The call to split the communications department to create a new cabinet post and propaganda department has the ICT sector milling about in confusion.
This is according to DA Shadow Minister, Marian Shinn, who said that the former ministers of communications weren’t consulted. “It was based on an uninformed presidential whim.”
President Jacob Zuma announced his new cabinet towards the end of May, including the launch of a new Ministry of Telecommunications and Postal Services, led by former minister of State Security, Siyabonga Cwele.
The communications department was also reconfigured to include more functions, led by communications minister, Faith Muthambi.
“We’ve gone from muddling along with the third minister in as many years – to acceleration that blew your hair back with former minister Yunus Carrim in the driving seat.”
“To suddenly hitting a brick wall,” Shinn said.
“The sudden stop – caused by the President’s whim to split the department to create a new Cabinet post and propaganda department – has the ICT sector milling about in confusion,” the MP said.
“The President’s odd decision, once again, showed that the ANC hasn’t a clue about the critical role ICT plays in the economic development of our nation.”
“It treats stakeholder engagements with contempt as it ignores their input and advice based on experience and industry expertise,” Shinn said.
The DA noted that a presidential proclamation was published in the Government Gazette on Tuesday (16 July), providing clarity on the legislative mandates of the departments, “but there is still no clear vision of what is intended by the split”.
Shinn pointed out that this information was not available to inform budget debates. She questioned how many people would know that the power to censor movies, books, documentaries and mobile apps now vests with the minister of communications, also referred to the ministry of propaganda within the DA.
“So here we are today, charged with debating whether the department’s strategic plan is feasible and whether there is enough money in the budget to implement these plans. But the plans before us are yesterday’s plans,” Shinn said.
“We have no idea how much of the budget before us will be diverted elsewhere, to programmes of re-location and integration, or to new initiatives. Will programmes go on the back burner or be dropped altogether?”
Shinn noted that the confusion over who’s responsible for what runs rampant through the publications of the Department of Communications.
The Strategic Plan of the Department of Communications has a foreword by the minister of telecommunications and postal services. There’s no sign of the minister of communications, Shinn said.
“The telecommunications minister’s foreword randomly refers interchangeably to the Department of Communications and the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services – so no clarity there about who reports where.”
The DA also noted that soon after the cabinet announcement, profiles of the minister and deputy minister of Telecommunications and Postal Services appeared. However, there is no sign of the minister of communications and her deputy here, with only a brief mention on the GCIS website.