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TRADE AND INDUSTRY PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE; ECONOMIC AFFAIRS SELECT COMMITTEE: JOINT MEETING
14 MARCH 2001
NEDLAC ; DTI COMMUNICATION STRATEGY
Chairpersons: Dr R Davies: Trade & Industry Portfolio Committee; Mr M Moosa, Economic Affairs Select Committee
TRADE AND INDUSTRY PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE; ECONOMIC AFFAIRS SELECT COMMITTEE: JOINT MEETING
Communication Strategy, Department of Trade and Industry (See Appendix 1)
The National Economic Development and Labour Council made a presentation, followed by queries and suggestions from members of the Joint Committee. Nedlac outlined its aims and objectives and emphasised the need to create social dialogue between various constituencies. A recurring theme was the role of Nedlac in the eradication of poverty and black empowerment. It was recognised by all parties that dialogue between parliament and Nedlac is important and efforts will be made to increase this dialogue.
The Department of Trade and Industry gave a briefing on its communication strategy. Members raised concerns on a variety of issues including the need for the DTI to communicate to various sectors including parliamentarians, business, previously disadvantaged communities and schools and higher education institutions. MPs also questioned the way in which media was being used by the DTI to communicate, especially with regard to the language used. It was felt by some that work had to be done in order to assess what the people need and for DTI to work more closely with parliament to discover the needs of constituents. There was a general feeling that communication has to be a two way process with the DTI being open to stakeholders, while disseminating information on its policies.
Mr P Dexter, Executive Director of Nedlac, said the aim of the meeting is to show why Nedlac is still relevant. He said that there has been intense discussion in the past year on the value of social dialogue. Social dialogue is essential for good governance and there is an increasing international importance for social dialogue. Nedlac is the focal point of attention to other countries and institutions such as the World Trade Organisation and the International Labour Organisation. It is important that social dialogue is institutionalised and Working Committees have been set up to expand social dialogue in South Africa. He added that the need for social dialogue stems from the Apartheid legacy of social inequality.
Nedlac said that since 1994 the socio-economic situation has been focused on economic performance, delivery, and people’s aspirations and perceptions of the South African situation.
Mr Dexter outlined and explained the structure of Nedlac. It has a National Summit, Executive Council and Management Committee which consists of four chambers: Development, Trade and Industry, Labour, Public Finances and Monetary Policy.
Mr Dexter pointed out that it is the constituencies, and not the bureaucracy, that are the driving force of Nedlac. The primary constituencies are:
- Business, represented by Business South Africa (BSA) and the National African Federated Chamber of Commerce (Nafcoc);
- Labour, represented by the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu), the National Council of Trade Unions (Nactu) and theFederation of Unions in South Africa (Fedusa),
- Government, represented by delegations from several departments including Labour, Finance, Trade and Industry and Public Works.
- Community, represented by various women’s groups, groups of people with disabilities, youth and civic sectors.
After outlining the structure of the secretariat, Mr Dexter examined the role of Nedlac, its achievements and challenges. He said that Nedlac was instrumental in bringing about the current labour relations dispensation, expanding the social dialogue system, the Presidential Jobs Summit Agreements, as well as in addressing public and constituency perceptions.
Mr Dexter then outlined Nedlac’s 2000 Summit Declaration, and post-Summit challenges and constraints facing Nedlac (see relevant document).
Ms M de Bruin, Head of the Nedlac Secretariat, outlined Nedlac’s current activities and finished with Nedlac’s work programme for 2001 (see relevant document).
Mr H Camphor, representing Labour in Nedlac, spoke about Nedlac’s limited capacity to deal with the many important issues it faces. Therefore, the focus has been on building strong teams to deal with specific interests. So far efforts to create social dialogue have been successful and the good relations between business, labour and government reflect the progress made.
Mr A Lamprecht, representing Business in Nedlac, said that at its beginning, Nedlac had identified the need to attract insights from all constituencies and get the best brains together. One common objective has been realised and that is to improve living standards and attract investment. He maintained, however, that there is still hard work ahead.
Reflecting on the relationship between Nafcoc and BSA, Mr Lamprecht said that both institutions work closely with one another and remarked that they have never had a disagreement in a public meeting. He said that BSA is the caucus for the majority of business in South Africa. In order to work efficiently it is essential to do a few things well and it is therefore essential that Business be familiar with the objectives of the Department of Trade and Industry.
Ms W Dobson, representing the Department of Trade and Industry, stressed the Department’s commitment to Nedlac and said the increase in resources to Nedlac is a reflection of this commitment. The good relations between the Department and Nedlac have not been replicated in all government departments however and she identified the need to explore how clustering works and how clusters of government participate with Nedlac, especially with regard to the Economic Action Plan.
Department of Trade and Industry
Ms Makhanya of the Department made a presentation on DTI’s communications strategy. Some of the main issues are:
Ms Makhanya said that the process of transformation of the Department has been largely completed. The DTI is now in a position to focus wholly on delivery. As a result communication has been difficult as many programmes are in their infancy.
Perceptions of the Media
Ms Makhanya emphasised that a key challenge for DTI is to encourage the media to cover the achievements of the Department as there is a tendency to focus on shortcomings.
Programme of Action
Ms Makhanya said the programme is not cast in stone and is still in the discussion phase, however most programmes are already on track. The Programme is underlined by "Imbizo" - a concept of Government Communication & Information Services to ensure that government interacts more closely with the public. The strategy involves being proactive to perceptions in the media, educating the public on economic issues through various journals and the resource centre at 120 Plein Street, informing foreign stakeholders about DTI policy, reaching out to communities through roadshows and establishing ‘issue co-ordinators’ involving experts in different areas to guide the communication process.
Discussion - Nedlac
Ms B Ntuli (ANC) asked Nedlac what their role is in Black Economic Empowerment, especially with regard to the problems in financing this sector.
Mr Lamprecht said that he was not convinced that enough progress had been made in extending credit to small businesses. Ms de Bruin added that Black Economic Empowerment had to be approached in an integrated way and to establish joint task teams consisting of experts.
Ms Thabethe (ANC) said that in her mind social dialogue means negotiating in good faith. The document, however, talks about trade-offs between constituents. She felt this was too strong to be considered social dialogue. She remarked that the document does not say much on what the President’s Job Summit has achieved so far. She also questioned how the different chambers in Nedlac co-ordinate their work.
Mr Dexter said "trade-offs" is a terminological issue. Social dialogue does not mean achieving everything for everyone. Constituents have their own interests and need to compromise. Nedlac is not responsible in the way that government is, however it does have responsibilities which are distributed through its institutional framework.
With regards to trade-offs, Mr Lamprecht said that they may not satisfy everyone entirely but are necessary in order for progress to be made. For example, business has compromised on the right to strike which, although not in their interests, it is in the interests of the economy as a whole.
Dr R Davies asked the Nedlac representatives what they feel were the triumphs made by Nedlac this year and asked what was happening with the Taxi Programme.
Mr Lamprecht stressed that it is important to differentiate between active and passive achievements. For example, there has been intense debate over Pension Funds Surplus legislation as it was felt in some quarters that it had the potential to destabilise markets. The legislation went ahead and has actually not destabilised markets. Nedlac provided the opportunity to handle these kind of differences in a way that has a beneficial outcome, but which might not have gone ahead had some constituents had their way. This was an example of a passive achievement.
Mr Dexter said a major achievement of Nedlac last year was the Summit Declaration as Nedlac was able to establish an effective work programme. The main aim for this year was to realise the priorities established last year, with investment being the key challenge.
The Taxi Programme is in the process of being implemented and Nedlac does not deal with the actual implementation.
Mr K Gigaba suggested the need to establish forums in order to confront the challenge of globalisation. He also said that there is a problem with youth in the labour market as the youth do not have the resources to gain skills and employment and suggested that Nedlac examine the problem with its constituents. Finally, Mr Gigaba asked if the Executive Director could elaborate on the political environment he referred to in his briefing.
Ms C September stressed the importance of liaison between Nedlac and Parliament and the need to make research more available to parliamentarians.
Mr R Davies said he recognises that there are some activities that involve dialogue and others are more strategic and that parliament should be involved in some activities to ensure dialogue. He also said that the Proudly South African Campaign has been very low profile and that parliament needs to hear more about this
Mr L Zita said that if job creation is recognised as a key problem, then would it not be possible to hear about the funding for this.
Mr Zita also said consensus is needed on the acceptable level of disparity between rich and poor. He added it is in the interest of redistribution to increase workers’ wages as the market will not redress this by itself.
Mr Msomi (IFP) questioned the oversight role of Nedlac and asked how Nedlac is able to step away from the conflicts between constituents in order to be a policeman. Mr Msomi also called for a kind of Marshall Plan for the eradication of poverty as it is difficult to explain to constituents that eradication of poverty is taking place. Justice must not be just talked about, it must be seen to be done, he said.
Mr Lamprecht said that a ‘better life for all’ is the sole reason Nedlac exists. Investment has been recognised as crucial in the eradication of poverty and is dropping. He stressed that there must be confidence in delivery as well as efforts to attract investment. At a macro-level, the aim is to create good returns on investment, while at the micro-level, a need has been identified for local empowerment programmes.
Mr Rasmeni (ANC) said that the Black Economic Empowerment Commission has laid the basis for economic expansion and job creation. He said, however, that there is a need to bring marginalized people on board. He asked what Nedlac is doing in this regard.
Mr N Duma said that not enough is being done to communicate to the unemployed and to assist them in creating jobs. He asked if there is a way that Nedlac can reach out to these people
Mr P Gomomo said that Nedlac should be replicated at local level in order to ensure greater control at regional level.
Mr Dexter, the Executive Director, responded. He thanked the Committee for the opportunity for discussion. He stressed that dialogue must be organic to ensure that there is a genuine flow of information. He added that the Proudly South African campaign will be launched in April and will need parliament’s support. He suggested a follow up meeting take place to consolidate today’s discussion and that a more detailed response to parliament’s queries be drawn up.
Co-Chair Mr Moosa thanked Nedlac for the presentation.
Discussion - DTI Communication Strategy
Mr N Bruce (DP) said that feedback from his constituents revealed that it takes a year to obtain a liquor licence or to register a company as a closed corporation. He said that the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has a regulatory function and it must focus on being a service-orientated department as this is its basic role.
Mr Bruce expressed surprise that the media was focusing on the negative role of the DTI, given that most major financial and other publications, with the exception of the Financial Mail, had openly supported the ANC in the last election.
Mr H Bekker (IFP) said that communication has to be a two-way process. He said that the national sport when someone phones with a query to a department is to pass that person from desk to desk. He suggested a central desk to deal with queries and refer people to the suitable person.
Mr L Zita expressed concern about the lack of communication between business and DTI. He said DTI needs to make itself tangible and accessible. He suggested that DTI offices be set up in local government to communicate effectively.
The Chair said a major concern is for small businesses to be able to obtain accurate information from the DTI. All queries need to be given responses and followed through.
Mr K Gigaba (ANC) asserted that it is misleading to say that the DTI needs to wait until it has fulfilled goals before communicating. The DTI need to communicate its achievements gradually.
Mr Gigaba also stressed the importance of communicating to schools and institutions of higher education as these are the future job-seekers who need information on the job-market as business has abdicated its responsibility to students.
Ms C September (ANC) congratulated the Department on starting the communication process. She complained that DTI was not in sync with Parliament. At the moment, there is no measure of what needs to be done for the people. She suggested the use of surveys in order to find out what people need. She added that community communication must be aimed at the previously disadvantaged.
Ms B Ntuli (ANC) said that she was happy to see that priority delivery areas had been identified through the President’s State Of The Nation address. She stated that she was also glad that Black Economic Empowerment was being addressed. However, there was no mention of funding Black Economic Empowerment in the Programme for Action and asked if the issue of funding was being addressed.
Ms Ntuli said that while the Imibizo programme of interaction with the public is a good idea, it is problematic in that both publications Sisebenza Sonke and Tswelopele are written in English, despite their titles. As a result, these sources of information will not be able to reach people living in rural areas.
In a general response, Ms Makhanya said all issues raised are valid and that she is heartened that all concerns are in line with DTI thinking. She said that as a communicator, she does not have all the answers, but is sensitive to the issues.
With regard to small business she said that work is being done to integrate and develop a strategy to reach out to communities.
Ms Makhanya agreed with the need for two-way communication via call centres. She has personally made herself available as the central contact person for DTI.
In response to questions related to the use of the media to communicate, Ms Makhanya said there are a number of initiatives in place to disseminate information via radio and television programmes in various languages. Another initiative is the use of twilight advertising on television in public places such as post offices in different languages. She agreed that work needs to be done in translating publications into indigenous languages.
Ms Makhanya said that DTI will not wait for transformation of the Department before engaging and communicating with the public. Information will be given as it becomes available.
Ms. Makhanya agreed that communication with schools has not been dealt with extensively.
Responding to the charge that DTI is not in sync with Parliament, Ms Makhanya said the establishment of the publication and resource centre is an attempt to liase and increase dialogue with MPs.
In closing, Ms Makhanya said the strategy she has outlined is a strategy in the making and is open to suggestions of the diverse stakeholder groups.
The meeting was adjourned.
Communication Strategy for DTI
Compiled by Manana Makhanya
· To ensure that communication issues are taken into account in planning the department's programme for the year and that communication in fact becomes part of the strategic decision making process
CHALLENGES ACROSS DEPARTMENTS
· Departments tend to have an inward focus
· Departments have failed to identify major initiatives requiring profiling by principals
· Political principals have not set aside adequate time for visible interaction with public.
· Concerted effort to strengthen integration across government departments
· GCIS to play a more pivotal role in co-ordination
· Communication representation in Cabinet Committee discussions by government
CHALLENGES FOR DTI COMMUNICATORS
· Media and public discourse tends to focus on perceived non-delivery
· Department's significant achievements not receiving as much coverage as opposition views
· Managing perceptions of diverse stakeholder groups
· Proactively facilitating information flow to previously neglected stakeholders
· President's state of the nation address and subsequent statements by ministers' clusters have identified priority delivery areas
· DTI's Vision 2004 seeks to reduce poverty, promote small business development, increase opportunities for Black Economic Empowerment and develop the Southern African region.
FOCAL POINTS FOR COMMUNICATION CAMPAIGNS
· Improving service delivery to economic citizens
· Enterprise and industry development
· Market Access
· Public Interest Issues
· Internal Transformation
PROGRAMME OF ACTION
· Aggressive Media Strategy
· Community relations
· International relations
· Aggressive Marketing Strategy
· Public Education Programmes
· "Issue Co-ordinators"
· Parliamentary Newsletter
· DTI Resource Centre
· Quarterly Policy Journal "Sisebenza Sonke"
· Monthly Transformation Journal "Tswelopele"
· Weekly Bulletin "7 days" for foreign trade representatives
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