Govt mag to reach remote areas

4 October 2005

The government had launched a new bimonthly magazine, Vuk’uzenzele, to provide information on opportunities and services to South Africans with limited access to mainstream media.

Vuk’uzenzele, which translates loosely as “get up and do it for yourself”, comes after three years of government discussions on the need to improve communication with South Africans, to highlight progress and problems and create awareness of existing socioeconomic opportunities and services.

The various editions of Vuk’uzenzele will be published in all official languages, as well as in Braille and online, and will be distributed free of charge in all nine provinces, reaching some of the country’s deepest rural areas.

To support the magazine, the government’s Batho Pele Getaway call centre (1020) is ready to help readers follow up on information they get from the magazine.

Minister in the Presidency Essop Pahad said at the launch at the end of September that Vuk’uzenzele was not government propaganda, but a tool to disseminate information to people who could not afford newspapers.

“The magazine will enable people in the rural communities to access information about what government can do for them,” he said.

Pahad said he initially opposed the initiative – first suggested by Government Communication and Information System (GCIS) chief Joel Netshitenzhe three years ago – as he was “not sure a magazine that would be regarded as government propaganda would fly.”

Pahad’s second concern at the time was the cost. “Treasury officials scrutinised it closely, and the minister of finance agreed to make the budget available,” he said.

While Vuk’uzenzele is to carry advertising, GCIS will fully fund the publication, to the tune of around R20-million for the 2005/06 financial year.

At 32 pages, the first issue has articles highlighting progress made in providing clean water, the more than 220 000 jobs created by the Expanded Public Works Programme, and the relative success of poverty alleviation community projects. It also has advice on accessing small business finance, budgeting household income, and baby care.

Of great importance, Pahad said, is that the magazine would also allow for interaction with readers.

“People must be able to have their voices heard – to engage us on their difficulties in accessing information and services, and we will respond,” he said.

Vuk’uzenzele editor Rafiq Rohan, the former editor of the Independent on Saturday, also tackled notions that the magazine was government propaganda funded by taxpayers.

“There are people who need information that will change their lives, but are deprived of it because of distribution challenges in the mainstream media,” he said.

“If the perception out there is that the magazine is meant to forward government propaganda at the taxpayer’s cost, I want to dispel that. This magazine appears at a time when the demand for government services is at a peak.”

The core function of the 32-page magazine is to meet people’s need for information on socioeconomic opportunities – especially those who do not have access to such information.

SouthAfrica.info reporter

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