9 May 2002
As we thank the Committee for once again affording us the opportunity to present our annual report and programme, we are mindful that we are not speaking to some distant and detached body merely sitting in judgment on our performance and plans.
Whether in these annual briefings, or in connection with the MDDA, the transformation of the advertising and marketing industry or the International Marketing Campaign, our interaction with the committee has always been with an active participant in pursuing shared objectives, and a source of inspiration and direction.
- The common thread has been the shared democratic vision of an informed citizenry able to participate actively in the improvement of their own lives and in the governance of their country.
II. Progress in key initiatives
- In a number of major initiatives in which the committee has expressed particular interest, there has been significant progress in the past year. That goes for two initiatives to promote equity and participation in the media as an institution still skewed by our history:
4.1 Having benefited substantially from the committee’s legislative experience and wisdom, the MDDA Bill is about to have its Second Reading. Once passed the scene will be set for a significant allocation of resources, in a public-private partnership, to the community and commercial media sectors.
4.2 The process towards the transformation of the advertising and marketing industry, which GCIS and the Department of Communications are leading in partnership with the industry itself, has gathered pace. Its momentum testifies to the effectiveness of this committee’s initiative in calling public hearings on the subject. There will certainly be progress to reflect in October when the committee receives the report it has asked for.
- Other major initiatives in the period under review pertain to bringing Government closer to the people:
5.1 The rollout of Multi-Purpose Community Centres has reached a third of its way towards one in every district, and its cumulative weight is making an impact in drawing more partners into the process from inside and outside government.
5.2 The Imbizo programme of unmediated and interactive communication between the executive and the public, which had just been launched when we last briefed the committee, has advanced beyond expectation. It has now become a formal part of government’s programme. There have been three provincial visits by the President – to the Northern (Limpopo) Province as well as Eastern Cape and Free State – and two National Imbizo Focus Weeks. The most recent Focus Week in April 2002 involved almost 300 events across the country
- Progress has been made in our programmes to improve integration and professionalism in government communication and our relations with the media:
6.1 The SANEF/Cabinet Indaba at Sun City in June last year laid the basis for substantial improvements in the working relationships between media and government in ways that can only benefit the public. Early fruits of this are more effective relations between the media and the Economic Sector Ministries and progress towards the establishment of the Presidential Press Corps.
6.2 In ways not fully foreseen the Imbizo programme has given powerful impetus to promoting integration and co-operation in communication amongst all three spheres of government. GCIS has strengthened relations with SALGA.
- The International Marketing Council, about which we briefed this committee two years ago, has started work in earnest in its campaign to ensure that South Africa’s marketing attributes are harnessed to promote the country more effectively abroad. In particular we are grateful that the CEO of the IMC Trust is here to brief the Committee on their work.
III. Communication environment
These programmes put in place the conditions for more effective communication, to ensure that government’s voice is heard, that public information needs are met and that partnerships of government and the public are strengthened.
The communication environment in this mid-term point in the life of the current government brings particular communication challenges. Characteristic of any mid-term period, with minimal popular engagement around political issues, ratings of government performance tend to flounder: an expression of a cyclical political mood. However, popular assessment of progress retains long-term optimism.
Such optimism is understandable. We must await the results of Census 2001 on comprehensive progress in "delivery". But, what SAARF’s recently published "development index" reveals is consistent with what Statistics South Africa showed last year in "South Africa in Transition" for the period 1995-999. Equally, it is consistent with regular reports from departments of their steady output in implementing programmes of reconstruction and development.
These facts fly in the face of the paradigm of "no delivery" – wrong perceptions that tend to undermine confidence and hope, and which erode local and international confidence in our democracy.
- Published research also shows that different sectors of society may have some concerns in common but also have different priorities, that what concerns the poor is not always the same as what concerns the better-off, or what informs media discourse.
IV. Strategic challenges
- GCIS has to meet the information needs of all sectors of society while putting those of the poor at the top of the communications agenda as they are at the top of the government’s agenda of action. This means putting government’s programme of action before the public, along with the facts of achievements, opportunities and challenges to be overcome.
13.1 It is in this context that we mounted a mass multi-media information campaign around the Opening of Parliament. This included publication in newspapers, sponsored by parastatals, of the State of the Nation Address, dissemination of Government’s Mid Term Report in the form of press advertisements and two million leaflets in all languages distributed through Imbizo, MPCCs and other channels; co-ordinating the availability of Ministers to talk about government’s programme on radio stations broadcasting in all South African languages; and radio dramas on the same radio stations. In these creative ways we believe we have reached millions of South Africans.
13.2 A further campaign is being planned to keep the public informed of the conclusions reached when government holds its July Lekgotla to assess implementation of this year’s programme of action.
13.3 Discussions are under way regarding the feasibility of a mass communication campaign to inform the public of the economic opportunities that have become available as a result of government’s programmes: to ensure that citizens are able to access economic services government renders.
Amongst the trends emerging at the turn of the year was a readiness amongst sectors of society to share responsibility with government for addressing key challenges facing South Africa. This was evident in relation to the economy and the protection of children, and in the on-going powerful response to the President’s call on all sectors of society to Lend a Hand in the spirit of letsema and volunteerism.
Communication that promotes and facilitates this impetus towards partnership is therefore a priority. In this context an audit conducted by GCIS last year on the extent to which government does form communication partnerships with civil society will assist in extending this kind of work. This will include amongst others the campaign referred to by the President in his State of the Nation Address to accomplish the registration of all those eligible for Child Support Grants.
Building partnerships and correcting misperceptions requires above all strengthening and extending the programmes for unmediated interaction between government and the public. This means sustaining and extending the Imbizo programme; ensuring that Ministers continue to be available to television and radio stations broadcasting in all the languages of our country; and continuing with the launch of MPCC’s.
- It means giving high priority to communication partnerships around initiatives such as the Moral Regeneration Movement and the Growth and Development Summit. It informed the two advertisements and five million leaflets through which Cabinet’s approach to combating HIV/AIDS was and is being conveyed directly to the public. The imperative of building partnership informs the campaigns of international marketing and mobilisation.
V. Consolidating the communication system
Apart from the continuation of existing programmes for the co-ordination and training of government communicators, including their orientation towards development communication, one initiative in particular stands out for the far-reaching consequences that will follow from its accomplishment.
- Substantial progress has been made at the level of communications officials towards a more integrated and co-ordinated government communications system, the development of which has been one of GCIS principal responsibilities.
19.1 This included the consolidation of Government Communicators Forum, bringing together communications officials from national and provincial government, along with representatives of SALGA; and the establishment of Communication Clusters reflecting the clustered organisation of government itself.
19.2 The Pre-Cabinet meeting of communicators has become an effective vehicle for promoting co-ordination and integration in the work of communicators.
19.3 Steps towards greater integration of the work of the communication clusters with that of the Clusters of Director-Generals, and discussion by Cabinet of Cluster Communication Strategies (in addition to the government-wide corporate strategy), adds great impetus towards integrated communication by government.
19.4 The Minister in The Presidency, assisted by GCIS is also now servicing Cabinet through reports and proposals on Current Affairs, allowing Cabinet to reflect on issues of the day apart from the normal business of Cabinet.
VI. GCIS corporate issues
The growing demands on GCIS, as well as the achievement of early goals in building a government-wide communications system, has led to some restructuring of the GCIS establishment.
The changes emanate largely from an exercise in "Business Process Re-engineering" conducted by ourselves and by work by SITA to produce an IT Plan as required under the Public Finance Management Act.
Amongst the changes so far has been a clustered restructuring of GCIS project management approach. Further, the establishment of a Directorate for Local Liaison and Information Management addresses a need highlighted by this committee last year, when it raised the issue of enhancing communication with and by local government.
The separation of the Deputy CEO functions into two branches with responsibility respectively for Centralised Services and for Strategy and Content Development, will assist in meeting the increased demands on the organisation as well as compensating for the fact that the CEO of GCIS is also now the head of the Policy co-ordination and Advisory Service in the Presidency
These changes have not involved additional personnel funds, apart from adjustments that were required to deal with historical anomalies. Combined with further improvements in the management of finances, the overspending in 2000/01 was replaced this year with a saving of 1,2%, (R1,48m), well within the requirements of the PFMA. National Treasury has been requested to roll over R1,42m of that as it’s already committed.
- Some increase in our allocation over the MTEF period (from R144m this financial year rising to R162m by 2004/05) will allow the implementation of some further measures to promote the goal of an informed and active citizenry, including an allocation for the MDDA and additional funds for extending the mass multi-media campaigns.
Presented by: Joel Netshitenzhe, CEO: GCIS