08 May 2001
8 May 2001
- Once again our thanks to the Portfolio Committee on Communication for affording us this opportunity to present our annual report and programme. As is customary, we will present a broad sweep of activities over the past year and plans for the current financial year.
- We do welcome the fact that we have interacted with the Portfolio Committee on a number of occasions in the past year on major new initiatives of the GCIS, particularly the IMC and the MDDA. As such, we are able to benefit on an on-going basis from your wise counsel.
II. Communication environment
- The President's announcement of a practical and strategic Programme of Action for 2001 with a call for unity in action for change has created a communications environment with new opportunities and challenges. The speech however came against a background that was not optimal.
- The national mood at the turn of the year, as indicated in research, combined positive long-term trends with short-term negatives. Widespread appreciation of the gains of, and progress in, our democracy were combined with a diminished sense of government's performance.
- This was impacted upon, we believe, among others by discourse in the media, which tended to be more narrowly negative and strongly weighted towards an oppositional perspective. In many instances, reports and analyses proceeded from the premise of negative assumptions in which mindset rather than judgement based on fact was often dominant. This tended to remove the basis for rational debate.
- However, the response to the President's State of the Nation Address indicates a decisive shift towards discussion of the critical matters in the government's programme of action. Greater interaction by the political principals with the public and the meeting with SANEF have laid the basis for this trend to be consolidated.
- Therefore, possibilities exist for a steady, slow and painstaking corrective process to ensure that South Africans dialogue around the basic issues that face the nation. However, we should not expect that such interaction would resolve the fundamental disagreements with those who oppose social transformation; nor change the mindsets of media that are bent on a single-issue anti-Mbeki and anti-government crusade.
- What is critical is that government should continually improve its communication capacity; and creatively use all available opportunities to interact in an unmediated manner with the public. At the same time, any progress on the part of the media to take heed of the findings of the HRC on Racism in the Media, to improve professionalism and ensure focus on the critical issues of transformation, will help lay the basis for a truly informed public which takes active part in changing its life for the better.
III. Centrality of development communication
- An important element of the Communication Strategy for the year is interaction between the Executive and the public at large - to ensure that the principle and practice of participatory governance, in the form of Imbizo, among others, finds greater expression in the programme of governance.
- Progress is being made in this regard, shown for instance in the launch of the Taxi - Be Legal Campaign by the Minister of Transport; the participation of the Minister of Housing at a stand of the Department in the Rand Easter Show; the interactions in the launch of water projects; and the celebration of the Budget Vote of the Department of Social Development with the elderly.
- Some two weeks ago, the President spent three days in the Northern Province, and the intention is that he would visit two other provinces this year. In that visit he interacted directly with tens of thousands in direct question-and-answer sessions, inspection of successful and unsuccessful projects, meetings with leaders of various provincial sectors, as well as a provincial radio/TV talk-show through which he reached over 1.5-million people. From this experience we are drawing lessons that would stand us in good stead in the future.
- Development communication is also underpinned by the progress we are making in setting up Multi-purpose Community Centres. Thus far, 10 such centres have been launched in various provinces. Critically, improvements have been registered in terms of seniority of participants in the national steering committee and consequently the flow of information to DGs in relevant departments. The Governance and Administration Cluster has adopted the MPCC project as a critical part of the Shared Service Delivery Programme of government.
- A comprehensive review process was undertaken last year, and many logistical problems have been ironed out. The broad time frame is to have 60 MPCCs in all districts of the country in 2003. The review process also took into account the observations made by the Parliamentary Committee last year on the question of sustainability of these centres.
- Overall, such sustainability of MPCCs will be ensured through the commitment of Provincial and Local Government structures to provide management services to the centres, active involvement of departments in maintaining their offices and paying for services, some income-generating activity, and the participation of the Department of Public Works at various levels.
- Development communication also finds expression in the increasing availability of Ministers and other members of the Executive to take part in radio programmes in languages other than English, as well as creative mechanisms of dissemination of government media products.
- In the instance of the President's State of the Nation Address, live link-ups were arranged also with community radio; African language public broadcast radio stations were able to translate the speech as it was being delivered, and Ministers availed themselves to these stations on the same day and during their briefings; millions of booklets and leaflets were produced in various languages for distribution through various channels, including MPCCs and at Imbizo events.
IV. Media Development and Diversity Agency
- The process towards the establishment of the Media Development and Diversity Agency is continuing. The MDDA, as we underlined during the presentation to the Committee a few weeks ago, is a critical element in the efforts to change South Africa's media environment and ensure that development communication - communication for development - becomes a reality, especially for poor and marginalized communities. As such, South Africans as a whole will have the opportunity in broad terms to become not mere consumers but also generators of news and analyses about their own lives.
- The MDDA draft Position Paper was adopted by Cabinet and is now the subject of intense discussion and negotiation among various stake-holders. The Committee has fully been briefed on the positions adopted by various interest groups on the matter. The discussions that have followed the submission of formal responses have shown that the initial responses generated more heat than light. This was in part due to misperceptions about the actual intentions of the initiative and a misreading of some of the formulations.
- GCIS has recently interacted with the Print Media Association (PMSA) and we are steadily edging towards consensus on the critical areas. Among others, there is an acceptance of the broad mandate of the MDDA, the principle that there would have to be some contribution from the commercial media sector as well as matters of the independence of the Board and the infrastructure that the MDDA would require to fulfil its mandate. A Memorandum of Understanding will be negotiated in due course.
- Further consultations are planned with other stakeholders. And, within government, discussions have been held with the Department of Communications to examine the detail of the sources of funding from the fiscus. In the overall our assessment is that all these discussions should be completed within a few weeks. This would then be followed by the introduction of relevant amendments to the draft Position Paper and, hopefully, relevant legislation will be submitted to the Committee before the end of this year.
V. International Marketing Council
- In the mandate of GCIS as well as the programme of government as a whole, a high premium is placed on international communication for the benefit of the country. In this regard, government proceeds from the premise that this should be a joint effort by all South Africans. Underpinning such communication are such attributes as the consolidation of our democracy, the positive macro-economic environment, progress in the efforts to address the multitude of socio-economic challenges as well as the country's natural and historical endowments.
- We had occasion to brief the Committee on the formation of the IMC and the enthusiastic participation of members of the private sector in its work. Since then, the IMC has had its lekgotla to examine the business plan in detail. And it is a measure of their commitment to this work that senior executives from some of the country's biggest companies and members of Cabinet spent one and a half days examining these challenges.
- At this retreat, a number of content-related and operational decisions were taken; and these will be ratified at the next full IMC meeting this month. These include such matters as the appointment of a Chair from the private sector and the setting up of an Executive Committee. Consultations are continuing on the best legal form that the IMC as a structure should adopt for it to fulfil its mandate.
- Although the "niched" intervention of the IMC campaign in international markets will start later in the year, GCIS and members of the IMC have been taking active part in the conceptualisation and execution of some of the major campaigns now under way, including the Celebrate South Africa initiative in the UK. In line with the IMC mandate, these interventions are meant to ensure that such campaigns take into account the over-arching message about South Africa and its attributes.
- It is acknowledged across the board that success in foreign shores is a function of progress we make within the country to promote pride among South Africans in their own country and, critically, the conviction to express this. Steadily, it is dawning on more and more South Africans that what we do and say to other nationals and among ourselves has a profound impact on how we are viewed as a possible investment and tourist destination. Most encouraging in the recent period is the multitude of initiatives as well as offers from individuals and corporate entities to contribute to this exciting initiative. This includes the MNet advert competition and Nedlac's "Proudly South African" campaign.
VI. Integration of government communication
- Most of the issues referred to above are some of the instances that underline the integrative role of GCIS in government communication. It is in recognition of the need to strengthen this role, that Cabinet last year adopted various proposals on how to ensure the effectiveness of GCIS in supervising the work of all communicators at national government level. This includes a contribution by GCIS in the evaluation of the performance of Heads of Communication in all Ministries/Departments. And there is continuing reflection within government on the concept of "System", so as to improve government communication.
- Regular consultations through communicators' clusters, pre-Cabinet meetings and the Government Communications Forum (which brings together national and provincial communicators) continue. As a result of training and peer interactions, there is a perceptible improvement in communication planning and execution. Systems have also been put in place to ensure strategic pro-active interventions and improve rapid response capacity.
- GCIS has also played a central role in the conceptualisation of communication approaches with regard to major government campaigns. This includes the HRC Conference on Racism as well as preparations for the UN Conference to take place later this year. Approaches of government to issues such as the campaign against HIV/AIDS, Imbizo, anti-corruption initiatives and the Coat of Arms and Corporate Identity also form part of the core projects of GCIS.
VII. Corporate issues
- GCIS continues the process of renewal as it grows into a fully-fledged establishment. Such continued revitalisation includes the consolidation of the project team approach, improvement in our professionalism in rendering bulk-buying and other services to other departments, marketing of GCIS among the core clients, creativity in conceptualisation and designing of products and the critical question of distribution. An important part of continuing renewal is the application of IT as an instrument of communication.
- Over the past year, GCIS has seen an improvement in labour relations, with the active participation of union representatives in strategic planning and other activities. An HRD plan, including employment equity, in line with the requirement of legislation - and as a matter of conviction on the part of management - has been developed and is being implemented. GCIS however faces the challenge of retaining particularly skilled staff: once spotted by other departments in the course of work, a number of staff members are recruited into more senior positions in other departments.
- Much progress has been made to ensure that the demographics of GCIS correspond with the societal reality. At all levels of the organisation, there is overall improvement; and the organisation is far ahead of the targets that have been set for government departments. The organisation still faces the challenge of improving the presence of people with disability, especially at management level.
VIII. Budget and finance management
- There has also been a marked improvement in the management of finances. Virtually all the requirements of the PFMA have been instituted; and the audit function is improving its interventions to ensure prevention of malpractices.
- With regard to the budget, GCIS has struggled over the past three years as government establishes the baseline suited to the new structure with a new mandate. Over the 1999/2000 and 2000/01financial years, we experienced over-expenditure. As acknowledged by National Treasury, this is in the main due to the fact that allocations were made without a history from which to determine actual core requirements of a functional government communications service. This has somewhat stabilised with further increased allocations this year (from R64m to R70m), as well as an additional R50m for international marketing.
Joel Netshitenzhe, CEO: GCIS