National Assembly Debate

CAPE TOWN : 8 June 2000

Madam Speaker 

It is perhaps an incontrovertible truth that god has not yet created a government communications system anywhere in the world which enjoys the unequivocal support of opposition parties.

The same must be said of the government communications and information system which is the subject of today’s debate.

There is no doubt that the transformation from the old decrepit sacs (SA communication service) has been dramatic and one in which innovative technologies and programmes are being designed and implemented by the GCIS to enhance delivery to what it refers to as its "clients" – the citizens of South Africa.

The chief executive officer, Mr. Joel Netshitenzhe, has moved quickly and decisively to staff the GCIS with senior personnel who are clearly highly professional, competent and committed.

In their presentation to the portfolio committee on communication these persons put forward details of impressive, integrated strategies, programmes, research analysis and various multi-media methods of communication which have been devised to meet the needs of their cabinet mandate which is to ensure that the public is informed about government policies and actions.

More than that, cabinet has enjoined the GCIS to focus its communication strategy on ways and means to mobilise our people to work with the government to improve their quality of life.

But you can’t please all of the people all of the time and nobody knows better than Mr. Netshitenzhe that his job is politically delicate and situated between a rock and a hard place. Each day he must walk, literally, on eggs and he will hear today from the opposition benches that along the way he has cracked and broken a few.

What is government information to some is a clear example of ANC propaganda to another.

Media exposure, along with money, is the joint mothers milk of politics. The GCIS has direct access to both and its leaders are subtle and sophisticated practitioners.

When a government information system produces prolific, expensive and professional media coverage just before an election – as was the case prior to the 1999 general election -- listing government achievements, it can expect howls of outrage from opposition parties. Quite frankly, we are still angry about it and believe the timing and the content was deliberately constructed to the advantage of the majority party.

We are hoping that there will not be a repeat performance prior to the local government elections.

My son has a t-shirt simply stating "he who has the most toys wins".

An irresponsible government using its information system as its own political toy will also win – for a while. There are examples all over the world and some very close to our borders – Zimbabwe a classic example.

The GCIS is a powerful tool in the hands of government. It is critical to the development of multi-party democracy in our country that it be used to nurture and develop this system of government in the best interests of this generation and generations to come.

May I also say that, equally, the integrity of the ANC leadership of our government is at stake in not being tempted to use their vast majority and the resources of the GCIS for their own ends.

The GCIS is a very ripe apple in a proverbial political garden of Eden. To use the example recently given to us all by Mr. Hansie Cronje, it is folly indeed to take ones eyes off what is good and true and to grasp what is expedient and lucrative in the short term but, nevertheless, with resultant devastating consequences

Much more has to be done by the GCIS to focus on the role of opposition parties and their critical role in the development of our new democracy.

Ways and means need to be explored to not only expose the executive and its priorities, policies and programmes but the constituency work and individual expertise of individual members of parliament and those in the NCOP. Our citizens need to be far more exposed to an holistic view of their government.

The IFP supports this vote and wishes the GCIS well in its difficult and delicate contribution to the development of our nation.

For further information

Suzanne Vos mp 083 303 0451

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