Chairperson, hon Minister in the Presidency - Performance, Monitoring and Evaluation as well as Administration, hon Deputy Minister in the Presidency, hon members, staff members of the Government Communication and Information System, GCIS, it is indeed an honour for me to join my colleagues and participate in this debate. I will focus on Thusong Service Centres as a programme of government. This achievement marks yet another milestone in the overall transformation of the service delivery mechanisms of the ANC-led government.
The Thusong Service Centres programme affords us, as the ANC, a rare moment to reflect not only on the achievements of government in extending vital services to our people, but also the challenges we face in this process.
Thusong Service Centres were established, as we in this democratic dispensation say, as a means to an end, not an end in themselves. And these centres, although there is still much work to be done to strengthen them, are starting to serve the high developmental ends, which are places for community development and empowerment; and above all, they are places where participation can be realised. This ideal is paramount in the National Development Plan, the ideal of an active citizenship working closely with government to better their lives and promote development locally. As such, many centres around the country are bearing fruit.
Thusong Service Centres, then called Multi-Purpose Community Centres, MPCCs, were initiated in 1999. And it was to extend government services in an integrated way, primarily to rural communities and to address historical factors that limit citizens to access government information and services.
In 2005, Cabinet approved the Second Generation Business Plan for the programme, indicating that by 2014 there should be at least one such centre in each of the 283 municipalities. The establishment should be a combination of central hubs, satellites and mobile units.
The overall objectives of the programme are to bring government information and services closer to the people and to promote access and opportunities as a basis for improved livelihoods; to build sustainable partnerships between government, business and civil society; to create a platform for greater dialogue between citizens and government; to introduce information and communications technology to communities; to promote computer literacy and access to technology.
We do have successful Thusong Service Centres in the country, and just about every province has a story to tell about their successes. Over the past quarter, that is, from January to March 2013, more than 1,2 million people were serviced in the Thusong Service Centres and the mobile units.
Training on Batho Pele customer care was provided to both centre managers and service providers to ensure that the community is serviced with dignity and care.
Here are some successful Thusong centres. There is a Mpumalanga Thusong, where the programme is co-ordinated by the Department for Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs. There is also a Dududu Thusong Service Centre in Kwazulu-Natal, where there was an outreach to take a girl-child to work during the child protection week. There is also a Kgomotsego Thusong Service Centre in the Northern Cape, where there is a centre that provides information for all local and foreign tourists travelling to Namibia and the Kgalagadi National Park.
There is also a Laingsburg Thusong Service Centre, where they also run a soup kitchen. There are some activities in the centre, including community gymnasium, choir and band practices to keep the youth off the streets. More than 2 000 community members access the centre on a monthly basis to access government services and information. [Applause.]
There is also a Mamelodi Thusong Service Centre in Gauteng, where the success story is that there was a couple who had been living together for 30 years and tied the knot in the Thusong Centre, using the services of the Department of Home Affairs. The average usage of the centre per month is about 20 000.
Thusong Service Centres serve as an effective means of bringing information, in a two-way process, to the communities in a manner that ensures government and citizen interaction. We want to congratulate the Minister and his team for the sterling work in ensuring that our people become active participants in improving their lives and building the nation. [Applause.] [Interjections.] The ANC supports this Budget Vote. [Applause.]
The DEPUTY MINISTER IN THE PRESIDENCY - PERFORMANCE MONITORING AND EVALUATION, AS WELL AS ADMINISTRATION: Thank you, House Chairperson. Chairperson of the portfolio committee; Minister in the Presidency - Performance Monitoring and Evaluation, Comrade and hon Collins Chabane; hon members; honoured guests; members of the GCIS management and staff present, members of the Media Development and Diversity Agency, MDDA, Board, management and staff present; members of the media present, particularly the community radio media; friends and comrades; ladies and gentlemen, I have a slight case of the flu, but it is not the flu that I am experiencing in the House: the Gupta or The New Age flu, which seems to be caught only by the opposition and not the ruling party. I am not sure. The hon Minister Collins Chabane will have to assume the role of a traditional healer and cure it later.
Today I feel privileged to stand before this House and deliver this Budget Vote speech, as we celebrate Africa month and the 50th anniversary of the OAU under the theme "Pan Africanism and African Renaissance". This 50th anniversary is expected to facilitate and celebrate African narratives of the past, the present and the future. As a country and a continent, we are acutely aware of the role that a strong and diverse media plays in meeting these expectations.
The mandate of the OAU was to decolonise and unite Africa. Ultimately, decolonisation produced moments of inspiration, promise and greater political power, but failed to transform issues of, amongst others, economies and indigenous languages. The new mandate of the AU is to fulfil vision 2063 so that issues such as diminishing indigenous languages can come to the fore through diverse media platforms.
We take this opportunity to congratulate the community radio stations that reach out to almost 80% of our communities in their own indigenous languages. This includes the Khoisan Community Radio Station, which is now broadcast on radio. Ten years ago, the fruit of government's tireless work and efforts was realised with the launch of the Media Development and Diversity Agency, MDDA. It is important to reflect on the original concept of the MDDA in order to understand better and appreciate the current work of the agency.
The concept of the MDDA was rooted in the founding consensus of our democracy. At its heart is the understanding that our nation's legacy of imbalances and exclusions had to be overcome through a partnership of all sectors of society if our vision of a new society were to become a reality for all South Africans. The MDDA was informed by the belief that if we address some of our fundamental problems in the media environment, then the issues of content and diversity of opinion will start to take care of themselves.
However, we have not fully realised this goal because we need a bit of a push and we need an MDDA that is more empowered. This Parliament, in recognising the exclusion and marginalisation of disadvantaged communities and persons from access to the media and the media industry, resolved to establish the MDDA as an agency in terms of the MDDA Act, 14 of 2002, in partnership with the major print and broadcast media industry, to help create an enabling environment for media development and diversity that is conducive to public discourse and reflects the needs and aspirations of South Africans. I must state here that, indeed, we have achieved this goal.
Today we have overtaken countries such as Mali, Burkina Faso and others in the very progressive and enabling environment that exists in our country. They were number one at the time when we started, but today South Africa is now leading in that particular environment, including exceeding countries such as the United States, Canada and Australia. I think that is something worth celebrating. [Applause.]
This is consistent with the freedom of expression provisions enshrined in our Constitution, in section 16(1) and the access to information provisions in section 32 of the Constitution, Act 108 of 1996, and the MDDA Act.
The mandate of the MDDA is to encourage ownership, control and access to media by historically disadvantaged communities as well as the historically diminished indigenous languages and cultural groups, with a view to promote support and encourage diverse media.
However, as we are all aware in this House, the majority of media in our country is still owned by four large publishing groups. According to the survey done by the South African Audit of Circulation, which has been quoted so many times here, there are at least 29 commercial newspapers written in English and just a handful written in other indigenous languages. Most of those written in indigenous languages are regionally based. You find them only in certain provinces, not nationally. So, 29 national newspapers are published in English or Afrikaans and the indigenous languages are excluded. This calls upon us, therefore, to reflect, debate and provide solutions on our way. I will then leave that obviously to the able committee of communications to reflect on that particular issue as we celebrate 20 years of democracy. When we look at those 20 years of democracy, we ought to identify challenges still outstanding in society so that we could then be able to deal with those challenges.
As the Chairperson of the portfolio committee has indicated, it is also important to remember that it is 20 years since the first broadcast by the first SA community radio station Bush Radio. They were on air on 25 April 1993, headed by Ms Brenda Leonard. I understand she is in the House with us here. Zibonele community radio, in Khayelitsha, started at the same time as a primary health station and is under the current leadership of Mr Mzamo Ngomana. I hope he is also in the House. Similarly, it is also 20 years of the National Community Radio Forum. The story about how this started - I think it ought to be shared and told.
A young student from the University of the Western Cape, who today is the CEO of MDDA, started as a student in print media. Alternative media was everywhere. Cape Town had Grassroots, Pretoria had The Eye, Gauteng had the New Nation and all sorts of newspapers. He then felt that a radio station was needed, and he applied for a licence, but the National Party government of apartheid refused him a licence. He decided to go live on that day. Unfortunately, he was raided and all his equipment was taken away. So he could not be live on the 25th but the attempt to do so was there.
Then a similar project, called Zibonele, started. Their platform was the promotion of primary health, and that licence was issued. However, the first license obviously had to wait for the new democratic government of the ANC. In 1995, through the Independent Broadcasting Authority, IBA, we gave the first licence to the Pietermaritzburg radio station, which is still alive and live today. [Applause.] I think we ought to tell this story.
Secondly, since then we have had 120 community radio stations across the land, 80 of them live and broadcasting. I think that is a big achievement from 1994 until today, which we also need to celebrate. We have over 400 community platforms, such as newspapers, including community radio, plus the community television channels that are now beginning to emerge, that give alternative platforms for communities to access information, entertainment and education, so that they are informed as citizens of this country.
I am pleased to report also that the commitment and hard work of the MDDA has been shown through the many deliverables, including the unqualified audit reports since its establishment. I think everyone has attested to it. The Agency has also made a mark in developing and diversifying the media landscape, though with meagre resources. Since 2004, it received a budget of R233 million accumulatively. I am not sure how much of that money goes into helping the more than 400 projects they take care of to ensure that training of the media people, management and finance issues are attended to, so that you do not start community radio stations or circulate newspapers then, six months or two years down the line, they are all gone. Therefore, that project ought to be supported. I therefore hope that as we appropriate money through the GCIS and whatever goes to the MDDA, we need to appreciate their work.
In addition, they also trained over 1 800 people, provided 147 bursaries to different radio and print media. As the Chair has indicated, the agency has also created almost 300 direct and indirect jobs and held seminars promoting media literacy and the culture of reading.
Workshops were also conducted on the corporate governance toolkit that they have developed to assist all these community stations to be viable, sustainable and lasting as the democracy matures. The agency also held training sessions with its beneficiaries on issues of financial management, compliance with funding agreements and other key corporate governance issues. I think that is something we ought to keep ensuring that the MDDA does.
In the 2013-14 Strategic and Business Plan, in addition to other projects, the MDDA plans to continue supporting more projects. Firstly, it plans to support at least one community radio station in every community. Secondly, it will support one community magazine; thirdly, one commercial newspaper and magazine in each district municipality. Lastly, the agency also plans to support at least one community television channel in each province. They also plan to conduct a study on the social impact of community radio.
The MDDA plans to continue with interventions in respect of promotion of media literacy and culture of reading in all provinces using all our indigenous languages, including sign language. I hope they will also venture into that. Increasing on the focus of 2013-14, we will continue to champion the media transformation discourse. That will include media diversity ownership and control. I think other speakers have spoken about the fact that media control remains a challenge in the country.
Parliament will hear progress on these inquiries conducted on a range of issues impacting on the mandate of the MDDA. As we celebrate 20 years of democracy, let us look into the mandate of the MDDA and see whether it is about time that we reflect, review and empower it so that it accelerates delivery on its mandate.
The money that has been coming from the broadcasting partners has been spent well. However, the print media has not been doing well in terms of their contribution. They are supposed to give 0,2% of their turnover, which is also very little. As we review the mandate, we should perhaps look at whether the print media cannot contribute more. The broadcasters have merged, engaged and agreed to increase their annual contribution. The rest of the money comes from the government and yet this is supposed to be a partnership with the industry to make sure that the MDDA, indeed, is able to fulfil its objectives.