Why Padayachie is the right choice - TechCentral

Why Padayachie is the right choice

[By Duncan McLeod]

President Jacob Zuma dropped a bombshell on SA’s communications technology industry on Sunday when he sacked his controversial communications minister, Siphiwe Nyanda. In Roy Padayachie, the sector finally has the minister it wanted all along.

Zuma took most people by surprise last year when, shortly after the general election, he appointed Nyanda, a former head of the SA National Defence Force, to the crucial communications portfolio.

Nyanda had virtually no experience of telecommunications or broadcasting. And ever since his appointment, the retired general had courted controversy — staying for extended periods in expensive hotels at taxpayers’ expense, condoning his department’s profligate purchase of two German luxury sedans for his use and, more seriously, facing allegations of impropriety in his business dealings.

Meanwhile, state-owned enterprises in the communications portfolio fell into dysfunction. The SABC, in particular, lurched from one crisis to another on Nyanda’s watch. He didn’t do enough to fix the mess at the public broadcaster.

And he achieved little as minister. He has been credited with bringing down interconnection rates — the fees the operators charge each other to carry calls on their networks — but that may have had more to do with his axed director-general, Mamodupi Mohlala, and pressure from opposition parties in parliament, than any specific work by Nyanda.

Zuma’s decision to sack him still came as a big surprise, though. Speculation in political circles is that the president is thinking of appointing Nyanda as ambassador to Germany, replacing the gravely ill Eddie Funde.

Whatever Zuma’s political motivations in sacking Nyanda, the decision to replace him with Padayachie has been welcomed in most quarters, despite his serving for five years under the ineffectual Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri.

When Padayachie was first appointed to the then new deputy ministerial role in 2004, he immediately set about engaging with the industry about high telecom prices.
He called an industry colloquium on the issue and was seen as a breath of fresh air in a moribund communications department.

But the euphoria didn’t last. Though he won’t comment on what happened, it’s widely speculated that Matsepe-Casaburri took umbrage at his initiatives and told him to get in line and shut up. If that’s the case, it’s a discredit to him that he didn’t protest. But then she was his superior and a political ally of then president Thabo Mbeki. Standing up to her would have meant standing up to Mbeki. That would have been political suicide.

The hope now is that Padayachie will pick up where he left off — consulting the industry broadly about what’s working and what’s broken — and fixing the shambles at the department and the state-owned enterprises for which it is responsible.

On Monday, just hours before he was due to be sworn in, I spoke to Padayachie on the telephone. The conversation was instructive not so much for what he told me about his areas of priority, but rather for the conversation that followed once the formal interview was over.

“It’s my time to ask you some questions,” Padayachie told me. The first thing he wanted to know was how he could work effectively with journalists who cover the sector. He sounded genuinely interested in an open relationship.

Then he asked me what I felt his priority areas should be as minister. No communications minister — and I’ve interviewed four of them since 1994 — had ever asked me that before. If that is the consultative sort of approach he’s going to take with the industry more broadly, then I’d venture that the electronic communications industry finally has the minister it deserves.

11 Comments

  1. So??? What did you tell him to focus on, Duncan? The world is waiting, don’t cut us off now!

  2. Hi Duncan – Oh what excellent news. But on his question about ministerial priorities: what was your reply?

  3. Funny people! 🙂

    FWIW, I said something about him needing to create certainty for investors through wise policy decisions and by providing the necessary support to Icasa so it can do its job properly, independent of political interference.

  4. Praise is always given at the start of a reign and “tightens grip”, “minister to tackle corruption”, “new approach needed’, ‘vows to clean up”, “no place for incompetency” headlines scream but we always get let down. But let’s face it, Nyanda was a cesspool in a cesspool in Parliament. It will depend on Padyachie’s communication plan, if one can be found thta does’nt have a shopping list scribbled all over it…

  5. Sounds like our new minister did a PR number on you and you took the bait! The proof is in the eating of the pudding though. We shall see…

  6. Dieter Göttert on

    Think the reason for Duncan mentioning that the new minister actually asked a journalists’ opinion illustrates perhaps the minister’s wanting to know how the department is perceived by opinion makers – always good to have insight into how the different sectors of society interpret actions and reactions – now whether the minister will heed (or not ) what Duncan had to say is a different matter…..always good to get a heads up .

  7. As a SA/UK commuter, the contrast in cost and performance of comms in the two countries is becoming ever more stark.

    For SA’s sake I hope this new guy can sweep aside the vested interests and set your wonderful country free to have the first world comms infrastructure it deserves.

  8. I’m inclined to agree with Ant Duke. Let’s see him put his plans in to action, because lets face it: just saying something does not make it so.

    I am feeling quite cheerful so far though, he sounds like he’s saying the right things. We will just have to wait and see I guess. 🙂

    Duncan: Your answer to Mr Padayachie sounds very utopian, I would love to see it actually happen.

    JHM

  9. Ivy did the comms depart good and surely her prod will even do greater, though we have a lot of politics in the air. Visionaries are what we need not controlling freaks who sits out their days without taking healthy risk.

    Parastals vs Private sector.
    “Put Your ears to the track and start listening”
    “Hearing is for the fools of Yester Year”

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