The new Minister of Communications, Ms Ayanda Dlodlo’s, recent announcement that she would revert to the pre-2015 policy on signal encryption must be followed up with an extensive public discussion to review all aspects of the stalled Broadcasting Digital Migration (BDM) programme to deliver digital terrestrial television (DTT) throughout South Africa.
The DA has written to the Minister requesting that she convene a two-day public hearing during which all relevant ICT sector stakeholders can contribute ideas on how to rapidly rescue the programme that has been bogged down by ill-informed political interference, legal challenges, broadcasters squabbling to influence policy in their favour, insufficient funding and a corrupt procurement process.
In the 15 years since the government decided to opt for set-top boxes (STBS) as a means to ensure poorer people could use these decoders on their existing analogue TV sets to receive digital broadcasting signals, technology has rapidly changed, overtaking some of the original ideas included in the programme.
The programme was, from inception, underfunded as there was scant appreciation of the costs of all the steps needed to make the migration a success. South Africa is more economically stressed than it was in 2002, so many of the ambitions of those early ideas cannot be fulfilled.
The ICT sector is desperate to switch off the analogue broadcasting signals that prevent them extending wireless broadband services throughout South Africa. This is the time to include its stakeholders in a dialogue in developing and fast-tracking the analogue switchoff in a way that affordably includes all South Africans in a connected society.
The DA also looks forward to receiving the Minister’s reply to a Parliamentary question we submitted in April on her plans to escalate the BDM programme, and hope she will accede to our request for in inclusive discussion and resolution of the BDM programme’s challenges.
The Department of Communications intends to purchase two new vehicles for Minister Ayanda Dlodlo and Deputy Minister Thandi Mahambehlala, despite the department’s risk of running out of money by the second quarter of the current financial year.
In a presentation to the Portfolio Committee on Communications today, the Acting Director General (D-G), Basani Baloyi, indicated that the department is under severe economic pressure, and will likely run out of money by mid-year.
However, despite these financial pressures, the department intends to buy two new luxury cars for the Ministers.
The purchase of two new vehicles will place severe financial pressure on the department’s ability to fill vacancies and deliver on its mandate. The department states that the two new cars will be purchased at a minimum of R750 000 per vehicle, but as history shows, members of the executive have a penchant for splurging R1 million and above on cars.
The DA challenges the Minister and her Deputy to reject these purchases, as their priorities as new Ministers should be fixing a department and its entities currently in severe crisis, and ensuring that there is money to do so – not buying fancy new cars.
The department should have the following cars in its garage, which are more than good enough:
- 2014 BMW X5 XDrive 3.0D R926 310.00
- 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee R862 838.00
- Deputy Minister
- 2014 Audi A8 3.0TDI Quattro R852 041.00
- 2014 Audi Q7 4.2TDI V8 R882 250.00
The excuse that the Ministerial Handbook allows Ministers to purchase new vehicles once mileage has been reached does not hold water.
The DA will not stand for ANC Ministers living in luxury, whilst people remain trapped in poverty and unemployment. For this reason, the DA has laid out the challenge to Minister Dlodlo that she must reject these new luxury vehicles, and the Minister should do the right thing.
Given the tough economic climate in South Africa, if ordinary South Africans have to tighten their belts, so should Ministers.
The Minister of Communications, Ayaynda Dlodlo, must publicly explain why government communications are now being used to do PR for obscure seemingly pro-Zuma organisations.
On Thursday, the Government Communication and Information System (GCIS) issued a statement on behalf of the Black Empowerment Foundation (BEF) announcing that the BEF had laid criminal charges against Citibank for its role in the “corrupt and collusive actions” relating to the foreign-exchange fixing scandal currently being investigated by the Competition Commission.
Dlodlo must explain:
- whether the BEF requested that its media advisory be distributed by GCIS;
- who authorised the distribution of the media advisory; and
- on what basis the authorisation was given
The GCIS should by no means be communicating on any actions besides those taken by the government.
According to the Daily Maverick, “The “Black Empowerment Foundation” is also reportedly the name of a WhatsApp group administered by President Jacob Zuma’s son Edward Zuma. […] Its members allegedly include new Communications Minister Ayanda Dlodlo”.
If these allegations are true, it will be a severe indictment on Minister Dlodlo and leave no other impression than, that she has been placed in her position to continue the work Faith Muthambi, of turning the GCIS into a pro-ANC propaganda machine.
The state’s communications organs cannot be used as the mouthpiece of private organisations or individuals as such acts border on propaganda.
This latest stunt is an utter abuse of state resources.
The DA will not sit back quietly as the Zuma-administration tries to pull the wool over South Africa’s eyes. Minister Dlodlo must account for this absolute misuse of the state’s communications.
Communications Minister, Faith Muthambi’s blatant attempt to go undermine the authority of the new SABC interim board, in order to delay it from performing its duties, will not go unchallenged.
Today, the SABC secretariat handed members of the interim board letters – during its meeting with the Communications Committee and hundreds of SABC staffers – indicating that they cannot begin their work until security clearance has been granted, and signed off by her office.
The Minister does not have the authority, legal or otherwise, to prevent the duly appointed members of the SABC interim board from meeting with representatives of Parliament – to whom it accounts, by law.
Moreover, the Broadcasting Act does not require the security vetting of the SABC’s interim board, and lists short timelines for both its nomination and appointment so that the public broadcaster is not without a board for a long period of time.
The SABC has been without a full constituted board since September 2016, and further delays can most certainly not be afforded. The Minister’s attempt at a filibuster of the work of the SABC interim board is only at odds with the spirit of the Broadcasting Act, but also the Office of the President.
The President approved, by signed letter, the appointment of the interim board on 27 March 2017. The appointment letter signed by the President did not require that members of the interim board be security vetted, and must be taken as the final word in this regard.
It is not surprising that Minister Muthambi seeks to delay the work of the board, as it is likely to undercover, in its investigations, her further complicity in the collapse of good governance at the SABC.
We also strongly caution her against attempting to strong-arm the interim board like she did with the previous board. During the Ad Hoc committee on the SABC, testimony was given by former members of the board of how she interfered in the board in order to force the illegal appointment of the former COO of the SABC, Hlaudi Motsoeneng.
The DA looks forward to meeting with the Minister when Parliament reconvenes, where she will have to account for this, and other actions.
The SABC interim board has a short period of time within which to start the process of cleaning up the SABC. First order of business is a disciplinary inquiry into the fitness of Hlaudi Motsoeneng to hold office.
The inevitable cannot be delayed, we urge the Minister to move aside and let the board do its work.