The participatory development communication approach of Thusong service centres in Tshwane
Much discourse on the issue of development communication has focused on participation and its role in improving the lives of developing communities. This line of thought emanates from the theories of Paulo Freire and Martin Buber. Freirean dialogue, which emphasises dialogue and conscientisation emanated from Martin Buber's l-Thou and l-lt relationships and are relevant in this study because these concepts are pivotal in the endeavour to develop grassroots communities. For purposes of this study participatory communication is associated with dialogue, self-reliance, empowerment, the communities' socio-cultural context and strategic communication. In an effort to improve service delivery in the public sector, the South African government resolved to provide communities across South Africa with both information and services through the establishment of Thusong Service Centres. The Thusong concept refers to 'a place to get help or assistance' in Sesotho, and has been the focus of government in carrying out its mandate in respect of development communication in South Africa. This study adopted a qualitative research approach to gather data, to determine how the communication of Thusong Service Centres in Tshwane compare with the normative principles of participatory development communication. This study used purposive sampling and focused on the six Thusong Service Centres in Tshwane. The empirical study comprised document analyses of government policies, semi-structured interviews with senior Government Communication and Information Services (GCIS) personnel and personal observations at the six Thusong Service Centres. An analysis of the communication of Thusong Service Centres with Tshwane communities show that there is inadequate alignment with the theoretical underpinnings of participatory development communication. Against the backdrop of Chin Saik Yoon's four ways of observing participation in development projects, namely, participation in implementation, evaluation, benefit and decision-making, the study indicates that Tshwane communities do not partake in participation in evaluation and participation in decision-making. Furthermore, using Freirean dialogue as a benchmark, it was concluded that Thusong Service Centres do not fully meet the required principles of dialogue. Although the abovementioned results indicate that development communication practised by GCIS at Thusong Service Centres is in the main linear in nature, the study makes practical recommendations on how the normative principles of participatory development communication may be implemented at these centres in order to fast track the development process.
- Humanities