Government communications and democratic processes
Book has chapter on SA & Zim by OSISA programme officer
Governing necessarily involves constant exchanges of information and communication about policies, ideas and decisions between governors and the governed.
In a context in which internet technology – with all its possibilities for information processing and targeted communication – is pushing forward what is called ‘professionalization of government communication’, it goes without saying that government communication is a large growth industry in many countries as governments contract agencies and expand capacity.
Government Communication: Cases and Challenges – a new book published by Bloomsbury Academic Publishers and edited by two professors of political communication, Karen Sanders and Maria Jose Canel – looks at these issues by bringing together the work of distinguished scholars, who are political communication specialists and have deep knowledge of the countries that they write about.
In particular, the book discusses how communication serves democratic processes.
OSISA’s Zimbabwe Programme Officer, Percy Makombe, co-authored a chapter on Government Communication in southern Africa with Nkanyiso Maqeda – providing a comparative analysis of government communication in South Africa and Zimbabwe.
In southern Africa, national identity, economic development and state security have been the key guiding principles for governments in the post-colonial period. Percy and Nkanyiso chose the two countries because of their contrasting situations.
South Africa is widely viewed as a thriving democracy characterized by free and fair elections, a free and diverse media, and protection of human rights and freedoms for citizens. Zimbabwe on the other hand has – in the recent past – been widely viewed as following an autocratic trajectory, characterized by disputed elections, erosion of press freedoms and an assault on the rights of its citizens, particularly from the late 1990s to 2009 when a unity government was formed.
But their contrasting situations mask a similarity in the way that they have strived to exploit the media and communications.
From the attainment of independence in 1980 and democracy in 1994 respectively, governments in Zimbabwe and South Africa have sought to control the media and communications, ostensibly to help in nation-building and development.
However, these noble objectives have also included a tendency to use media and government communications to increase the concentration of political power in the hands of the ruling elite.
The book can be ordered from Bloomsbury.