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The African e-Journals Project has digitized full text of articles of eleven social science and humanities journals.   This item is from the digital archive maintained by Michigan State University Library. Find more at: http://digital.lib.msu.edu/projects/africanjournals/

Available through a partnership with

Scroll down to read the article.

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South African CommunicationPolicy: Strategies for Influencing

Government Policies

by Eronini R. Megwa


This is an analytical appraisal of the making of a vibrant mediaindustry in South Africa. The author commends the government effortto repeal oppressive legal regimes that served the defunct apartheidsystem in stifling press freedom and fundamental human rights.

While extolling the virtues of the new democratic culture in thecountry, the paper also underscores the centrality of the press,especially the media, in nurturing and safeguarding the new pluralpolitical system.

The author argues strongly that the formation of a more mediafriendly communication policy, to create a final and rapid break withthe divisive past, is imperative. The paper enjoins the new governmentof national unity to devise comprehensive communication policy andprofound training packages for journalists to strengthen andprofessionalize the media industry, as an instrument of nationaldevelopment.

It contends that democratic growth requires a free and authoritativepress to provide a forum for national debate, where people canexchange critical and competitive views, to enable them to makerational or informed choices on various matters critical to nationalcohesion. This, the author says, is only possible if the newcommunication policy establishes efficient information feedbackmechanisms.

The paper also highlights various legislations put in place to ensurethat national interest is catered for in programming in a liberalisedbroadcast media. The issues of ownership and media accessibility tothe poor are discussed.

Dr. Eronini R. Megwa is the Head of Department of Journalism, Peninsula Technikon,Bellville, South Africa.


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Plans de Communicationde l'Afrique du Sud: Strategies

pour Influer sur la Planifiacationdu Gouvernement

Par Eronini R. Megwa


L'auteur de cette communication s'efforce de faire une analyse critique,qui montre comment etablir une industrie dynamique des medias enAfrique du Sud. II commence par loeur les efforts du gouvernement quimenerent au changements des lois tyranniques qui soutendaient l'ancienregime de l'apartheid. Ces lois avaient beaucoup contribue a Tabus de laliberte de la presse et a la violation des droits de rhomme.

Cependant, Megwa souligne rimportance du role de la presse,notamment les medias, dans la perpetuation de la nouvelle culture dedemocratic et de multi-partisme.

A son avis, il faudrait formuler des plans de communication qui soientrealistes et pratiques, afin de sauve-garder le nouveau systeme politique.Ces plans s'averent aussi necessaires, afin de pouvoir couper les pontsavec l'ancien systeme. Megwa preconise la conception des plans decommunication comprehensifs et profonds. Celles-ci devraient avoiraussi comme but, la promotion de la formation des journalistes afin defortifier et rendre professionnelle l'industrie des medias. Car celle-ciconstitue l'un des outils indispensables du developpement national.

L'auteur soutient qu'un Etat democratique a besoin d'une presse libreet efficace, qui offrirait le forum qu'il faut pour des debats, permettant desechanges critiques et comparatifs. Cela servirait a sensibiliser les citoyens,pourqu'ils puissent faire leur choix en connaissance de cause. Ceci n'estpossible qu'avec un mecanisme efficace d'echange d'informations, doted'un dispositif de feedback.

L'expose de Megwa fait une comparaison de diverses legislations,mises en place pour sauve-garder les interets nationaux, dans un pays oules medias sont libres. II n'oublie pas, non plus, de discuter les questionstelles qu'a qui devraient appartenir les agences de presse et 1'accessibilite.

Dr. Eronini R. Megwa est le Chef du Departement du Journalisme, PeninsulaTechnikon, Bellville, Afrique du Sud.


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The process of democratization in South Africa, which began inearnest with multi-party negotiations, culminated in the firstdemocratic elections in April 1994 and in the certification andsigning of a new Constitution in December 1996. The newConstitution is important because it guarantees all SouthAfricans their human rights, including freedoms of expressionand association. In addition, it provides for universal adultsuffrage, regular elections and a multi-party system of democraticgovernment to ensure responsiveness, openness, andaccountability.

One of the cardinal principles of the new South AfricanConstitution is that it requires the Government to respect thelaw and the fundamental rights of everyone. The new Constitutionhas also created a Constitutional Court to ensure that allbranches of Government obey its principles. The ConstitutionalCourt has the powers to nullify any act of Government, whichviolates the Constitution.

Government, Communication and Development

The guarantee of freedom of expression by the new Constitutionis consistent with a democratic system of Government. TheSouth African Government recognizes the role of informationand communication in national development. It's Reconstructionand Development Programme (RDP) recognizes open debate,transparency and accountability in Government and society, ascritical elements in rebuilding, developing and reconciling itscitizens. The RDP encourages active exchange of informationamong the Government, the people and communities, therebyencouraging competition rather than monopoly of ideas.

The Government has taken a number of steps to realize theobjectives of the RDP. Before the April 1994 democratic elections,the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) Board wasreconstituted after public hearings chaired by a judge. The


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Government also set up the Independent Broadcasting Authority(IBA) in 1994. In addition, it has done the following:

1. set up a task force in October 1994, to manage the processleading to the adoption of a Freedom of Information Act. TheFreedom of Information Act recognizes peoples' right toaccess to information held by the Government, its institutionsand other public bodies. The task force also recommendedthe following:

• that an Open Democracy Commission be set up tomonitor the effectiveness of the proposed Information Actand to report to Parliament annually .

• that basic and necessary official information be includedin a supplementary information guide included intelephone directories, and should be made availablethrough post offices, mail collection points and schools.

• that the Public Protector and the Human RightsCommission be granted powers of facilitation andintervention in particular cases.

2. passed legislation encouraging the development of public,community and private commercial media.

3. organized a Conference of Communicators in August 1995in Arniston, Western Cape. The conference called for anextensive examination of the South African media, includingits ownership and affirmative action. It also recommended,among others, the setting up of a task group to reviewGovernment communication systems.

In addition, the Government revised its telecommunicationspolicy after the publication of the Green Paper. This new policyis underpinned by the following: providing universal andaffordable telephone services; contributing to the developmentof the economy and creating security for investors; facilitating


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and reducing the cost of health care and business information;empowering historically disadvantaged individuals andcommunities to participate actively in the economy. In 1996, itset up the South African Telecommunications RegulationAuthority (SATRA).

In January 1996, the Government established aCommunication Task Group (Comtask) to investigate:

• the existing government communication policies andstructures at national, provincial and local levels;

• the relationships between Government communicationfunctions at national, provincial and local levels;

• the existing Government budgets with special reference topersonnel, operations and equipment;

• the relationships between Government communicationstructures and non-governmental information providers;

• the Government communication training and capacitybuilding, with special emphasis on Affirmative Action;

• the Ownership and control of the media and to interpret howthese affect Government communication and;

• the existing information delivery systems.

Comtask was also mandated to make recommendations onnew Government communication policy functions, structures,personnel and budget at national, provincial and local level. Itsubmitted its report to the Government in December 1996. Inearly 1997, the Government accepted, in principle, therecommendations of the task group and subsequently set up animplementations committee to study and implement therecommendations.

The findings and recommendations of Comtask wereunderpinned by (1) the new democratic constitution and thecitizens' "right to know", (2) the legacy of apartheid, (3) the natureof South Africa's communication systems, (4) the need to expandcommunication access to all, especially the disadvantaged blackcommunities, (5) the political and socio-economic imperatives in


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the new dispensation, (6) the Government objective of creatingleaner and more efficient public service and Affirmative Action,(7) the importance of pluralism in media ownership and control.(Communications 2000, 1996)

Comtask summarized its findings and recommendationsthus:

"A new communication system is an economic and political imperativefor the 'Information Age'. Its purpose must be to provide a networkthroughout the country which provides every citizen with the informationrequired to live and control their lives. The new Governmentcommunication and information system needs to be better coordinatedand more focused in its messages. It should strengthen the capabilityof Government to communicate its policies to the people, and bestreamlined, credible, cost-effective and highly professional. To do this,it will need to engage better with civil society, creating a dialoguebetween Government and the public..." (Communications 2000, 1996)

The report identified what it calls "critical constraints" whichthe Government must take into account: outmoded medialegislation, rigid and inward looking bureaucracy, monopoly ofmedia ownership, the low status of Government communicators,journalism profession impoverished by official policy of racialdiscrimination, and severed budgetary constraints on theGovernment.

The task group made a total of 83 recommendations relatingto structures and functions of Government communications,personnel and training, media ownership, public access toGovernment held information and regular flow of communicationfrom the public to the Government, at all levels. One of its majorrecommendations was for the South African CommunicationService (SACS), which served the erstwhile apartheid Government,to be replaced by a new structure—Government Communicationand Information Service (GCIS). The new structure, the grouprecommended, should have three components: media liaison,communication service agency, and provincial liaison.

The GCIS, the task group recommended, should be coordinated


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and managed by a small unit, to be located in the Presidency andmade up of senior officials, who will be responsible for media andprovincial liaison and communication service agency. It alsorecommended that each ministry have a Head of Communicationsresponsible for all aspects of departmental communications.

The Communication Environment

South Africa has one of the freest and the most developed mediasystems in Africa. Since the April 1994 elections, the SouthAfrican media industry, particularly the broadcast sector, hasbeen undergoing tremendous transformation to make it moreaccessible to all segments of the population. Prior to the settingup of the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA), the SouthAfrican media was considered one of the most highly monopolisticand controlled systems in the world with entrenched practices,which stifled competition and restricted editorial delivery. Thetask group on Government communication recommended thatmonopolistic practices within the media industry be referred tothe Competitions Board and the task group drawing up anti-trust law for the country. It also recommended that specificrecommendations on monopolistic control be made by thisgroup.

In the print and broadcast sectors, there are clear indicationsthat the dynamics of ownership are increasingly changing,allowing black and foreign ownership and acquisition ofcontrolling shares in three of the big four press groups: theNational Press, the Perskor, the Anglo American and the TimesMedia Limited. This has broken the stranglehold on mediaownership by the groups.


The IBA Act provides for active community involvement andparticipation in broadcasting, by requiring the IBA to "encourageownership and control of broadcasting services by persons from


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historically disadvantaged groups" and to ensure that privateand community broadcasting licenses are controlled by personsand groups from a diversity of communities within the country.Section 2 of the IBA Act requires community broadcast licenseapplicants to be, among other things, non-profit making, servethe interests of the community in which they wish to operate,have the support of the relevant community and encourage theparticipation of this community in the production and selectionof programmes.

The establishment of the IBA on January 12, 1994, usheredin a new era of broadcasting. Its mandate was to create adynamic broadcasting environment. Specifically, the IBA was to(1) ensure, inter alia, that all South Africans receive the fairestand best possible broadcast services, free of undue bias andprotected from Government interference, (2) promote thedevelopment of public, private and community broadcastingservices, which are responsive to the needs of the public, (3) holdpublic inquiries into broadcasting and its funding, including thefunding of the SABC, and local content and cross-ownership ofprivate media.

Since its inception, the IBA has issued more than eightybroadcast licenses to community radio operators, and it isestimated that more than 45 of these operators have set upstations that are currently broadcasting to their respectivecommunities. Licenses are issued after public inquiries havebeen made by the IBA.

The IBA Act was amended in 1995 to give it more power to actagainst broadcast offenders. It has the power to seize theequipment of pirate stations, bale and to summon witnessesduring inquiries. The amendments vested in the IBA all powersrelating to broadcasting frequency bands. These were thepowers previously held by the Postmaster General and theMinister of Posts, Telecommunications and Broadcasting. (SAYearbook, 1996)

The IBA has also issued licenses to a few private.commercialradio operators, and is set to issue broadcast licenses to private


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television operators before the end of 1997. The SABC hasassumed the role of a public broadcaster, and is currentlytransforming itself from a state to a public broadcaster. Thisprocess began in 1993 when the new board was appointed, aftercandidates were interviewed in public. A colloquium on thefuture of public broadcasting in the country took place in 1995.

In the same year, IBA released its report on how thebroadcasting industry would be transformed. The reportrecommended, among other things, that the South AfricanBroadcasting Corporation (SABC), which under the apartheidregime was a state broadcaster, convert itself to a publicbroadcaster, sell seven of its regional radio stations, includingRadio Good Hope, KFM and Radio Jacaranda in accordance withIBA licensing criteria. The SABC has so far sold its regional radiostations, and is currently engaged in the process of convertingto a national public broadcaster.

In 1994, two bills: Public Broadcasting Services Act and theNational Public Broadcasting Service, were tabled before theParliamentary Portfolio Committee on Communications. TheCommittee has yet to take action on these bills (Reddy, 1997). Ifadopted, the Acts would allow the SABC to operate as a publicrather than a Government broadcaster. The IBA report alsorecommended that the nine African language radio stations beupgraded; a multi-lingual youth radio station be established;provinces be served with prime time provincial slots on radio andtelevision for viewers until the feasibility and desirability ofprovincial broadcasting is thoroughly investigated and discussed;that radio Xhosa, Radio Ciskei, and Radio Transkei merge andprovide a single Isi-Xhosa language service; one of the threeterrestrial television channels must cease operation by the endof 1997.

In addition, the report recommended that a new privateterrestrial channel be licensed in January 1998 with substantivepublic service, language and local content obligations; thatwithin three years, the national public broadcaster must ensurethat 50 percent of its television programming is South African;


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40 percent of local television should be commissioned fromindependent producers; private terrestrial 'free-to-air' televisionstations must broadcast a local content of 30 percent; thatexisting radio stations must, within six months of the regulationscoming into effect, play 20 percent local music; televisionstations will play a prescribed quota of local music in theirrespective music programmes; by the year 2000 all privatebroadcasters and music formats be required to play 40 percentlocal music; that the signal distribution industry be made openand that Sentech —an SABC company which has monopoly ofsignal distribution in the country— be separated from the SABC.It also recommended that the services of the SABC be funded bysponsorships, advertising, license fees, government grants andother sources of funding.

To make sure that all eleven constitutionally sanctionedlanguages received equal television attention, the SABC hasgiven broadcast times and resources based on demographiccomposition of the population. It has relaunched its threechannels to operate as public broadcasters but with differentemphasis with one of the channels devoted to Nguni languages,another devoted to Sotho languages and Afrikaans. The thirdchannel broadcasts mainly in English.

The IBA report further recommended that M-Net and anyother terrestrial based subscriber television devote at least fivepercent of its programming to local content for each year of theirlicense or must spend a specified amount of money on localcontent increasing annually with inflation.

In terms of media ownership, the IBA ruled that no singleperson or entity may control more than one television station,two non-overlapping FM radio stations and two non-overlappingmedium wave radio stations. And any person who controls morethan 20 percent of newspaper circulation in any particularlicense area may hold not more than fifteen percent or more ofequity in broadcasting service in that license area.


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Print Media

The print media in South Africa have a long history. They areorganized into four major press groups: National Media, TimesMedia, Omni Media and Perskor. However, in the past two yearssome of the monopolies have "unbundled" to allow blackempowerment groups to take over, in some instances controllingequity.

Newspapers and Magazines

There are more than 5,000 newspapers, magazines and journalsregistered in the country today. At present, there are nogovernment owned newspapers and no national newspapers inthe true sense. However, the Sunday Times, the SundayIndependent and Rapport (Afrikaans language newspaper), allSunday newspapers, serve as national newspapers. There are33 dailies and weeklies in the country and about 100 provincialor local newspapers, which serve particular towns or districts,and are mostly bilingual, usually in English and Afrikaans.There are more than 70 'knock-and-drop' publications distributedfree of charge, mainly in the urban areas with advertising as theironly source of income. (Audit Bureau of Circulation, 1995)English language newspapers in the country are facing dwindlingreadership. They showed considerable decline in whitereadership. (All Media Products Survey). Those targeted at blackreaders have however recorded increased readership.

In the cities, newspapers are distributed on the street, door-to-door, cafes, general stores and by post. In other areas,newspapers are distributed by special truck and railway services.Air services are also used, but their costs are high. Afrikaans-language newspapers do their own distribution while AlliedPublishing Company, owned by a consortium of mediaproprietors, is the main distribution channel for most of theEnglish language newspapers.

In general, the magazine sector has registered appreciable


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growth, particularly those targeting black readers (e.g. Drum,Tribute, Pace and Bona). There are approximately 300 consumermagazines and 500 trade and professional publicationsdistributed in South Africa, including weekly, fortnightly, monthly,quarterly and yearly magazines (Media Yearbook of SouthAfrican Rates and Data). It is estimated that 'girlie' magazinesnumber up to 60 in the country (SA Yearbook, 1996). The largestcirculating magazines is the M-Net TV Guide with more than amillion circulation figure. The Afrikaans consumer magazineHuisgenoot, considered one of the best-selling magazines in thecountry, sold an average of 516,941 copies per week during thefirst half of 1995. Its English counterpart, You, which waslaunched in 1987, had a circulation of 301,411 in 1995. Themagazine industry has seen new titles and there seems to be anincreasing tendency for magazine publishers to target specializedgroups (Oosthuizen, 1996). There were new publications in thetrade and sports areas. And in December 1995, Ebony, the largestselling black magazine in the United States of America, startedpublishing in South Africa. It is published by Publico and RealAfrica Holdings -a black company with 66 percent majorityshareholding.

Media Organizations

There are several press and media organizations operating in thecountry, including the Press Council, which has now beenreplaced by the Press Ombudsman, South African NationalEditors' Forum (SANEF), which is an offspring of a merger of twomedia associations: the Conference of Editors and the BlackEditors Forum. There is also the South African Union ofJournalists (SAUJ), the Media Workers Association of SouthAfrica (MWASA), the Foreign Correspondents' Association ofSouth Africa, and the recently formed Forum of Black journalists.

The International Press Institute (IPI) set up a nationalnetwork committee in 1995 and the Freedom Forum based inArlington, Virginia, USA, opened a national office in the countryin 1996.


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National and International News Agencies

National news agencies are private, (e.g. SAPA w.hich is acooperative, receives its foreign news from Reuters and theAssociated Press). Reuters and the United Press International,Agence France Presse, Associated Press and Deutsche PresseAgentur have bureaus in the country. Regional press agencieslike the InterPress Service (IPS) also have bureaus in thecountry. Recently, a new national news agency, SouthernAfrican News Agency (SANA), was formed to serve the broadcastsector, particularly the fast growing community radio sector.

The advertising industry in the country, which started about60 years ago is a very competitive, dynamic and fast growingsector. It provides significant support to the media industry inthe country. It is served by various organizations, including theAssociation of Advertising Agencies, the Association of Marketers,the Advertising Standards Authority, the South AfricanAdvertising Research Foundation and the South Africa MarketResearch Association. In 1995, Bosman Johnson Advertising,formerly, Wilson Keller Advertising, became the firstinternationally non-aligned agency in South Africa to set up anAfrican network by signing association agreements with agenciesin Zambia and Kenya, and negotiating with potential partners inZimbabwe and Malawi.


South Africa is considered to be the telecommunications leaderof the continent with approximately 5.3 million telephones and3.87 million installed exchange lines. This represents about 39percent of the total installed lines in Africa, with nearly 90 linesfor every 1000 inhabitants. The country has one of the mostmodern and most developed telecommunications infrastructureon the continent, including a large transmission network coveringapproximately 120 million circuit kilometres. About 95 percentof this network is digital with about 40,0002 MB bits circuits inoperation (SA Yearbook, 1996).

. 24

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South Africa's telecommunication giant is Telkom SA Ltd. Itprovides all telecommunication services in the country, whilethe South Africa Post Office Ltd. provides postal services. The28th largest telecommunications operator in the world, TelkomSA is currently engaged in negotiations aimed at privatizationthat would involve going into partnerships with Malaysian andUnited States telecommunications companies. There are otherprivate postal and delivery companies providing mail services.

Telkom provides an international telecommunications serviceto 228 international destinations, 226 of which can be dialeddirect. Its modern telecommunications infrastructure handlesmore than 29,000 million call units each year (SA Yearbook,1996). It also provides telegram, telex, and teletex services aswell as public e-mail and electronic data exchange services.Telkom introduced a new facsimile service in 1995, whichprovides customers with the facility to send a single documentfrom their facsimile machines to several other facsimile machinesnationally and internationally.

Telkom has entered the Internet market as a service providermaking available to clients Web page creation and hostingservices. In 1995, it launched a new-high speed communicationstechnology called Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN),which allows simultaneous high-speed transfer of live video,data and fax via conventional copper cable. In addition, Telkomprovides the following services: a world-wide radiocommunications service (radiotelephone, radiotelex and wirelesstelegraphy) to international and local shipping, amateur radiostations, citizen band radio communication service (over ninechannels are available), maxinet 089 (increase the success rateof telephone during major phone-in competitions giving everyparticipant equal chance of reaching the competition number).

It also provides toll-free service, voicelink (a voicemail servicewhich gives people without telephones a virtual telephoneservice using a voice mailbox which stores retrievable messages),telecards and cellular phone service (this service has experiencedin a short period of time tremendous growth), and satellitecommunications.


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Communication and Government Policies: A SystemsApproach

In an open and democratic political system, such as SouthAfrica's, information and communication play a crucial role insystems regulation and maintenance, particularly in facilitatingmutual adaptation between the public and the government, andin providing a monitoring and corrective mechanism.

South Africa's Constitution and the country's socio-economicpolicies are built on a framework that seeks to provide equalaccess to its citizens irrespective of gender, race and religiouspersuasion. These policies take cognizance of the country's pastapartheid policy, notorious for its extreme racial discrimination,denial of human rights and a rigid Government communicationssystem.

In contrast, the new political system, actively supports andencourages people-centred and participatory governance at thenational, provincial and local levels. It also, unlike the previoussystem, places emphasis on openness and accountability. Thisopen system is likely to generate, and so far, has given rise to ahigh level of uncertainty and constraint, providing opportunitiesfor actors within the public arena and in government to challengeeach other, using legal, political and, sometimes, illegal meansto construct, expand and deliver their agendas. The ultimategoal, however, is for the system to attain homeostasis.

Therefore, using a systems approach in examining SouthAfrica's communications policy is adequate as it provides acompelling reason to look at one of the most critical elements ingeneral systems theory-feedback. In other words, to examinethe new communication policy as a strategy for influencinggovernment policies, one needs to ask the following pertinentquestions: (1) does the communication policy provide adequatefeedback mechanisms for the people, particularly the rural poorand illiterate, to openly and regularly interact with governmentat the three levels: national, provincial and local?; (2) are thereenough safeguards in the new communication policy to ensure


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that the Government is committed to maintaining an opencommunication system and not use the policy as a rhetoricaland persuasive strategy to achieve communications symmetryin the system?

Feedback and safeguard mechanisms are essential if nationalcommunication policies are to be used as veritable tools forinfluencing national development policies. They serve asurveillance role, monitoring and evaluating the system'sperformance, and, when necessary, providing regulatory andcorrective action. Indeed, feedback serves as the central nervoussystem in a communication system. Furthermore, feedbacksystems perform a smoke detector function, sensing out troublespots, and suggesting intervention strategies. Therefore, anynational communication policy that does not make adequateprovision for feedback-delayed or immediate-is as good asnothing.

The feedback mechanisms and safeguards in the SouthAfrican communication policy are located in the new Constitution,the courts, Parliament, the media, Government communicationsservices and departments, interest groups, pressure groups,political parties, community based information andcommunication nodes, traditional forms of communication,information and communication campaigns to educate thepeople on their rights to communicate with their governmentalways ensuring that it is responsible and accountable to them.


The South African Government, in setting up a task group toreview Government communications, has sent out an importantsignal to the people that it values their input into the Governmentdecision-making process. This is seen in the new and opensystem, engaging people in the process of national reconstruction,reconciliation and development. The task group'srecommendations were based on the recognition not only of thefragility and susceptibility of a democratic system bus also of the


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shortcomings and threats inherent in the apartheid's sytem ofcommunication.

There is need for active interaction between government andall its people. The following are integral parts of any crediblecommunication policy: (1) legislation to create and nurture afree, open and vigorous information environment, (2) regularinformation and communication education campaign to enlightenthe citizenry on the need to constantly monitor and challenge thesystem, (3) an intelligent, critical and perceptive Governmentcommunications workforce, which understands that an effectiveand meaningful communications feedback mechanism is onethat provides opportunities for critical public input into theGovernment's policy-making process.

The new Government communications and informationagency, by implication, therefore, and in order to carry out thisimportant mandate, must be equipped with the following essentialresources: (1) multi-skilled communications staff, (2) improvedand relevant communications infrastructure, and (3) a creativeand analytical Government communications workforce.

Training of government staff will re-orient them to the changingsocio-political environment in the country and provide themwith multiple skills to be able then to deal effectively with the newand expanded communication audiences. Training ininterpersonal and intercultural communications; behaviouraland management sciences, and social research, are critical andnecessary.

In view of the Government emphasis on improving publicaccess to information in its possession, the ability of itscommunication officers to (1) identify and analyzecommunications problems, (2) conduct information needsanalysis, (3) segment and analyze manifest and latent audiencebehaviors and beliefs, (4) conduct formative and summativeevaluation of communication campaigns, (5) design messagesand methodologically choose channels based on research results,and (6) manage budget based on strategic objectives, are criticallyessential.


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The Government must be responsive to the needs of thepeople if it genuinely wants to get their input into its policy-making process. This requires communication staff with relevantskills, orientation and courage to operate in the new dispensation,the commitment to achieve the communication objectives, andthe ability and discipline to manage resources efficiently.

The Government should, therefore, resist the temptation tosee all communications as modern mass communications. TheGovernment Communication and Information Service (CGIS),the agency charged with coordinating state communications, asrecommended by Comtask, should avoid the tendency to seecommunication campaign strategies as media-centric.

A research-driven public information campaign strategyensures that the needs and the culture of the target groups, aretaken into consideration at the channel identification andmessage design stages of the campaign. Using formative andsummative research, it ensures that the campaign plannersidentify and use relevant and appropriate communication channeldesign, transmit needs-based messages and provide adequatefeedback mechanisms. And given that a majority of SouthAfrica's population is rural, illiterate and lack electricity, anypublic communications campaign aimed at this target group, forit to be effective, must be sensitive to these realities.

The implications of the foregoing argument and the realitiesto be addressed as a result are that the Government will initiallycommit enormous resources, financial and human, in order forit to successfully realize its objectives. Training its owncommunication staff and educating the people about theimportance and necessity of regular public input in a democraticsystem cannot be overemphasized. If this is lacking, the systemwill gravitate towards entrophy.


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Audit Bureau of Circulations of South Africa (Braamfontei,1995).

Communication 2000: A Vision for Government Communicationsin South Africa (a report of the Task Group on GovernmentCommunications, 1996).

Oosthuizen, Lucas, M. (ed.). Introduction to Communication:Journalism, Press and Radio Studies, 5. (Cape Town: Juta &Co. Ltd., 1996.

Reddy, Govan. Sunday Independent, June 1997. South AfricaYearbook (Cape Town: SACS, 1996).

Von Bertalanffy, Ludwig. General Systems Theory (New York:Braziller, 1968).