Zuma emasculating SA's ICT sector - TechCentral

Zuma emasculating SA’s ICT sector

Marian-Shinn-180The clock of South Africa’s progress towards a knowledge-based economy has been turned back by at least a decade through two recent presidential proclamations.

This has negative implications for our economic growth and inclusion of all our citizens in the interconnected world. It will cost us investment capital and hinder innovation and job creation.

President Jacob Zuma and communications minister Faith Muthambi are changing the legislative landscape of the ICT sector by decree rather than the democratic, consultative process of public participation.

In the past six months, they have undermined the forward-looking, thorough and expensive public process of revising policy and amending legislation that is evident in the National Development Plan, South Africa Connect and the ICT policy review. Their actions show they are impatient with democratic processes that are contrary to their intentions.

Their proclamations, policy review notices, actions and pronouncements of intent confirm what the information and communications technology (ICT) sector has assumed for years — that the ANC government doesn’t understand the sector and has absolutely no clue about the economic and social value that ICT delivers to the nation. They have an inward-looking agenda that serves party rather than national interests.

Last week’s presidential proclamation entrenched the backward trend of the ICT legislative environment by splicing various sections and clauses of two acts and swopping them around between the acts. This has undone the progression towards converged communications that has been underway in South Africa for the past decade.

We are one of the few countries left in Africa that regulates the separation of broadcasting from the electronic communications environment and are now out of step with the international thrust towards streamlined, fast and affordable interconnected economic and social relationships.

This about-turn in our ICT environment started in June 2014 when the president decided to split the former department of communications in two and share the relevant basket of legislation between Muthambi and telecommunications & postal services minister Siyabonga Cwele.

Last week’s “splice and swop” regulations have added immense complexity to the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) Act and the Electronic Communications Act (ECA), seemingly with the overriding aim of giving Muthambi control over anything to do with broadcasting.

These changes were done without the public participation or the regulatory impact assessments necessary for efficient democratic governance. They were totally unnecessary as a regulatory review of ICT policy and legislation in the converged ICT sector has been underway since late 2012.

The upheaval, delays and costs that these ill-conceived, rushed and unnecessary changes have brought the ICT sector almost to a standstill this year while the turf war raged. Now that the “splice and swop” regulations come into play, the complexities visited on the sector will aggravate the delays and costs in rolling out ICT infrastructure and services which will, among other issues, be counterproductive to reducing the costs to communicate.

No one disputes that these two acts need revision. That is why the ICT policy review was started in 2012. In April 2013, a framing paper was produced and widely discussed at stakeholder events, leading to the publication of a green paper last December. Comments on this paper are due to be received by the telecoms & postal services department by 30 January 2015 and a white paper gazette by midyear.

Because the ICT policy review was launched, extensive revisions to the Icasa Act and ECA that were gazetted late in 2012 were reduced to only technical amendment bills that were bulldozed through parliament at the end of last year and signed into law before the fourth parliament rose in March 2014.

This respect for the policy review process was overturned when the departments were split in the fifth parliament.

The presidential proclamation of 15 July 2014 gave, among other laws, the minister of communications authority over the Icasa Act and the minister of telecoms authority over the ECA.

The problem with that decision is that the Icasa Act is the “housekeeping” legislation that governs how Icasa is constituted and how it operates. The ECA details how Icasa goes about its business of issuing licences, assigning spectrum, investigating competition and developing policies that govern the sector. This meant that Icasa had to report to two ministers.

President Jacob Zuma (image: World Economic Forum)

President Jacob Zuma (image: World Economic Forum)

This ensured that a turf war developed between the two ministers over who was responsible for what — in particular the transition from analogue to digital broadcasting, which must be completed by the internationally agreed deadline of 17 June 2015. Kenya — our rival for ICT investment and rankings in Africa — switches over on 25 March 2015. South Africa is not going to make it.

The recent “splice and swop” legislative process of the president — which has neither the support of the departmental staff having to work with it or the stakeholders it should serve — seems to have given the authority for the digital television transition to the minister of communications.

This is a tragedy because she has little understanding that the main purpose of transitioning to digital broadcasting is the opening up of spectrum to bridge the digital divide and include everyone — no matter how remotely situated — into the world of the Internet. The requisite skills for this are in the telecoms department and the entities that report to it — and none of them is keen to change departments and work for Muthambi.

She has also just started her own broadcasting policy review process, duplicating the extensive work by broadcasting experts for the excellent ICT policy revision that has so far cost about R10m.

There is speculation in the sector about why Muthambi — who has shown dictatorial tendencies in her oversight authority of the SABC and protection of some of its top people close to Zuma — and the president are so keen to establish a department seemingly hell-bent on re-engineering the broadcasting, media and content production (including films and websites) sectors.

Only the unfolding of the multibillion-rand digital broadcasting migration and set-top box programme, the reshaping of the broadcasting and media sectors and the election campaigns of 2016 and 2019 will reveal why Zuma has set in motion a disastrous emasculation of South Africa’s ICT-driven economic growth and citizens empowerment potential.

  • Marian Shinn is Democratic Alliance shadow minister of telecoms & postal services

21 Comments

  1. he’s emasculating the sector, to emulate his own Eunuch status:
    1)- thanks to his emasculation by his own Baas,Comrade Blade of the SACP;
    2)- his own single braincell cannot grasp the basics of a knowledge based system, because he has none;And if he did, master it, he wouldn’t have the brain capacity left to regurgitate Comrade Jeremy Cronin’s Marxisrt constipation.

  2. Vusumuzi Sibiya on

    >>In the past six months, they have undermined the forward-looking, thorough and expensive public process of revising policy and amending legislation that is evident in the National Development Plan, South Africa Connect and the ICT policy review. Their actions show they are impatient with democratic processes that are contrary to their intentions.

    Democratic processes are exactly what’s firmly in-place within the ANC which is the reason why decisions are not solely made by Zuma and/or Muthambi – only a clueless apartheid award winning communications shadow minister would still be ignorant of that fact…

    …this is exactly what happens when there’s no leading story from the media for you to take a free ride on; and are forced to have to rely on your own intellect to make some form of impression – what a load of DRIBBLE!!

  3. They are doing it to serve themselves and their agenda. It is a royal F-up that these thieves ever made it into political power.

    A lesson I believe is sadly lost on many voters.

  4. Vusumuzi Sibiya on

    >>It is a royal F-up that these thieves ever made it into political power.

    Oh yes of-course, the same apartheid instilled prejudices are once again well articulated by the one who believes that all blacks or thieves rather, will come crying to him because of his being so superior at some stage in the future…

    …keep dreaming, after all that’s the reason why those seats in parliament are made so cozy. When you wake up to reality; then perhaps you might come up with a real plan that would be able to get you into power in a Democracy.

  5. Nono Vusu… You are putting words in my mouth. I’m talking about Zuma and his cronies. The likes of the Guptas, etc… It is obvious enough.

    If you want to identify with them then that’s your problem. Not mine.

  6. Vusumuzi Sibiya on

    >>If you want to identify with them then that’s your problem. Not mine.

    With well over 60% of the voting population identifying with “them”/”these thieves”/etc.

    It is obvious enough… and there’s no putting words in your mouth as we are all well acquainted with the language used by the fork tongued juDAs who continues to believe himself to be superior… but fortunately that’s not a problem anymore now that the power in a democracy is with the majority.

  7. You don’t know me. And if you think Zuma and his Gupta buddies are honest then I definitely do not want to know you.

  8. Vusumuzi Sibiya on

    Once again, just goes to show just how little you do know.

    Any thinking person living in a democracy would make it a point to be as knowledgeable as they possibly can about those in power and especially about the power influencers who are the tickets to getting into power. (Please do be so kind as to tell us which government on this planet can be deserving of being identified with honesty.)

    BTW Agent Smith: For an agent of the Matrix you ought to know that such aliases as Joe Black & Raven View are of very little value in the Matrix.

  9. Look I’m in decent company. Basically all the opposition leaders agree with what I am saying and even many people in the ANC. Even Bishop Tutu.

    Are we all agents? Get with reality – This is not the Matrix.

  10. Vusumuzi Sibiya on

    Gosh! and with Bishop Tutu that makes up what… 36% of the voting population.

    I’m glad you’re finally getting the point; this is a democracy and not the Matrix and I am Vusumuzi Sibiya, an ANC supporter/comrade along with over 60% of the voting population; and not an agent – how much more reality do you need to wake up from your dream world?

    (And no doubt in that same dream world there’s also the assumption that Madiba would also be your company… once again; get over yourself!!)

  11. 60% last time we checked. Given it will be a while till the next check, but do not be surprised if this time in 5 years you are still bragging, but only “along with 55% ” and the next time 50%, etc… SA’s population is growing up. Eventually the bs will just not fly any more.

  12. Does TC really have to show the pic of this man all the time. It really doesn’t increase my mood or appetite ( I want to say : it makes me almost to puke)
    And Marian does not match the looks and brains of Rolene from Volksrust.

  13. Vusumuzi Sibiya on

    Did you pinch “Joe Black” or your real self?

    Instead of rambling hopeful dreamer percentages why don’t you outline how in a proportional representation system, a massive party like the ANC would lose power to an opposition that can’t find agreement amongst each other?

    I know that in your dream world, you are keeping good company with them but the reality of the situation isn’t fooling anyone.

  14. Ag Vusu.. And it’s also apartheid’s fault that our Services are so wel managed these days by superior beigns. I mean look at how well our electricity is doing or our postal service. Municipal services, Health services, Police and Defence force and what about Railway and our road network is so well taken care of. I’m with you: we are really governed by superior people. I mean no normal person can F something up so well as these guys they must be or have supernatural powers

  15. Vusumuzi Sibiya on

    >>And it’s also apartheid’s fault that our Services are so wel managed these days by superior beigns.

    I would definitely be disappointed to find out that our services are being managed by alien “superior beigns” (whatever species of life that is).

    But I do get the point that you’re making in so far as it relates to the current management of certain services that leaves a lot to be desired; and whatever excuse one can make will always remain just that; an excuse –

    …so finding fault which is resultant from apartheid does not help our current situation and nor does switching-off your Maak ‘n Plan brain and pointing fingers, for that matter.

    Do you believe that if you came up with a working solution that would improve the service delivery for your community or communities affected by bad management; that someone would shoot you down and you would stand to loose everything?

    I think that the contrary would be true… and you would stand to gain a lot more than what you are currently gaining through criticism and the undermining of a government that has been elected by the large majority whose votes are what you need.

    The secrete to the ANC’s success is very simple… there is plenty that has been achieved to make a difference in the lives of many people and all that the ANC does is let those people share their stories with others.

    Of-course there’s still plenty of room for improvements but those are genuine true accomplishments which give hope to others that eventually, they will also experience the same (and that’s why access to social media will just serve to amplify the ground work carried out by our huge volunteer network).

    Now as for the ridiculous strategy employed by the opposition where they cherry-pick certain ANC accomplishments; going so far as to presume that Madiba would be in their camp then at the same time with their fork tongue, in typical juDAs fashion, go onto insult the same voter for making the best choice for themselves – Well… the results at the polls speak volumes about the effectiveness of that strategy.