being strengthened.
Joel Netshitenzhe: Chief Executive Officer, GCIS