In recognition of excellence in government communications, the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology (MICT) hosted the first ever Government Communications officers’ awards ceremony, held at Mercure Hotel, in Windhoek on 7 December 2023. The ceremony, which themed “Celebrating Excellence in Government Communication,” was inaugurated by Hon. Dr. Peya Mushelenga, the Minister of Information and Communication Technology. The recognition highlights the exceptional contributions of the deserving Public Relations Officers (PROs) in the Public Service.
Romeo Muyunda from the Ministry of Environment Forestry, and Tourism’s scooped the overall best performing government communications officer award in the category of Offices, Agencies and Ministries (O/M/As), making him the best Public Relations Officer of the Year 2023. In total, Muyunda won N$25 000 in total, with N$15 000 being the prize for the top award, plus two trophies and certificates for each award. Still in the best performing O/M/As category, Jona Musheko of the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Land Reform (MAWLR) secured the second spot, while the ministry itself (MAWLR) won the best O/M/A award. Cornelia Shilongo of the Otjozondjupa Regional Council claimed the top spot, with Panduleni Nepembe of Ohangwena Regional Council grabbing the second, in the Regional Councils (RCs) category. On the other hand, Lydia Amutenya of the City of Windhoek (CoW) secured the first place in the Local Authorities (LAs) category, with Jackson Muma of the Ongwediva Town Council taking the second place. Amutenya won N$10 000, and Muma got N$5 000 respectively. The City of Windhoek also won the best local authority award, while Erongo scooped the best regional council award. The awards continued in different categories.
Dr. Mushelenga said “being a public relations officer is not necessarily an easy task because you have too many commanders, you give this to your deputy director he or she change it this way, when it goes to the Director, it is changed otherwise, it goes to the ED it is again changed otherwise or if you are from local authority you give it to your divisional manager and so forth, it goes to a strategic executive by the time it goes to the CEO, it has been changed several times; sometimes you get frustrated but at the end of the day you have persisted and sailed through those rough stones of troubled waters in order to go on show” . He highlighted the substantial contributions that government communications officers play in the dissemination and access to information. Furthermore, h highlighted that the importance of the awards lies in recognising and honouring the best performers, serving as motivation for them to continue excelling. He commended the PROs for performing extraordinarily well, investing much of their time, energy, and effort to deliver the best for the Namibian public.
Dr. Audrin Mathe the Executive Director of the MICT said “PROs sometimes stand insults that they are incompetent or only return calls five days later. But I thought you should turn around also. Amidst the insults find time to celebrate the good thing that you do. Without your voices, government achievements and government right of reply cannot be heard”. He added that the prestigious event will be bigger next year.
The selection process of nominees who were awarded was carried out by an independent team from the media fraternity and comprised two categories, namely: Selection committee and Adjudication team. The selection team selected the nominees, whilst the adjudication team verified the process. To qualify for awards the process focused among others on public engagement; utilisation of digital media; access to information and how O/M/A/s, RCs and LAs managed crisis communication.
The gathering was graced by the executive directors of Office of the Prime Minister, MICT, and of Ministry of Urban and Rural as well as Chief Regional Officers. Furthermore, in attendance were the Chief Executive Officers from private organisations including the academia.
Further, the inaugural event was honourary attended by a team comprised of officials from Mali and Burkina Faso, who serve in the International Freedom of Expression Festival (FILEP), an international body that promotes and defends freedom of expression and the media. The delegation comprised Ms. Ndey-Tapha sosseh, a Journalist, Human Rights advocate and Consulting Advisor to the Ministry of Information and Communications Infrastructure at Gambia (but she resides in Mali); Mr. Younnousa Ouedraogo, Chairperson of FILEP organising Committee in Burkina Faso and Ms. Diane Badolo, the Administrative Assistant to Mr. Ouedraogo, Burkina Faso. Apart from witnessing the first ever awards ceremony, the team was on a learning mission to Namibia to witness the media landscape in Namibia, and subsequently benchmark against Namibia’s outstanding work in relation to media and freedom of expression. This is because that Namibia had received a couple of awards for its outstanding record on freedom of expression and its consistent number-one ranking in Africa in terms of media freedom. She added that Namibia is worth emulating because of the magnificent work in the acceleration of Access to Information legislation, adding that although Namibia recently passed the Access to Information law, the implementation is very fast comparing to other African countries. Furthermore, the team commended Namibia for transparency in media.
The award ceremony is slated to become an annual event to encourage continued excellent communication in government offices, ministries, agencies, RCs, LAs and Public Enterprises.
Here is an audio link to the proceedings of the awards ceremony. https://www.facebook.com/MICTNamibia/videos/663159069360598/