It follows yet another report in the Sunday Times, which claimed that Dina Pule “bullied television networks to accept a set-top box deal worth an estimated R100-million that would have cost tax-payers extra, while benefiting her her boyfriend’s business partner”.
However, the high-court subsequently struck down the deal in December 2012, calling it “unlawful”. Pule initially planned to appeal the ruling, but withdrew two weeks ago.
This is just the latest debacle in a litany of hindrances to South Africa’s digital terrestrial television migration; a process which also has an impact on the telecommunications sector as operators wish to use the freed analogue broadcast spectrum (referred to as digital dividend) to roll out new broadband and voice services.
The Sunday Times previously reported that Pule is also involved in a scandal around the recent ICT Indaba in Cape Town, for which she secured sponsorship from Vodacom, MTN and Telkom amounting to R25.7-million.
The DoC said in a statement on Sunday afternoon that the minister was concerned that the Sunday Times appeared to be engaged in a politically motivated smear campaign, throwing mud at the her, in the hope that something would stick.
Alluding to the Sunday Times article headlined “Pule’s unlawful ruling swayed TV-signal deal, the DoC said:
This story contains facts that are misleading. There is no TV-signal deal in South Africa in relation to the conditional access system for the Set Top Boxes that are required for the digital migration process that the country will be embarking on later this year.
The DoC said that in January 2013, minister Pule appealed the decision of the court and simultaneously pursued a negotiated agreement with all the parties concerned.
The progress of the negotiations convinced minister Pule to withdraw the appeal in February 2013.
The full statement can be seen on the DoC’s Facebook page.
The DA responds
On Sunday Marian Shinn, shadow minister of communications, said that Pule’s latest alleged attempt to enrich her boyfriend Phosane Mngqibisa gives President Jacob Zuma no option but to remove her from Cabinet.
Shinn noted that it was the second time that the minister had seemingly abused her powerful position in the information communication and technology sector to benefit Mngqibisa.
It is widely rumoured that Minister Pule will soon be removed as Communications Minister and given an ambassadorial post, and her potential successor is being openly discussed.
If President Zuma is considering a soft exit for her into an ambassadorial post he must remember that within one year Minister Pule has been accused twice of bulldozing through schemes that were designed to enrich her boyfriend, indicating that she has a serious ethical deficit.
The Minister’s 16 months in office have been disastrous for advancing the interests and benefits of the ICT sector. The Department of Communications failed to meet most of its targets last year and was hauled before Parliament’s Standing Committee on Appropriations for failing to spend according to its budget.
Shinn said that South Africa could no longer afford a minister who was constantly side-tracked by her own personal and vested interests. “It’s time for Minister Pule to go”.
More on the DoC and Dina Pule