Five months after President Jacob Zuma announced he would split the department of communications in two — creating a new communications department and a telecoms and postal services department — there’s still no resolution on which department will lead South Africa’s long-delayed migration from analogue to digital terrestrial television.
Democratic Alliance MP and shadow telecoms minister Marian Shinn believes a turf war between the departments is undermining the crucial migration project, which is holding up the reallocation of radio frequency spectrum for broadband. South Africa agreed with the International Telecommunication Union, which of part of the United Nations, to complete its migration project by mid-2015, a deadline that’s now won’t be met.
Though telecoms minister Siyabongwa Cwele had been leading the migration project — communicating updates on the subject to parliament — a news report on Monday suggested it’s communications minister Faith Muthambi who believes she’s in charge of it.
According to a report on ITWeb, Muthambi’s spokesman, Bongiwe Gambu, said: “The presidential proclamation gazetted in July 2014 transferred the Broadcasting Act … to the newly established department of communications… [This] logically transfers the policy formulation responsibilities and any project relating to broadcasting.”
This includes digital migration, according to Gambu.
“We are finalising details on how to get the migration project on track and we will share those details with industry and the public during the month of October 2014,” Gambu is quoted as saying. “Based on the above, we are intensely involved in the digital migration policy.”
The DA’s Shinn said a turf war between the two departments was inevitable. “The folly of splitting the communications department is apparent in this digital terrestrial television migration strategy,” Shinn said. “There was always going to be a turf war between the ministers about who owns what from the previous department.”
She said the issue has become about the money that will be made through the government’s subsidy of the set-top boxes South Africans will need after migration to continue receiving terrestrial television signals.
“There is a huge amount of money to be made out of the manufacturing and installation of set-top boxes. This is a multibillion-rand contract… What else is holding it up?”
The communications ministry’s Gambu could not be reached for comment on Tuesday; telecoms and postal services ministry spokesman Siya Qoza had not responded to written questions from TechCentral by the time of publication.
When the department of communications was split, the reason given was that it would fast-track implementation of government’s infrastructure roll-out plans, to give them speed and direction, said Shinn. Instead, it has achieved the opposite, she said. — © 2014 NewsCentral Media