Remarks by Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe at the Government-SANEF Indaba
19 October 2012
Ladies and Gentlemen:
Let me start by welcoming all of you to the 2012 Government-SANEF Indaba.
From a historical point of view, two events relative to media in South Africa are worth noting as we engage in today’s deliberations.
Firstly, today is the 35th Anniversary of Black Wednesday. On this day, 19th October 1977, the apartheid state gagged all media deemed to be promoting the struggle for democracy in this country.
Today, as has been the case over the last few years, we are meeting in the glare of a democratic sunshine. We are meeting as government and the media in a democratic South Africa with a Constitution that guarantees Freedom of Expression, including Freedom of the Press.
Secondly, last Saturday we laid to rest Mr Zwelakhe Sisulu, a stalwart of our liberation struggle and an icon of a media tradition that contributed to the liberation of our country.
If there is anything worth learning from his legacy, it is the humility, commitment to ethics and free media, and a passion to defend values enshrined in our constitution.
Of importance about both these events mentioned above is their bearing on freedom and democracy, and both the moral and historical imperative to deepen and protect this democracy at all times.
At our previous engagements both parties accepted one another’s bona fides and the respective - yet not divergent – roles the two institutions play in our society.
We recognised that media freedom and access to information had to be secured alongside the responsibility of government to conduct its work transparently and to communicate with the public.
This understanding is critical if we are to establish and maintain a robust, participatory democracy in which all of us work together to build a better society and economy.
At the same time we congratulate the print media for having taken steps to strengthen regulatory regime. This is a step in the right direction, which will add impetus to the process of enhancing understanding between government and the media.
Government has a duty to all South Africans to cultivate a diversity of voices in public discourse. In an open democracy such as ours, these voices don’t have to be mutually agreeable – and don’t have to agree with government.
However, there should be no voice that goes unheard; and, as they say, where applicable, we should disagree without being disagreeable.
Through media, ordinary South Africans and interested parties, including investors outside our country, are able to appreciate the South African story.
This a story that we are fundamentally positive in spite of both the challenges we face in the country and the global factors that impact on our own growth and development.
It is a story that is jointly authored by government and the media, with government putting in place and communicating a broad range of policies and actions that the media in turn convey to the broader public.
So, we are co-authors of our past, present and future.
The origins of the yearly engagement between government and SANEF are well understood and documented.
While the first two engagements focused on relationship building between us, we are of the view that this forum should be dedicated to discussions on key policy issues and the overall direction in which the country is moving, so that those who materially shape public opinion appreciate our achievements and challenges as a nation.
We are confident that the continuity and stability the country has enjoyed in leadership and policy over 18 years of democratic governance will not be derailed.
Also we will further explore ways and platforms on which the media can engage with government outside of this forum on policy or operational issues affecting the media industry.
As government, it is our view that this particular platform, which brings together members of the National Executive and editors, is one where we should jointly reflect on the broad direction the country is taking, and where we should assess the ambitions we have designed for ourselves.
This is a forum where such issues as the macro-economic framework and climate, the demands of the National Development Plan or Vision 2030, our New Growth Path and the attendant infrastructure development programme can be explored with the aim of informing and inspiring South Africans to do – and to be – better.
It is in the interests of all sectors of our society that we focus the nation’s attention on the targets and ambitions in whose achievement all of us have a role to play.
Can we as government and the media jointly harness the nation’s energy towards the achievement of our national goals, in the same way that we rallied our nation behind Bafana Bafana, Banyana Banyana, the Proteas or the Springboks?
We look forward to this forum being one where we present and cross-examine our respective vantage points in a spirit of nation-building and with the aim of reshaping, over time, the narrative that courses not just through media headlines but through the hearts and minds of all our people.
This is a shared responsibility, we believe, and one whose realisation will yield material and psychological advantages that will benefit all of us.
We would like to use this forum to rotate issues and presenters and make it possible for us to deal with matters of substance and of national importance.
I thank you.