The Cape Chamber of Commerce has hit out at the Department of Communications (DoC), saying that business is becoming increasingly frustrated by the lack of governance and delivery, calling for DoC minister Dina Pule to be “dealt with” as a matter of urgency.
In a media statement, the chamber said that recent events surrounding allegations of misconduct within the Department of Communications – more specifically, surrounding minister Dina Pule – is compounding business’ concern about the lack of direction and leadership within the DoC.
“The Chamber’s ICT members have voiced their concern about the recent media reports surrounding the minister,” said Roderick Lim Banda, chairman of the ICT Portfolio Committee at the Cape Chamber of Commerce.
“It is creating a level of uncertainty and impacts the confidence of business in the local ICT sector.”
The Cape Chamber of Commerce represents 3,000 businesses, with more than 150 companies involved in the ICT space, and is currently engaging with both the City of Cape Town and the Provincial government of the Western Cape on their broadband initiatives.
The chamber noted that, over the past year, there have been repeated calls for Pule’s resignation amid allegations of nepotism and corruption; the decline of institutions such as Telkom and the SABC; the lack of progress in meeting targets; and lack of governance in ICT tenders.
However, the chamber said that it recognized that Pule had inherited the legacy of the government’s problematic ICT leadership and deliver image, which has affected the confidence of the business sector and industry for some time.
“Tender corruption, continued delays in the spectrum allocation, a lack of any clear policy for many years and grand promises with no concrete evidence of supporting tactics – [these] are just some of the irritations Chamber members have voiced concern over,” it said.
Lack of faith
Lim Banda pointed out that broadband has been successfully achieved in other parts of the world through a partnership between business, government and civil society, and said that there is no reason why South Africa cannot achieve this success.
“But we are astonished that the President can speak confidently about meeting the target of 100 percent broadband penetration by 2020 in his State of the Nation address when his Minister has yet to deliver on her current targets, and is failing to gain the confidence and trust of the business community,” he said.
“There are hundreds of SMMEs in the ICT sector that should be engaged on how they can be involved in this delivery,” he added.
Paul Esselaar, vice-chairman of the ICT Committee and ICT Attorney also commented that, thus far in the ICT space, the majority of the development and innovation has been despite the work of the national government rather than supported by it.
“As an example, when one considers that an increase in broadband penetration is clearly linked to an increase in the GDP of a country, it is amazing that more attention is not placed on increasing broadband penetration now and more pressure is not placed on the Minister to deliver come hell or high water,” Esselaar said.
“There can be little doubt that the Minister has failed to reduce corruption and facilitate ICT development and we believe that South Africa deserves better.”
“Government is there to create an enabling environment in which the private sector can deliver. It is time that the lack of delivery from the Department of Communications is dealt with by the President as a matter of urgency,” Lim Banda said.