Had the Democratic Alliance (DA) not walked out of parliament this afternoon (12 June 2012), Shadow Minister of Communications Marian Shinn would have delivered a 2-minute speech explaining the DA’s decision not to support the Department of Communications’ budget.
“For the past 18 years the Department of Communications has failed South Africa,” the speech begins. “If it continues on its present bumbling path, it will cripple our economic growth and be a major hindrance to the delivery of services by all spheres of government.”
Shinn wrote that perpetual policy reviews, workshops and expensive conferences create the impression of a leadership incapable of grasping the issues and urgently making bold decisions.
“It is caught between the ideological obsession of controlling the outcomes of its misguided policies and putting in place an ICT ecosystem where the smartest and most innovative South Africans can apply their skills for our nation’s success,” said Shinn.
The Telkom-KT deal
Shinn went on to call Telkom a parastatal.
“Surely this is reckless disregard by the majority shareholder for the value of this state asset and the role it plays,” Shinn said.
Shinn said that this proposed deal was an opportunity for risk-free growth for the “struggling and uncompetitive” Telkom.
However, Cabinet failed to grasp the deal’s potential for market and job growth, skills upgrading, and infrastructure rollout, Shinn said.
“Telkom owns most of the broadband infrastructure in the country and the KT Corp deal promised to fast track its expansion to meet the Minister’s 2020 goal,” Shinn said. “But we slammed the door on that opportunity.”
Digital terrestrial television migration
Shinn said that South Africa’s migration from analogue to digital terrestrial broadcasting is another DoC project “in a muddle”.
“The Minister is having the wool pulled over her eyes about the pace at which the SABC is migrating to digital broadcasting,” Shinn said. “In fact the transition has hardly started.”
There is still confusion about whether South Africa will import the set-top boxes (STBs) needed to convert digital signals for viewing on our current TV sets, or be restricted to the more expensive locally made ones.
Contrary to the DoC’s advertising campaign, Shinn remarked, these STBs will not be available until the middle of next year (2013).
“The department’s policies, poor leadership and lack of capacity will doom South Africa to slip further behind other African countries in becoming economically empowered through technology,” Shinn concluded.