Read the full text of Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa’s opening remarks at the 2015 indaba between the government and the South African National Editors’ Forum in Pretoria on Saturday 21 November.
Colleagues and compatriots, thank you all for being here today.
We are hopeful that this engagement – which is long overdue – will enable a frank and robust discussion on the challenges and opportunities that shape our country and drive our public discourse.
During these engagements, we are permitted to ask penetrating and difficult questions of ourselves and each other.
As government, we strive to establish constructive partnerships with stakeholders across all sectors of our society.
Such partnerships underpinned by dialogue and the joint actions that result from them, help us to move forward.
These partnerships help to ensure that our nation is motivated by shared values, a common understanding of the challenges we face and a collective appreciation of the transformation that is underway in our society.
As members of the executive and as representatives of the media, we each have assigned roles in society.
We each have important functions to perform and are, in different ways, accountable to the South African public for the way we perform these functions.
We therefore share a common responsibility.
We are, all of us, custodians of the promise of 1994.
We are all custodians of the aspirations of the millions of South Africans who have struggled, suffered and sacrificed to be free.
Each of us – politicians, journalists, editors – are custodians of our democracy, of development, of justice and equality.
We all therefore have a profound and abiding interest in the progress we are making towards the realisation of that promise of 1994.
We are and should be encouraged by every accomplishment.
We are and should be concerned about every setback.
I hope that in our discussions today we can remain mindful of this shared responsibility.
The relationship between government and the media in any democracy is underpinned and marked by healthy tensions.
Since we first met in this forum many years ago our relationship has improved and become more constructive.
These engagements, I am told, have always been forthright and robust.
From government’s perspective, our approach to our engagement is grounded in our commitment to a free and thriving media.
We hold the view that the media is critical in informing citizens about the work of government and educating them about their rights and responsibilities.
To be successful as a country and nurture a functioning democracy we need to partner with the Fourth Estate so that it can empower citizens.
South Africans expect the media to scrutinise the actions and policies of government.
They expect to know what government is doing, and what government is not doing.
But more than that, they want to be part of that engagement.
With the emergence of new media platforms, citizens are increasingly able to shape public discourse. They are also able to be active public discourse participants and indeed activists arising from these new media platforms.
They are able to ask difficult questions. They are able to offer solutions and actively promote their interests.
Even in the age of citizen journalism and social media, the formal news media remains an institution entrusted with the task of informing, explaining, interpreting and making sense of the complexity of current affairs and modern life.
The formal traditional media continues to enjoy access to our legislatures, various institutions, courtrooms and boardrooms to report and offer commentary.
It is able to engage with institutions – both public and private – in a direct and meaningful way.
As government, we appreciate the role that the formal news media plays and have been working to improve our ability to facilitate that role.
Early in the term of this administration, President Jacob Zuma established an Inter-Ministerial Committee on Information and Publicity, chaired by Minister Jeff Radebe.
This committee seeks to improve government’s communications operations and to build stronger relations with the media.
The Presidency will soon launch the Presidential Media and Communication Working Group, which will bring government into contact with media proprietors and sectoral experts.
This will enable government to develop an understanding of developments and challenges in this important economic sector.
We have also undertaken to establish a Presidential Press Corps, which will comprise journalists who cover the Presidency.
This is intended to improve the quality and depth of the Presidency’s and therefore government’s interaction with the media.
It will also create a formal channel of communication between the Presidency and journalists covering the institution.
We see an important role for Sanef in the implementation of this new arrangement.
We hope that this engagement will identify other areas where we can improve engagement and cooperation.
The free flow of information among all South Africans is vital to securing the social cohesion, collective focus and coherent action needed to advance our national developmental objectives.
Our engagement today should therefore explore how we can use our respective platforms to realise the promise of 1994.
This government has a mandate to address poverty, unemployment and inequality.
The government’s policies carry the overwhelming endorsement of the electorate.
In successive elections, they have voted for development, transformation and redress.
They have endorsed the National Development Plan and look to government to lead in its implementation.
They have correctly identified economic transformation as the central task of the moment.
This is a task that falls to all of us, for it is through the radical transformation of the economy that we will build a united, prosperous nation.
By creating jobs, we will improve livelihoods.
By developing skills, we will grow the economy.
By ending poverty, we will reduce inequality and build social cohesion.
We need a national effort to grow an inclusive economy.
An effort in which all stakeholders will revisit longstanding attitudes and assumptions about each other, so that our factories, office blocks, spaza shops, stock market and home offices can become centres of growth and transformation.
We undertake this effort under challenging domestic and international circumstances.
Growth is faltering amid a slowdown in global demand and a dramatic decline in commodity prices.
The systemic challenges in our economy – principally, the skills deficit and high unemployment rate – are aggravated by energy constraints, low levels of domestic savings, and increased pressure on public finances.
Government is investing significantly in economic infrastructure, expanding energy and water supply, improving transport and logistics capabilities, and installing broadband across the country.
Even in difficult economic conditions, we are sustaining our investment in schools, colleges, universities, hospitals and clinics.
We are sustaining spending on social grants, housing, textbooks, antiretrovirals and the many other social interventions needed to tackle poverty and promote development.
We are committed to act decisively against those who abuse or neglect public resources as we tackle poor administration and inefficiency
Government is constantly facilitating interaction between South African businesses and their counterparts abroad.
Our government-to-government relations are these days invariably accompanied by business-to-business engagement.
We do this because we want South African businesses to succeed at home and abroad, and we want to ensure that South Africans enjoy the practical benefits of our extensive interaction with the world.
Social partnership is critical to the success of these endeavours.
No government anywhere in the world could achieve these goals alone.
We therefore continue to promote cooperation and collaboration, whether it be in the higher education space, in health care or in the labour market.
As an example, we are currently engaged in a dialogue with our social partners in Nedlac on the introduction of a national minimum wage.
These discussions are at an advanced stage, with agreement having been reached on key principles and mechanisms.
As this process nears its conclusion, we are having to confront challenging and difficult questions about the level at which the minimum wage should be set and the process by which that determination should be made.
In many ways, we are entering a phase of engagement not unlike the negotiations that led to the adoption of our democratic Constitution.
There are still areas of difference.
There are still competing interests that need to be accommodated.
And yet, there is a shared determination to find a solution that advances our efforts to both grow the economy and improve the lives of workers which will lead to lower levels of inequality.
There is a commitment to find common ground.
By crafting a meaningful a national minimum wage we have an opportunity to address income inequality. We also have an opportunity to stabilise our labour environment, and, above all, to advance our national interest.
There are many other areas where we are working together with our social partners to address common challenges.
We look to the media not only to report on these efforts, but to engage with them, to critique them, to analyse them, even to embrace them.
We look to the media to be a critical part of transformation and development.
We look to the media as committed and meaningful social partners.
Together, we are custodians of democracy, of development, of justice and equality.
Together, we are the custodians of the promise of freedom and transformation.