“On behalf of the Media Development and Diversity Agency (MDDA), I would like to thank you Dr Pahad for your contribution towards facilitation of development and diversity in the South African media and to the promotion of the right to freedom of expression and access to information as enshrined in our Constitution.”
These were the words from Mr Lumko Mtimde, Chief Executive Officer of the Media Development and Diversity Agency (MDDA), at the Sunnyside Hotel in Johannesburg on Tuesday 30th September as the Agency's Board, management as well as staff members bade a fond farewell to Dr Essop Pahad, outgoing Minister in the Presidency. The farewell lunch was attended by the captains of all the major print media companies in South Africa including AVUSA - Mr Prakash Desai, the Group CEO, Independent Newspapers - Mr Tony Howard, the Group CEO; Media 24 - Mr Francois Groepe, the CEO; Caxton - Dr Van Zyl Slabbert, Chairperson and Mr Piet Greyling, Caxton (CTP Group) Deputy Managing Director. Also present was Mr Johan Koster, the Executive Director of the National Association of Broadcasters.
Mr Mtimde opened the function by tracing the roots of the idea of setting up an enabling support mechanism for supporting alternative and community media. These came about very strongly in the late eighties and early 90's culminating in the “Community Media 2000” conference held in Cape Town. In 1996, the then Deputy President Mbeki established a Task Group on Government Communications (COMTASK) led by Mr Mandla Langa. The community media sector led by the National Community Media Forum (NCMF) in its submission to the Comtask recommended the establishment of the Media Development Agency. In its report “Communications 2000 - A vision for government communications in South Africa”, COMTASK recommended that government facilitate the process of setting up a statutory recognised media development agency for the dispensing of subsidies to the sector. (Comtask Final Report, Recommendation 79). This led to the enactment of the MDDA Act in 2002 and the birth of the MDDA in 2004, concluded Mr Mtimde.
The broadcasting industry was sad to see Dr Pahad go, said Mr Koster, as he reminisced about the early days of the MDDA and the outgoing Minister's key role in the agency taking off ground. “The broadcasting industry was initially not keen on funding the concept of the MDDA. Dr Pahad visited each of us separately and 'sorted us' out. Now broadcasters contribute gladly to the MDDA. It speaks of the respect we all have for the Minister and how he carried himself in office.” Mr Koster also wished Dr Pahad well in his future endeavours and declared that he will always have a home in the broadcasting industry.
Mr Prakash Desai talking as the President of the Print Media Association of SA thanked Dr Pahad for his contribution and expressed the print media industry's support for the objects of the MDDA.
Representing the MDDA Board, Mr Chris Moerdyk confessed that he was a cynic when the idea of such a body was conceptualised and as he became a Board member of the MDDA. “I just didn't believe that the print media and the government could work together, but I'm glad to say that my initial instincts were wrong.” Mr Moerdyk also remembered the Agency's very first meeting at the Union Building, where they all weren't quite sure what to do and Dr Pahad welcomed them all and set the tone for that meeting. “After five years of unqualified Audit reports and the good work of the MDDA, I'd like to say farewell to Essop, we've come a long way together,” concluded Mr Moerdyk.
As well as seeing Dr Essop Pahad off, the agency had invited its Board members, print media funders, a representative from the broadcasting funders as well as Government Communications & Information Systems (GCIS), to a roundtable for the talks towards the renewal of MDDA funding from their print media partners, as the agreement for the past five years expires in 2009.
In his speech, Dr Pahad thanked the funders, print and broadcast for their commitment in working with the Government to help the agency meet its objectives of enhancing the development of community media. “The Agency is a unique entity. It's the only time the big media industry works hand in hand with the government to meet the imperatives of media development and diversity in South Africa. This diversity is cardinal to our success as a democratic society in which the people are empowered to make their own decisions on matters of the day.” He concluded by saluting the founding contributors to the realisation of this Agency, including Mr Joel Netshitenzhe (the former GCIS CEO), Mr Tony Trew (the former GCIS Deputy CEO and MDDA Board member), Ms Khanyi Mkhonza (the former MDDA Chairperson and now SABC Board Chairperson), Ms Libby Lloyd (the former MDDA CEO) and the support (without which there would have been no MDDA) of the former President of the Republic, Mr Thabo Mbeki.
Dr Pahad saluted the leadership of Mr Lumko Mtimde (the MDDA CEO) who he says could have easily taken any other well paying job after leaving ICASA as a Councillor in 2006 but chose to devote his expertise in running the MDDA. He said under his stewardship the MDDA has grown its funding base, beneficiary pool, as an organisation and continued to receive clean unqualified audit reports from the Auditor General.
The MDDA also lauded Dr Pahad's unfailing support and advocacy, which had seen the agency cross many milestones, and also enabled it to reach into communities who had no access to media prior to our democracy. Now South Africa's media landscape is on its way to giving voice to communities that most need it.
It's the Agency's hope that Dr Pahad will continue to support this noble cause of promoting media development and diversity which gives meaning and effect to the Constitution Act of 1996 (in particular Sections 16 and 32), so said Mr Lumko Mtimde.
Mr Mtimde concluded by welcoming the new Minister in the Presidency, Dr Manto Tshabalala Msimang, in absentia, as she had to attend to her cabinet responsibilities. The agency looks forward to working with her and relies on her support in growing and developing the media including promoting media diversity.