19 September 2014
Honourable Premier Magashule
Cllr Sebotelo , Ward Cllr for Section E Botshabelo
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, it is my very great pleasure to join you all today at this important event to commemorate the official close of the Thusong Service Centre Campaign, hosted by the Botshabelo Thusong Service Centre, in the beautiful Free State Province.
This is an important year for us all. As we continue to commemorate South Africa’s 20-year milestone of democratic freedom and social change, and we look back at what has been achieved over the past two decades, we are all reminded that the country is a much better place to live in than it has ever been. Today, our citizens and communities are supported by essential societal and developmental pillars that encourage them to thrive. As a result, they are able to live better and more fulfilled lives, making meaningful contributions to the continuing growth and development of our country.
Ensuring citizens and communities have access to key services and information is at the heart of the country’s continuing socio-economic development. This month, the nation has come together under the umbrella of Public Service Month, an initiative used to raise awareness and enhance greater understanding of the Public Service Charter.
It is part of the programme of measures introduced by Government to transform the Public Service and to ensure that public servants deliver appropriate services to the citizens of this country, whilst at the same time, fighting corruption. The attention of this year’s Public Service Month has been focused on reinventing the way public service currently works in South Africa. It has shone a spotlight on how service providers are being actively encouraged to promote the principles of Batho Pele in the way they render services to the public, and how they conduct themselves in public life.
Today, we are gathered together to officially close the Thusong Service Centre Week, an important event in the national calendar, held to bring essential services and information closer to the people and in particular, to rural and previously under-serviced communities of South Africa. The Week has been closely aligned to the objectives set out for Public Service Month.
It has successfully focused our attention on the important role played by these one-stop service Centres in providing a critical service and information lifeline to the public on a day-to-day basis. From providing access to government services such as applications for ID documents, birth certificates, social grants and key municipal services provided by government departments, these Centres are also key communication hubs offering full information and communications technology connectivity.
Much needed education and training development initiatives are also implemented at these Centres to uplift local communities and to equip residents with the essential skills needed to secure employment. Local economic development services in the Centres offer critical advice and support to small businesses, helping them to grow and thrive in the communities they serve.
Since its launch just seven days ago in an Urban Mall at Maponya in Soweto, the Thusong Service Centre Week has witnessed an impressive celebration of activities at other Centres nationwide. In all, around 80 events have taken place this week, ranging from Open Days, service drives, community radio talk-shows, and door to door campaigns…all with the purpose of celebrating the Thusong Centres that are working hard in our communities. The Week has also provided the opportunity to recognize the efforts of all those highly committed and dedicated people who are responsible for providing access to great services and information in these Centres.
As many of you here today will be aware, the Thusong Service Centre Programme was initiated 15 years ago, as one of the primary vehicles intended to drive the much desired change of improved service delivery and to increase access to services and information.
It was one of the first unique initiatives implemented by the South African Democratic Government which integrated services across the three spheres of government - National, Provincial and Local government. Aligned to the access strategy of government, the programme has been about creating access not only to government information and services, but also opportunities offered by other civil society groups, such as Business, Non-governmental Organisations, and Parastatals.
For the past 15 years, the Thusong Programme has been one of the pre-eminent driving forces of access to services and information in South Africa, working together with other access vehicles such as Community Development Workers, various government helplines and call Centres, and numerous innovative communication platforms. The popular ‘Talk to Your Minister Community Radio Programme’ is one such platform that comes to mind in this regard. It has proven to be particularly successful and relevant to citizens living in remote and rural areas, as well as urban townships, who have previously battled to get access to information, services and opportunities in their daily lives.
Every day, the 183 Thusong Service Centres established in 107 Local Municipalities countrywide, work hard to provide support and access to critical information to local residents and communities. These Centres are complemented by 114 integrated mobile routes taking government services to the far-flung areas where help, advice and support is often needed most. The support of 224 critical Non-Governmental Organisations has also ensured greater access for South Africans through the Thusong Service Centres. And, in addition, essential information is provided to local people through a network of 41 Libraries and 58 Tele-Centres established in Thusong Service Centres.
Over the years, the Thusong Programme has successfully managed to provide an essential platform from which all sectors of our society could converge and share information, deliver services, transfer skills, create employment and business opportunities to those with entrepreneurial interests. Interestingly, the Tele-Centres at each of the Thusong Service Centres are managed by young entrepreneurs from the local communities, thus creating much-needed job opportunities, and assisting to widen government access to information, particularly in the rural areas. These are all critical building blocks of strong communities. In fact, around 5 million people each year gain access to critical services from Government, Parastatals, and NGOs under this important initiative.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank all those who have worked tirelessly to make the Thusong Service Centre Open Week such as success, and help it to achieve its goals in our communities. In particular, the team at the GCIS who have been responsible for the overall coordination of the programme, in partnership with leader Departments such as the DPSA, COGTA, the Department of Home Affairs and Labour, to mention a few. Their work in raising awareness of the Thusong programme, its work, its achievements, and ultimately its positive impact on the lives of so many ordinary South African citizens in our communities, must be commended. In addition, a vote of thanks goes to the 109 dedicated Centre Managers and Caretakers who have been assigned to oversee the operations of each Thusong Service Centre, ensuring their smooth operation at an optimum level.
The success of the Thusong Programme has also been assured as a result of the support received from the business community, particularly the local mines operating in rural areas, where major capital injections were provided towards the much-needed construction of these Centres as part of their business corporate social responsibility. As a result, most of these Centres are now implementing successful poverty alleviation and food security projects that benefit local people. Such support is an example of business and government working together in strategic partnership for the benefit of needy communities and their future growth and development.
Importantly, the Thusong Service Centre Open Week has also provided a critical lens through which to look more closely at the specific challenges faced by citizens in our communities each day, and to find ways through these Centres to successfully address problems and find much-needed solutions.
Moving forward, it is our aim that the Thusong Service Centre Open Week will become a much-anticipated annual event, to be held under the umbrella of Public Service Month. As we bring this year’s Open Week to a close, let us make a strong commitment to continue to work together to further strengthen this platform of Government, which was developed to help positively change the lives of our people. Together, we can all make a difference.
Enquiries: Bongiwe Gambu
Issued by Government Communications (GCIS)