Government Communications

The Government Communication and Information System (GCIS) was officially launched in May 1998. It was established in terms of Section 7 (Subsection 2 and 3) of the Public Service Act, 1994 (Act 103 of 1994), as amended. It was transferred from the then Department of Communications to The Presidency with effect from 1 April 2020.

The mandate of the GCIS is derived from Section 195(g) of the Constitution, which stipulates that South African citizens should be provided with information that is timely, accurate and accessible. This is in support of the constitutional principles of freedom of expression, transparency and openness of government.

The GCIS is responsible for providing strategic leadership and coordinating government communication to ensure that the people of South Africa are informed and have access to government programmes and policies that benefit them. It facilitates the involvement of South Africans in governance, reconstruction and development, nation building, and reconciliation.

The NDP emphasises the need to unite all South Africans around a common goal, ensure citizens are active in their own development, and build a capable and developmental state. This is given expression by Priority 6 (building a capable, ethical and developmental state) of government’s 2019-2024 MTSF, with which the work of the GCIS is aligned.

The GCIS:

  • provides professional services;
  • sets and influences adherence to standards for an effective government communication system;
  • drives coherent government messaging; and
  • proactively communicates with the public about government policies, plans programmes and achievements.

The DG of the GCIS is also the official spokesperson for government. He/she chairs the GCIS Executive Committee – a strategising body that integrates, coordinates and rationalises the work of the department and government communication.

To expand its reach to more South Africans, the GCIS aims to harness and coordinate various communication structures across the 





government communication system over the medium term. Essential to doing this economically is joint planning, the sharing of resources and the integration of efforts among government departments. Vuk’uzenzele newspaper, which is distributed digitally and physically countrywide, is the only national publication that is focused on government’s key priorities, with an emphasis on service delivery programmes and opportunities created by government. Over the medium term, the GCIS plans to produce 30.6 million copies of Vuk’uzenzele newspaper at an estimated cost of R75 million – R50.4 million per year for printing in the Products and Platforms subprogramme and R24.6 million per year for distribution in the Communication Service Agency subprogramme, both in the Content Processing and Dissemination programme.

The department also engages with the public through campaigns and outreach programmes. These include community radio talk shows, activations at taxi ranks and malls, information blitzes on commuter trains, and social media campaigns. It plans to hold 1 140 community and stakeholder engagements per year over the medium term in the form of dialogues, meetings, webinars and community radio talk shows with sector departments, civil society, youth formations, faith-based organisations and business forums.

In addition to these initiatives, the department plans to conduct

1 140 development communication projects over the period ahead to enhance service delivery and keep citizens informed and empowered on government’s progress and projects. Expenditure for these activities is within the Intergovernmental Coordination and Stakeholder Management programme, which has a budget of R392.7 million over the MTEF period.

Communication during the COVID-19 pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has necessitated the need for the GCIS to be technologically well-resourced to operate virtually in order to fulfil its communication mandate. In adapting to the ‘new normal’ after COVID- 19, the department will continue using technology to make it easy and convenient for media and the public to access information remotely. The lockdowns, aimed at slowing the spread of the pandemic, created significant shifts in the way government communications reached – and reached out to – different constituencies and communities.

Restrictions on the movement of people other than essential workers presented huge challenges in terms of how government would replace physical interaction with citizens, with alternative means of communications that would comply with COVID-19 health protocols. Large public gatherings, including izimbizo, distribution of pamphlets, face-to-face interaction with media and visits by members of the public to Thusong Service Centres were among the communication modes that came under pressure or became almost impossible to undertake during the most severe lockdown conditions.

However, the GCIS responded to these unprecedented conditions rapidly by adopting technological platforms such as Zoom, Skype and Microsoft Teams to enable remote meetings. The department also upscaled online publishing of traditionally print products, including Vuk’uzenzele newspaper.

The adoption of new technologies was particularly crucial in the support that the GCIS provided to President Cyril Ramaphosa who, in March 2020, had a 12-month term as Chairperson of the AU. As the pandemic progressed, so did South Africa’s – and especially the President’s – prominence on platforms of the World Health 

Organisation, the broader UN, BRICS, and other international bodies, which considered South Africa a strategic partner in the global management of the pandemic.

The growth in new communication channels and greater consumer use of social platforms enabled dissemination of public health and other relevant information that could assist vulnerable individuals and groups to survive the devastating economic impact of the pandemic.

The growth of online media, however, also presented peddlers of misinformation and disinformation with the easily accessible and cost-effective means of communication to undermine scientific and official messages. As a global phenomenon, fake news did not leave South Africa unscathed and in this event, the GCIS had to implement human and technological mechanisms to combat distortion, lies and contestation around various dimensions of the pandemic.

Budget

For the 2021/22 financial year, the GCIS was allocated R757.430 million. Compensation of the department’s 2020/21: 541 employees – March 2022: 532 is its largest expenditure item, comprising an estimated 38.3% (R844.9 million) of the total budget over the MTEF period. Transfer payments to entities account for an estimated 34.9% (R779.6 million) of total expenditure.

Source: South Africa Yearbook 2021/22

 

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