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Address by the Honourable Minister in The Presidency Mondli Gungubele on the occasion of the SADC Media Awards Dinner, IDC Conference Centre

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Programme Director, 
Director General of the GCIS, Ms Phumla Williams 
Distinguished Guests, 
Ladies and gentlemen, 

It is a great honour to welcome you to this SADC Media Awards Dinner which serves to launch next year’s 2023 SADC Media Awards Competition. We are proud to host you today as we celebrate members of the media and the stellar work they do across the region. It is my hope that our engagement will not only set the tone for the build up to this illustrious competition but also explore how we can work together to uplift our region. 

The SADC Media Awards are much more than just a competition which boasts an impressive annual cash prize. It is a powerful tool which on an annual basis has been driving the narrative of a new Africa; one of unlimited potential and a renewed hope for a better future. This platform has over the years provided space for critical reflection on the media environment in SADC and the continent at large. 

Programme Director, 

The manner in which we portray our region becomes ever more important given the social and economic challenges it faces. Southern Africa has not escaped the trail of devastation left by the COVID-19 pandemic. Coupled with the recent downturn in advanced economies, tighter financial conditions and volatile commodity prices, the social and economic gains we have made as a region over the years have been undermined. 

The only solution we have as Southern African states is the deeper integration of our economies in order to reverse the challenges we are experiencing, reducing poverty and enhancing the quality of life for the people of our region. Advancing regional integration by opening up markets and promoting increased trade and investment will support socio-economic development. Equally important, greater cooperation among SADC countries will allow our citizens to enjoy peace and stability. 

There is no better way to foster regional integration than the sharing of our own good news stories that positively contribute towards regional integration. We have the important task of communicating in the languages that our people speak and in a manner they understand. 

We must as regional nations set our own agenda. There is room for media and African governments in the region to work together towards a sustained developmental agenda. We have a duty to inform the people of the region about the economic integration of Africa through the Agenda 2063. The African Union’s Agenda 2063 represents a collective effort and an opportunity for Africa to regain its power to determine its own destiny. Agenda 2063 calls for an Africa driven and managed by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the international arena. 

It is also our responsibility to tell the region that we are open for business. Through the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), we continue to improve the ease of doing business in the continent and encourage African countries to trade amongst each other. The AfCFTA agreement is a game changer for development ambitions in Africa as it creates a single continental market for goods and services in Africa. It has more than 1.2 billion people with a total GDP of more than $3 trillion. 

Through this agreement, some of the issues that stifle intra-African trade such as high transport costs, cumbersome customs and many others are being addressed. Currently, the continent is moving with speed to implement the integrated high-speed train network, the African passport and free movement of people, and is working on the establishment of a single African air-transport market, exploring outer-space. The agreement also champions the education of our people to close the digital divide and elevate our youth to compete with their global peers. 

Ladies and Gentlemen, 

The benefits of belonging to a shared community in Southern Africa means that the lives of many people in the region can be changed for the better. The SADC vision is one of a common future, within a regional community that will ensure economic well-being, improvement of the standard of living and quality of life, freedom and social justice, peace and security for the peoples of Southern Africa. 

This shared vision is anchored on common values, principles and historical, and cultural affinities that exist amongst the people of Southern Africa. Since its establishment, SADC has achieved a number of milestones aimed at advancing both political and economic freedom but we need to build on these gains going forward. 

We can do so by drawing all people in the region to participate in the social and economic programmes taking place in the region. Through media we can disseminate information that empowers and changes lives. The media are essential partners who can ensure that citizens of the region have access to information. The stories generated by media contribute to our development by allowing citizens of our region to make better decisions or take advantage of opportunities. Above all, fair and objective media coverage is key in ensuring confidence and hope for a better future for citizens of our region. 

Together we can ensure that the public are well informed by making sure that they have access to vital information. We must work to narrow the information gap by ensuring access to information. The role of the media and communication has never been more important. 

Massive changes are occurring in the media landscape and the shift to new technologies and forms of communication are providing challenges to how we communicate. The media landscape is more fractured than it has ever been and threats of fake news and misinformation are the order of the day. It also remains true that the relationship between government and the media in any democracy is always marked by healthy tensions. 

The government of South Africa is committed to build a constructive relationship with the media through forthright and robust engagement. We strongly believe that the media play a crucial role in shaping a healthy democracy. Media are also a key player in advancing the dialogue of national unity and social cohesion. Access to information is the life-blood of our project of reconstruction, development and building a cohesive society. 

It is through continuous dialogue on a range of national issues around our key priorities of safety, health, education, employment and rural development that we can advance our democracy. Constructing a united and prosperous society is not just the responsibility of government; we need everyone to help us build a better tomorrow and as the media, you are vital in this regard. 

Media are part of our nation’s oversight to ensure all South Africans and government are held to account. They also play an important role in ensuring that we all live up to our constitutional responsibilities. We do not just need a free media but we want and need a quality media. We seek reporting that is credible and honest and informative. We encourage comment and analysis that challenges us and provides fresh insight into our world and the challenges we face.  

A free media is an integral part of our democracy and government is committed to press freedom. We value our regular interactions with the media formations such as the South African National Editors Forum, the Press Club and the Press Gallery. These robust government engagements with media secure our democratic principles in this dynamic environment. We will continue all efforts to strengthen our relations and cement the importance of a free media in our nation. 

In conclusion, 

I am pleased to say that the SADC Media Awards point to the fact that together we can change the course of our region. These SADC Media Awards were established in 1996 to recognise best media work in disseminating information on SADC to support the process of regional co-operation and integration in the region. 

The 2023 SADC Media Awards competition will be judged in the four categories namely; Photo, Print, Television and Radio Journalism. These awards as always are open to journalists from the SADC Member States and entries close on 28 February 2023. 

The themes of the entries to be submitted for the competition must be on issues and activities promoting Regional Integration in the SADC region such as infrastructure, economy, water, culture, sports as well as agriculture. We invite prospective entrants to submit their entries accompanied by proof of their nationality to the National Adjudication Committee (NAC) in their respective Member States. 

To all those journalists who entered the competition last year, we extend our heartfelt appreciation and if 2022 was not your winning year, maybe 20223 will be. To our winner this year, Mr Sandile Ndlovu, I express my sincere congratulations on your achievement. To our runners up, Ms Melinda Shaw and Ms Zinhle Makhosazane Mugabe, receive my congratulations as well. You have done our country proud and shown the spirit needed to take our region forward by your active participation. 

I would also like to express my sincere appreciation to the members of the National Adjudication Committee of the Awards, all of whom have busy professional lives in the high-pressured media industry in South Africa, but who continue to volunteer their valuable time to adjudicate our South African Chapter and play our role in the regional round. I also express my thanks to the GCIS team who serve so diligently as the Secretariat to the NAC and the awards process. Your contribution is a critical success factor in the overall value these awards contribute to our regional media landscape. 

I invite you to share news of these awards far and wide. I am convinced that the 2023 awards can see us rise to even greater heights as we share our stories of hope with the world. 

Thank You.