In a development that is likely to send shockwaves through South Africa’s information and communications technology (ICT) industry, President Jacob Zuma has replaced his hard-working communications minister, Yunus Carrim, with Siyabonga Cwele, formerly the minister of state security.
Zuma announced on Sunday that the department of communications will be split in two, with the creation of the posts and telecommunications portfolio, to be headed by Cwele. The communications department will remain, and will take on government’s external communications agency, GCIS, as well as Brand South Africa. It will continue to look after the SABC and communications regulator Icasa. Zuma has named the relatively unknown Faith Muthambi as communications minister.
Cwele was an advocate of the contentious Secrecy Bill, also known as the Protection of State Information Bill. He is controversial in another respect: his former wife, Sheryl Cwele, was convicted three years ago in the Pietermaritzburg high court of dealing or conspiring to deal in drugs. They were married in 1985, and were divorced in 2011.
The decision to remove Carrim from the portfolio is likely to draw sharp criticism from the ICT sector. Frequent changes in who the minister is in recent years has led to policy indecision and delays. Since Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri passed away in 2009, the portfolio has been filled by Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, Siphiwe Nyanda, Roy Padayachie, Dina Pule and Carrim.
Carrim had been seen to be effective, and had made important progress in a number of key areas, including developing a broadband policy and beginning to sort out problems at a number of government agencies in his portfolio.
He moved quickly to address many of the problems bedevilling the communications portfolio since he took the reins last year. But he was not able to resolve some of the more complex issues in the short time he was in office. — © 2014 NewsCentral Media