President Jacob Zuma must tell communications minister Faith Muthambi to back off and allow telecommunications and postal services Siyabonga Cwele to do his job when it comes to South Africa’s long-delayed project to migration from analogue to digital terrestrial television.
That’s the view of Democratic Alliance MP Marian Shinn, who says a turf war between Muthambi and Cwele is threatening to further stall the migration process. Shinn says she intends writing to Zuma, asking him to intervene urgently to resolve the issue.
The Mail & Guardian on Friday quoted unnamed sources as saying that at a recent cabinet meeting, a memorandum that Cwele had drafted detailing how digital migration would be implemented, was thrown out by his colleagues because Muthambi was unhappy about it.
Chaos has surrounded the two departments ever since Zuma’s post-election decision to split the old department of communications. The president has faced severe criticism for the decision, with many commentators warning that the move goes against the convergence trend internationally.
“Cabinet must quickly address this battle between ministers Muthambi and Cwele,” Shinn says in a statement. “It must give Cwele the freedom to do his job, which is to fast-track the availability of communications bandwidth to support e-government strategies and the digital economy.”
She says communications, under Muthambi, has taken the attitude that the value of digital migration lies in making more and better TV programming available. “While this is true — and it offers more opportunities for content producers — it does not trump the valuable impact of a rapid roll-out of high-speed, robust broadband infrastructure.”
Shinn finds it “bizarre” that Muthambi “believes she needs to be included in Cwele’s decision making”.
“He is operating within his legal mandate and the departmental expertise on this issue resides in his department,” he says.
“These reports further indicate what the information and communications technology (ICT) sector feared would happen when President Zuma announced his ill-considered decision to split the former communications department to create a cabinet position for Muthambi.
“South Africa’s ranking in the international and African ICT environments continues to slide as successive communications ministers’ uninformed meddling in critical issues delays and obfuscates policy and regulatory implementation. This must stop. South Africa’s continued participation in the global economy depends on a streamlined, robust, high-speed ICT infrastructure.” — © 2014 NewsCentral Media