It is a great honour for me to address this prestigious event; the SADC Media Awards, during our special Thank You Dinner, as we celebrate Women’s Month here in South Africa and in a year where we celebrate the Centenary of OR Tambo.
A speech made at a dinner table can be risky in one way or another. Either the message may not have the intended impact due to the environment that is diluted by the main focus - the dinner; or the speech may spoil the expected taste of the food. At least in these scenarios the deliverer or messenger is not part of the equation.
Maybe I have to remember the words of Andrew Aitken "Andy" Rooney, who was an American radio and television writer best known for his weekly broadcast "A Few Minutes with Andy Rooney," a part of the CBS News program 60 Minutes from 1978 to 2011. He once said: “Always keep your words soft and sweet, just in case we have to eat them.”
My initial intention was to deliver just light hearted comments that will resonate with the evening and maybe perhaps with the mood or the food. I think it would be remiss of me not to use this critical platform and one which above all celebrates the work of media practitioners, to reinforce our collective, national and regional expectations about the dynamic and influential role media can and should be playing in our developmental context.
The good story represented by the emergence of a strong SADC industrial region as witnessed in the discussions over this weekend’s 37th Summit, require a media which are active partners in proactively raising awareness and educating the public both domestically and across the region of the massive opportunities facing the nearly 230 million people who call SADC home. 60 percent of this group, namely two –thirds, are below the age of 35. It is a clear call to us in the media and communication sector…we need to start thinking of how these demographics should shape our content and narrative but above all the media we use …and as such the media which form part of prestigious awards such as these.
Similarly, we meet at a time where the scourge of gender based violence, intolerance and racism continues to rear its ugly head. It pains me say that we are yet to fulfill the vision of Oliver Reginald Tambo of a country free from race and gender discrimination.
Through his life OR Tambo worked to advance the emancipation of women. He fought for a South Africa where women would be safe and free to pursue their dreams. Although much progress has been made in this regard we still live in a region where many women constantly live in fear of falling victims to abuse, rape and murder.
In the Year of OR Tambo it cannot be business as usual. I therefore ask the influential persons here today to use your influence to shape the change we want to see. Ending gender based violence begins with education which will lead to behaviour change. Secondly, empowering people by sharing useful information and tools, others experiences, as well as being the voice of society, will make a tremendous difference. As media professionals you are uniquely placed to lead this charge.
Let us therefore work together to build a continent where women are not only free to live their dreams, but are also safe.
It is indeed fitting that South Africa has assumed the role of chair of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), during the Year of OR Tambo. OR Tambo spent a large part of his life in exile and found refuge in our neighbouring countries.
Yesterday President Jacob Zuma during his acceptance speech at the SADC Summit reminded us of what OR Tambo once said on the occasion of the Twenty First Anniversary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa in 1979. I quote: “The struggle for national liberation in Southern Africa and those countries of independent Africa for economic liberation and development are indeed the same struggle.”
During the dark days of apartheid many SADC nations assisted the liberation struggle of our country. They provided training camps, safe passage, humanitarian assistance, as well as vital political and other assistance.
For this they paid a heavy price in return as some of them experienced cross border incursions and bombings by the stubborn regime of the apartheid machinery. Some of the countries by virtue of their geographical proximity to South Africa, felt the harsh realities of the apartheid system and were in one way or the other, if not directly, affected. The history of this country can’t be complete without the role played by these country, especially the frontline states.
South Africa acknowledged the vital role played by the nations of SADC in helping to secure our freedom before 1994, and this spirit of partnership and cooperation has continued ever since.
I don’t want to take it for granted that we all know the countries comprising this body nor its history. In short, SADC was formed in 1980 as the Southern African development Coordination Conference (SADCC) and was transformed into the current body on August 1992.This year we are also celebrating the silver jubilee, i.e. 25 years of SADC in its current form. The Southern African Development Community consists of 15 Member states which include Angola, Botswana, Democratic Republic of Congo, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland, United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The socio-economic development of the Southern African Development Community is inextricably linked to the futures of that of our Continent. The programmes of SADC and our member countries support the Africa we want - our Africa rising. Agenda 2063 is our collective roadmap for the socio-economic transformation of Africa.
I hope this puts into context the umbilical connection of these countries and the importance of tonight’s function. This event is part of cementing the vision of a common future, within a regional African community. What better way for regional integration than the sharing of our own good stories that contribute towards regional integration – communicated in the languages that our people speak and in a manner they understand.
The SADC Council of Ministers established the annual SADC Media Awards in 1996, with a view to promoting regional integration through information dissemination as well as promoting journalism excellence in the region. The South African Chapter Media Awards competition was launched during November 2003. Tonight’s function shows that the Department of Communications, on behalf of our country, is implementing that mandate.
Tonight’s SADC Media Awards Thank You dinner is being hosted in an important place in South Africa. With its unique historical value to our country, Freedom Park is most appropriate as it also provides a snapshot of the history of the people of the country. I hope you will find time in the nocturnal schedule to also explore the facility, what it offers and learn more about this country. The importance of the history depicted in this building is so monumental that it needs a special discussion, on another day. I am also informed that this is the second year in running that Freedom Park has partnered with the department to host this.
Tonight I don’t want to get deeper into the finer details and the behind the scenes efforts associated with any competition. What I have noted however, is the difference in the number of entries in the previous three years. For example the entries this year were only 15 from South Africa, compared to 104 last year and 43 the year before. Clearly a lot of work must still be done towards promoting and publicising the awards and encouraging participation in our country.
I am also confident that while these disciplines we honour tonight play a critical role in this communication and information work, we need to be alive as indicated earlier to the fact that our region is, on global terms, uniquely young. Community media especially Community Radio and various genres or alternative media, are where our young “SADCites” are consuming their news and sharing their stories. Communication has been identified as a critical growth area in the SADC industrialization plan yesterday – it is incumbent upon us a professionals in this industry to see how practically, we seize these emerging new horizons.
I also encourage the South African media to extend their coverage of regional stories. The media in South Africa should start to show an interest in matters of the region and to take SADC issues seriously. Let us also inform all our citizens about the outcomes of the 37th SADC Summit which has just been held under the theme “Partnering with the Private Sector in Developing Industry and Regional Value Chains”. We must inform citizens, especially the youth about what the outcomes mean for them in practical terms.
The SADC council of Ministers recently approved the SADC Communications strategy to publicise and communicate the work that countries are doing in the SADC region. We need to work together with SADC countries to popularise the projects that are underway in the SADC region, especially those that link and integrated our nations into the region.
It is our firm belief that Africa must tell its own stories, and in order for that to happen we must genuinely work to transform our media landscape to ensure that it is truly inclusive of more voices from our diverse nation. We hold the view that a media that is transformed will actively tell South African and SADC stories to build bridges between the citizens of our sister SADC countries. We must also access the opportunities brought about through the prevailing 4th industrial revolution. Digital and social media has the potential to make stronger connections between citizens of the region.
To this end, I have been engaging with media practitioners and media houses since I assumed my new responsibilities. Engagement is not an event, it is a continuous process. I will therefore continue to discuss with the stakeholders among others on aspects such as media transformation, print ownership, measurement of circulation, distribution channels, new media and the assessment of regulations that govern the affairs of media practitioners. I would like to emphasize: Media that is transformed will actively tell South African and SADC stories 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 and principles and historical and cultural affinities that exist amongst the people of Southern Africa. We are enjoined and united. The future is in our hands. Let’s work together and move our region forward. A rising SADC - a rising Africa.
I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate all the participants for participating in the SADC Media Awards. I will be failing if I did not single out the television entry that was voted the winner in their category. I know you put hard work and selflessness in communicating a strong message to the SADC Region.
The following are our award winners that we are honouring tonight: Mr Aristides Kito Alfonso Jorge from Angola, Mr Gaseitsiwe Moruakgomo from Botswana, Mr Patson Phiri from Zambia, Mr Msibi Nkosini Samuel and Mr Dennis Tshetlhane from South Africa. We are delighted to have most of you with us tonight and are confident that as you join the South African regional winners whom we normally recognize in this our regional Awards Dinner, you will have the opportunity of developing some thoughts our future collaborative stories.
Congratulations! You are the best – you represent excellence in journalism.
As I conclude ladies and gentlemen, the former President Nelson Mandela once said "What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.”
Let us therefore make sure that we use the media and communication as tools and make a difference to the citizens of the SADC region.
It is possible to bring news to Africans but it even more imperative to give hope to give hope to the people of our continent.
I thank you.
Issued by Government Communications
20 August 2017