17 May 2022
Opening Remarks by the DDG: Intergovernmental Coordination and Stakeholder Management, Mr Michael Currin, at the UK GCSI and GCIS Partnership Training Session.
Programme Director: Mr Tiisetso Ramotse;
Training facilitators from the United Kingdom (UK) Cabinet Office of the Government Communication Services International (the UK GCSI);
Representatives from the GCIS national and provincial offices;
Representatives from the Police Ministry;
Representatives from the Special Investigating Unit;
Representatives from National Treasury;
Representatives from the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition;
Representatives from the Department of Correctional Services;
Good Morning and Welcome!
A century ago, the world was a million times less complex and intricate than it is today. Some of these basic and uncomplicated conceptions of society are now almost nostalgic for many of us. While we have achieved enormous strides such as the rapid development of vaccines that have improved the lives of millions of people, there is a widening divide between the privileged and the poor; between those who are included... and those who feel excluded.
Unfortunately, this seems to be accompanied by an ever-widening “trust deficit” between governments and their citizenry throughout the globe.
This trust deficit imposes a tremendous responsibility not just on publicly elected officials, but also on those of us who have been “set apart” by the taxpayers and our citizenry... to serve them. In essence, the crucial purpose of strategic public government communication is to bridge this divide by providing relevant, honest, timeous, transparent and accurate information upon which citizens in a democratic state can make decisions and exercise life choices for their own development.
Similarly and in terms of the trust deficit, the issue of gender-based violence and femicide (GBVF) – along with a multitude of socio-economic and other injustices and challenges in South Africa – is a serious concern since it threatens citizens’ trust and confidence in the principle of democracy. One simple example we witnessed in 2021 during and after our local government elections – all of which were free and fair – resulted in many hung municipalities, again as a consequence of poor voter turnout and interest.
The way modern governments communicate or fail to communicate, is in part of “assisting” in fuelling such “turmoil” and this provokes feelings of unease in citizens. Communication should provide ease and reassurance to people.
In July last year, we saw massive public unrest, which was driven largely by false and misleading information. The same was witnessed by way of an example at the time, of a photograph of a hippo on the streets of Saint Lucia trumped up by the misinformer behind the “tactic”, as “citizens furious and fed up with government have pulled down the fence of a nature reserve”. In fact, it was from an incident years back when the hippo had escaped due to a breach in the fence. But… the essence in the context of the July 2021 social upheavals was to try and fuel public frenzy and panic. So fake, false, misleading and other such information and news…constitutes quite the “Hippo in the Room” these days!
This is one of many compelling reasons why initiatives to improve the competency and capacity of public service personnel who communicate with the public on behalf of governments are so crucial.
To the UK colleagues:
Our distinguished UK GCSI facilitators – Welcome!
You have arrived at a critical and sensitive time in the history of our young South African democracy:
Our country is still recuperating from devastating floods in four provinces, the worst of which occurred in KwaZulu-Natal, where more than 400 people lost their lives as well as their livelihood, and our infrastructure was destroyed to the tune of more than one billion South African Rand. Not without emphasizing that the devastating floods in South Africa are a direct result of global warming.
Our distinguished UK colleagues, you come at a time:
- when we are battling with the post-COVID-19 recovery plan and are still 20 percent short of the required population vaccination threshold against this deadly virus;
- when it is excruciatingly difficult to place 12 million South Africans in decent jobs – the majority of whom are young – something we were already suffering with before the other recent blows I mentioned above;
- when thousands of girls and young women are victims of the most severe types of GBVF;
- when we are battling to put criminals behind bars;
- when we are still dealing with attempts made to seize control of our state for personal, political, and other objectives, this proposal is problematic;
- of our budget voting season (as we refer to it);
- And as preparations for our Presidential Imbizo to the province of Mpumalanga are at an advanced stage… and I encourage you to maybe look into this amazing platform where our Head of State personally interacts with communities on issues of concern to them and to hear first-hand not only their challenges as communities, but what suggestions citizens have to address social challenges.
But you have also arrived at a moment when you will witness what South Africans are most renowned for.
‘Resilience in the face of the most difficult and adverse circumstances.’
Meaning resilience and the hope that we shall endure and prevail.
As a result, I am delighted to welcome Ms Femi Fagunwa and Ms Asana Greenstreet from the GCSI of the UK Prime Minister’s Office, and I strongly believe that your stay in South Africa will be fascinating, memorable and enlightening.
In the absence of Mr Ziad Ramley and Ms Tasneem Carrim, we would like to extend our profound gratitude to Mr Ramley of the UK Prime Minister's Cabinet Office for endorsing Ms Fagunwa and Ms Greenstreet to deliver world-class government communication training and skilful benchmarks. Secondly, thanks to Ms Carrim, whose pioneering and exploratory work brought us all to this point today.
So, Tshedimosetso House and the GCIS welcome team the GCSI to South Africa. I would also want to welcome and thank all course participants for attending.
Our job as government communicators is in a very challenging environment; we are confident that the GSCI's offerings will provide an unforgettable and inspiring opportunity for development and collaboration.
This training initiative in the realm of spotting disinformation and misinformation correlates with the South African Government's efforts to strengthen the public sector, especially within the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
Our executives are now examining the whole set of requirements for developing successful communication campaigns. So we are inviting and open to advice from you on how best to address this situation.
As my colleagues can attest, our primary complaint is often about the campaign budget; maybe you can shed some light on this as well.
As the GCIS, we place a high priority on the continuous development of communicators and government messengers. This obligation to professionalise government communication is engrained in both our mandate and the Government Communication Policy.
We, therefore, need to produce:
- a cadre of professional communicators who always effectively communicate government messages, and convey government programmes, initiatives, and achievements;
- communicators who will communicate information to people for them to take advantage of government-provided opportunities;
- communicators who excel in their efforts as a result of these attained skills and knowledge, and therefore, they efficiently engage the media and enlighten the public.
We continuously form collaborations with organisations such as the UK GCSI to help enhance the ability of communicators in this nation. From these partnerships, we must harvest new communication concepts and practices, but I am convinced we will also be able to share some of our – in my view – world-class practices, not least of all our public participation platforms I believe.
As a result, the GCIS envisions a strengthened partnership with the GCSI and further professional development opportunities that will enlighten our communicators, thus these initiatives will allow us to measure ourselves against international standards.
As a means of assessing and analysing the programme’s effect, we will have all participants fill out evaluation questionnaires. This will allow us to understand all of the challenges, the adoption of the content and the value the training will offer to our programmes, all of which will aid in the designing of the future.
I implore and encourage the GCIS and the attendees from the various departments to provide the training with the necessary support for it to produce the desired outcomes.
With these few words, I wish you the best of grit and determination in the training sessions and strongly believe that colleagues will gain knowledge that will contribute to the strengthening of the government's communication and information systems so we ensure that our citizens are informed of government intentions, programmes and achievements, and thus rebuild public confidence in government – after all – we are a government by the people; for the people.
Again, I cannot express enough thanks and appreciation to the UK GCSI for embracing the training partnership with the GCIS on this professionalising training journey.
In addition, a heartfelt Thank You to the Communication Training and Development Directorate: Mr Tiisetso Ramotse, Mr Senatle Chweneemang and Ms Tebogo Manthata, for their sheer determination in organising and ensuring the success of this training.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Colleagues and cadres,
I Thank You.