Newsmaker of the Year Award acceptance speech by President Jacob Zuma; CSIR International Convention Centre, Pretoria
19 March 2010Mr Yusuf Abramjee, Chairperson of the National Press Club,
Ladies and gentlemen of the media,
Let me start by congratulating all the winners this evening. Our country has some very energetic and hard working journalists. The winners deserve the honour and recognition.
It is always a pleasure for me to spend time with the media. Perhaps it is because there is a never a dull moment in my relationship with journalists, whether in South Africa or abroad. I seem to attract your attention no matter how hard I try to stay out of the spotlight!
Let me also thank you for deciding that the work we did last year warrants a second Newsmaker of the Year Award.
In two month''s time our administration will mark its first year in office. A lot of good work had been done by the three previous administrations. We have all worked hard in the last 16 years as South Africans to build a vibrant democracy, where all the freedoms enshrined in the Constitution are enjoyed by all.
A firm foundation was laid to build a nation united in its diversity, and to focus on building a better life for all, especially the poorest of the poor. We have also worked hard together as South Africans, to improve the quality of life of all our people. Millions have access to water, electricity, housing, education, health and other basic services.
However, much more still needs to be done, and we never hide that fact.
As we prepared for the 2009 elections, we had a good opportunity to assess and decide on areas of improvement. We discussed intensely what we needed to do as the ruling party to make government work. As we prepared for the drafting of our Manifesto, we spoke to many South Africans throughout the country, asking them what we needed to do differently.
They emphasised that they wanted to see more action. They want to see faster delivery of water, electricity, better roads, identity documents and birth certificates. They want schools that function, revitalised hospitals as well as jobs, amongst other things. But the main issue raised constantly is that government must work more effectively and faster.
That is why we have made it our mission to change the way government works. That will be the defining feature of this fourth ANC administration. Government must work differently and faster, and in a more caring manner. If we have achieved that in the next four years, we will have largely met our goals.
We have instituted the planning as well as monitoring and evaluation functions in the Presidency to help us achieve that objective. We want to see action in the key priorities such as education, health, rural development, the fight against crime and creating decent jobs.
That is why Ministers will sign delivery agreements with the President soon, to ensure focused and proper oversight of the work of departments.
The outcomes approach, which we announced in the State of the Nation Address last month, is a new innovation which clearly demonstrates that we are serious when we say we have started to do things differently, and we will ensure that it works.
We sent draft agreement letters at the end of February to Ministers and these are being discussed within sectors. We intend to ensure consensus soon, so that these agreements can be finalised.
Another important element for us is to change the way public servants relate to the people they serve. We want public servants to realise that the people they serve are the only reason they have jobs. Customer care must improve, and we are pleased that it is improving in some Departments.
We commend those public servants who are working hard to treat people with courtesy and to respond with speed to their enquiries.
Ladies and gentlemen, as we move towards the marking of Human Rights Day, together we must celebrate the human rights culture that our Constitution entrenches.
We celebrate freedom of expression. Our people have the freedom to speak out when they are unhappy about anything in society, within the bounds of the law.
We celebrate the freedom of religion and culture which enables us to express our unique identities within the tapestry that is the unique South African rainbow nation.
We celebrate the unique socio-economic rights in our Constitution, which many countries in the world avoid, as they do not want to commit themselves to guaranteeing rights to basic services to the people.
As we celebrate this right we affirm our determination to work hard to ensure that our people''s access to these socio-economic rights becomes a reality faster.
We celebrate the freedom of the media which is enshrined in our Constitution, which allows the media to report on almost anything they wish to, within the ambit of the law.
We also celebrate our right to comment on what the media reports, how it reports, and the impact we believe it has on society.
That should be seen as part of the promotion of a vibrant debate within the country.
In our view, that debate should also include a look at how far the exercise of media freedom should go. How do we balance it with the rights of individuals, for example the rights to human dignity and privacy? When does media freedom become tantamount to the harassment of an individual? Where do we draw the line?
Those are some of the discussions that are lacking in the country, but which are necessary so that we all understand each other''s positions. It would also be helpful at some point to discuss with the media some of the news approaches that we feel would help the country to attract investments, grow the economy and achieve other developmental goals.
We are not seeking to interfere with editorial independence! We are also mindful of the fact that as the media you run business enterprises and have to make profits to stay in business.
Editors would therefore be more inclined to lead with a story on a prominent person''s lifestyle than one that celebrates national achievements or encourages working towards achieving developmental
But it should be possible to achieve a balance so that the media, as a powerful institution, can also become a vehicle that promotes unity, reconciliation and a better life for all South Africans.
Ladies and gentlemen, we have noted the reports and allegations made against the Presidential Protection Unit. The Minister of Police wants to strike a balance between ensuring that the PPU does its work effectively, while also allowing space for journalists to do theirs.
I have been informed by the Minister that a meeting will take place between the Ministry and the South African National Editors'' Forum to discuss working relations. The meeting should be able to find a solution.
Chairperson, thank you for this honour and once again, congratulations to all the winners of awards this evening.
I thank you.