Biggest SA tech newsmakers of 2013

Love them or hate them, the South African tech space is full of influential names who have made waves across the country in 2013.

Here are some of the biggest local newsmakers in 2013 (in no particular order) – people who were the news, rather than simply being a part of the news, who had an impact not only in their industries, but also made waves beyond.

Mark Shuttleworth
Mark Shuttleworth

Mark Shuttleworth

South Africa’s most famous tech-savvy expat, Mark Shuttleworth made headlines in the country in 2013 when he took the SA government to court to have the country’s exchange control system declared unconstitutional.

In doing to, Shuttleworth looked to have as much as R250 million returned to him – the sum he had to pay to move some of his assets out of the country when he left in 2009.

It was reported by Forbes in August that, because of the exchange controls, it cost Shuttleworth more to get his money out of South Africa ($30 million) than it did to get him into space in 2001 ($20 million).

While Shuttleworth was unsuccessful in getting the court to rule in favour of the court challenges that affected him personally, peripheral challenges of the exchange control system were overturned.

Alan Knott-Craig
Alan Knott-Craig

Alan Knott-Craig

Cell C’s vocal CEO, Alan Knott-Craig once again made headlines in 2013 bringing fighting words to industry big-boys, MTN and Vodacom.

“We will crack you,” Knott-Craig said to Vodacom CEO Shameel Joosub at the 2013 MyBroadband conference in October 2013.

The quotable executive spent a large portion of 2013 talking convergence, and promoting the viewpoint of consolidation in the telecoms market – sparking rumours of merger talks between Cell C and Telkom.

Knott-Craig’s drive to place Cell C in a position where it had a fighting chance against MTN and Vodacom culminated in the executive formally lodging a complaint with the Competition Commision against the heavy-weights.

In November, Knott-Craig once again made headlines as he suffered a minor stroke – while he’s not currently taking up his role as CEO, he is expected to make a full recovery.

Dina Pule
Dina Pule

Dina Pule

Ever the centre of controversy, former minister of communications, Dina Pule once again stole headlines in 2013 as a very public war against newspaper, The Sunday Times reached a climax.

2013 was the year for the disgraced minister to face the music following the investigations into her wasteful expenditure and misappropriation of funds surrounging the ICT Indaba of 2012.

When it was revealed by the Sunday Times that Pule’s boyfriend, Phosane Mngqibisa had gained “improper benefits” from the minister based on their relationship, Pule pushed back – hard.

She denied any romantic ties to Mngqibisa, and alleged that she was being blackmailed by the Sunday paper – claims which would later come back to haunt her, when an ethics committee investigation showed otherwise.

After public mud-slinging against journalists, and alleged assassination plots, Pule was ultimately given the chop as communications minister in a Cabinet reshuffle in July 2013.

Dipuo Peters
Dipuo Peters

Dipuo Peters and Nazir Alli

While the communications portfolio lost a controversial head – the transport portfolio gained one.

The hugely unpopular Gauteng electronic tolling system has been at the centre of public outcry for almost two years, gaining a spot of prominence across various media outlets, including the technology sector.

Of course, e-tolling is facing enough negative sentiment from the road using public without having minister of transport, Dipuo Peters and Sanral CEO Nazir Alli telling Joburg residents that they need to get over it.

Speaking on radio station, AM Live, in October, Peters said that only a “few” people were against the tolling system, “but the majority of citizens are law abiding citizens who want these world class roads.”

The minister did not gain any more favour amongst social media commentators and legal pundits when she followed up with even more quotable gems – likening Joburg roads to toilets that need to be maintained, and claiming e-tolls were needed to reverse the legacy of apartheid planning.

Sitting on Peters’ side of the e-toll battle, Alli has also drawn the ire of Joburg residents with comments falling short of outright threats of legal action against road users who do not pay up.

In an interview with the Sabc in October, Alli was quick to tell road users to stop being negative about the system and see its benefits – just before reminding them that not paying tolls was against the law.

Wayne Duvenage
Wayne Duvenage

Wayne Duvenage

Long before transport minister Dipuo Peters entered into the e-tolls game – a long-standing fighter against the system has been grabbing headlines since it came to proper public light.

After being granted leave to appeal the e-tolling system when an interdict was overturned in 2012, Duvenage and Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (Outa) kicked up their game in 2013.

Tackling issues such as Sanral’s e-tag sales claims, what alternatives could have been used – as well as the legal route in South Africa’s courts – whenever e-tolls were in the spotlight, Duvenage and Outa were not far behind.

However, after years of fighting the legal battle against e-tolls on behalf of Gauteng road users, the courts ruled that it was too late to undo e-tolling, and Duvenage ultimately left the courts, defeated.

However, despite running dry in the legal channels, Duvenage and Outa continue their campaign against the system, and remain vocal and defiant – with Duvenage especially not pulling any punches when dealing with the topic.

More on SA’s newsmakers

Mark Shuttleworth takes SA government to court

People want e-tolls: Transport Minister

We are winning: Cell C

Outa’s e-toll case dismissed

Pule named and shamed in Parliament

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Biggest SA tech newsmakers of 2013