Keeping SA citizens informed

As government navigates through the present day challenges, it has committed to provide citizens with communication informed by its work to address load shedding, unemployment, crime, the rising cost of living, corruption and service delivery.

“We will sustain the flow of information on these priorities through, among others, the regular briefings we present to the nation on all the priorities. The Government Communication and Information System (GCIS) will develop content for its online accounts and develop streams of information that will empower citizens to access social and economic opportunities,” Minister in the Presidency, Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, said on Tuesday in Parliament.

Delivering the GCIS budget for the 2023/24 financial year, the Minister emphasised that communication plays a fundamental role in bridging the divide between government and citizens, as it allows the public to gain access to relevant information.

“It also provides channels for citizens to engage with the administration on issues that matter most to them. GCIS will develop content for its online accounts and develop streams of information that will empower citizens to access social and economic opportunities.

“We will develop content for our own print media and for its audiovisual outlets, as well as through advertising, the purchasing of which we coordinate on behalf of departments and agencies,” Ntshavheni said.

GCIS will work with departments, provinces, State-owned enterprises and partners in civil society to deepen communication of government’s programmes and the nation’s promise as a destination and partner for tourism, trade and investment.

The Minister has committed to redouble efforts to strengthen coordination of the GCIS, and harness partnerships with labour, business and civil society.

Government will also intensify community engagements; increase the use of digital platforms to reach a wider section of the population; improve communication in all official languages; and empower community radio stakeholders as a local medium of communication with a national footprint.

“Amid the challenges we face, we understand the need for our messages to be substantiated by the underlying performance of the administration at the national, provincial and municipal level.

“With this in mind, we will consistently involve the implementers of government programmes in our communications rollout, as part of ensuring that communications hold implementers to account.

“Our long-term programme of communication will be inspired by and serve as a support mechanism to our realisation of the National Development Plan (NDP), our Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan and the Five-Point Energy Action Plan,” the Minister said.

During the 2023/ 24 financial year, BrandSA will work to strengthen the country’s brand position and reputation as part of the Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan, and the Better Africa and Better World and Leaving No One Behind campaigns.

“As South Africa ventures into the opportunities presented by the African Continental Free Trade Agreement and a continental market of more than a billion people, we will communicate programmes that support regional integration and the African Agenda 2063.

“GCIS will put its best foot forward later this year in hosting an expected 200 journalists from our continent and elsewhere, who will constitute the BRICS Media Forum from 18 to 19 August 2023.

“Media organisations and institutions from BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa), developing countries and emerging economies have had in-depth exchanges and initiated practical cooperation that drives the forum,” the Minister said.

She said the BRICS Forum has played a vital role in strengthening mutual learning among participants and promoting the BRICS spirit of openness, inclusiveness, cooperation and mutual benefit.

GCIS budget allocation

The GCIS has been allocated R750.746 million for the 2023/24 financial year and R782,847 million for 2024/25.

The department’s current budget of R750.746 million for the 2023/24 financial year is allocated as follows:

Transfers and subsidies to the entities: R256.6 million (34%), of which R219.526 million is for Brand SA and R37.039 million is for theMedia Development and Diversity Agency (MDDA);

Capital budget (1% of GCIS budget) R8.2 million;

Goods and Services (27%) R201.8 million; and

Compensation of Employees (38%) R284.1 million.

“With greater resources, GCIS would be able to do a lot more to ensure that all citizens and communities have access to information that adequately allows them to take advantage of the opportunities to improve their lives.

“This is based on the fact that, when transferred to the entities are effected, GCIS remains with R494.146 million, which results to R8.2c per capita to provide communication to approximately 60 million citizens,” Ntshavheni said.

Strengthening the relationship with media

The Minister affirmed that the media remains a key stakeholder, and it is through this relationship that government is able to communicate and reach the majority of citizens.

“During this financial year, we intend to strengthen these relations and as such, we are looking at lessons that we learnt during the COVID-19 period, which yielded very solid relations between government, particularly the GCIS, and the media.

“This partnership is essential to ensure that citizens have access to information, which is the heartbeat to the health of our democracy, the development of our country and an enabler to government to get into every home, despite the distance and time,” she said.

Ntshavheni noted the decline in advertising revenues and circulation figures as one of the biggest challenges faced by the private sector and community media alike.

"The long-term sustainability of any medium is critical for the GCIS, as government relies on these platforms to disseminate government information to the citizens," she said.

Source: South African Government News Agency