The Municipal systems act 32 of 2000 confers certain obligations on municipalities and rights for citizens in terms of development communication, to be informed and to also actively participate in structured programmes targeted at ensuring issues of social development and service delivery are well executed by the municipality’s administration.

Recently Umzimvubu Local Municipality held its communication Strategy workshop at the Dan’s Country Lodge and Events Centre in Mthatha. This important occasion was hosted for the development of a revised communication strategy document to be adopted early next year, after the IDP (Integrated Development Plan) strategy review.

The communication document will be used for the next 5year term of the current Council of the municipality, but will also be reviewed annually to ensure that it is co-current with the environment in terms of; the political environment, Opportunities in the local government, issues pertaining to the living conditions and livelihood of our Citizens. Present at the conference, was the Government Communications and Information Systems department in the district (GCIS) represented by their Regional Communication Coordinator Mr. N Kopo, the Alfred Nzo District’s Communication Manager Mr. N Masumpa and Local Media house Pondo news and Alfred Nzo Community Radio station. Mr Kopo presented on behalf of GCIS and explained GCIS’s role in communication from the National structure to provincial and local. He also gave a framework of how the communication strategy was adopted and thus being called Development Communication. Development Communication is defined as, “the art and science of human communication applied to the speedy transformation of a country and the mass of its people from poverty to a dynamic state of its economic growth that makes possible greater social equality and the larger fulfilment of the human potential”.

Access to information, open dialogue, openness and accountability and media freedom are all key components in the proper functioning of Development Communication in bringing service delivery. Next up on the Podium was the District Communication Manager Mr. N Masumpa who was there to give an overview of the District’s approach towards Communication. Mr. Masumpa noted his appreciation of conferences of this nature, as it gives the District together with its local Municipalities the opportunity to strategise and realign in order to have a united voice with the communities it serves. He pointed out a key government initiative recently developed by our government called, “Operation Masiphathisane”, which is an initiative aimed at providing ward councilors and CDW’s (community development workers) an open platform to engage with the Municipality’s Executive Committee on issues pertaining to service delivery. He also pointed out that Communication is the responsibility of all stakeholders. And of outmost importance for councilors to engage the Municipality then give feedback to communities about resolutions and progress on projects and programmes by the municipality.

Marketing Manager of Alfred Nzo Community Radio Station Miss Nthatisi Molefe gave some very informative and relevant information which can help communities together with ward councilors communicate better. ANCR is a Community Radio Station, meaning that it is mandated by the government to contribute in community development. Indeed they have tried to bring information to communities over the years since the stations inception. Miss Molefe highlighted the frequency problems often faced by rural communities and said they were in constant talks with SENTECH to try and fix the problems, but also highlighted that they have in the meantime joined the digital broadcasting space and the radio station can now be listened to via the internet. She also sited that they have created and information blog whereby people of the community can send in an email if they have any queries or issues to raise regarding their respective wards. This information will then be sent directly to the portfolio head or ward councilor of that area to deal with or take up with the mayor’s office.

“Communication is skill everyone can learn. As long as one is willing to work at it, it can rapidly improve the quality of every part of our lives”.