Government asserts that the article titled “SA leaders seem to be AWOL” in The Citizen (17 October, 2022), casts aspersions that its leaders are silent in the midst of challenges facing the country. Such a false narrative has the potential to create unnecessary anxiety and sow public distrust in government.
While government acknowledges SA has surmountable socioeconomic and political challenges, it is factually incorrect for the article to suggest that members of the national executive are deliberately keeping silent.
Ministers and deputy ministers are daily seized with the important function of addressing challenges affecting their respective portfolios, often in the background. However, through regular media briefings, media statements and public appearances such as izimbizos, they engage with the public to provide latest updates on government’s interventions to solve problems.
Ministerial spokespersons are always available to respond to any enquiries from members of the media, who continue to serve as our important partners in accentuating the voice of government.
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The misleading article by Brian Sokutu clearly ignored the existing avenues to gather factual and correct information from reliable and official sources. It must be emphasised that ministers and their deputies cannot be defined by their appearances and utterances in the media environment. This article lacks journalistic ethics and objectivity and is purely based on the personal opinion of an individual journalist.
Sokutu could have focused on the annual reporting process underway in parliament, where members of the executive are tabling reports on work done. This is done in terms of their annual performance plans and government priorities outlined by the president annually during the State of the Nation Address.
These commitments are guided by the 2019-2024 medium-term strategic framework, which is regularly monitored and evaluated by the department of planning, monitoring and evaluation.
Furthermore, parliament provides oversight over the annual performance agreements that ministers enter into with the president. It is true that at an operational level, directors-general (DGs) of departments are instrumental in the daily operational work of government.
However, ministers and deputy ministers provide the requisite political and executive leadership. They are in constant contact with their DGs to receive and share updates on latest developments.
While government supports and upholds the freedom of the media, it does not condone news reportage that seeks to undermine its concerted efforts to build a better and prosperous SA. We appreciated the role played by the media in helping us to communicate information to the public aimed at preventing the spread of the deadly coronavirus over the past two years.
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We hope this partnership will continue to highlight the progress government is making in dealing with, among others, gender-based violence and femicide, poverty, crime and unemployment.
Let us work together to ensure that we leave no one behind in building a stable, safe and prosperous South Africa.
–Michael Currin is deputy director-general of GCIS