The DA has discredited the ANC-led government’s ability to deliver on promises and needs of a digital future in South Africa.
According to the opposition party’s Shadow Minister of Telecommunications and Postal Services, Marian Shinn, the ruling party simply doesn’t have the “money, capability, honesty of purpose, nor energy to create the environment that is necessary for us all to prosper in the connected world”.
Shinn picked out a few key ICT projects government is currently working on, noting that none of them have sufficient budgets to meet the demands of all the plan set out for the coming years.
Shinn points out the following:
- The SA Connect broadband policy needs R67 billion to meet its targets
- Operation Phakisa: ICT in Education needs R170 billion to deliver e-education to schools in seven provinces
- The free set-top box programme needs an extra R2 billion to produce five million units
- The dual illumination programme, that phases in digital broadcasting signals while phasing out analogue signals, has no money at all. It needs R285 million.
“These budgetary failures amount to R239 billion. National Treasury has washed its hands of them, telling the relevant departments to fund them from existing allocations which, as we all know, have been severely pruned this year,” Shinn said.
The Department of Communications’ entire budget for this year is only half of the predicted R2 billion needed to provide set top boxes and last SA Connect was allocated R1.1 billion over three years.
“Through repeated ministerial and policy bungling, including the stupidity of the splitting of the former Department of Communications, this ANC government has violated the trust of South Africa’s innovative, energetic, resourceful and committed ICT sector,” Shinn went on.
Shinn also berated the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services’ lack of partnership with the private sector, saying this would contribute to SA Connect’s failure.
“He’s [Cwele] looking for private sector benefactors, not partners, to come with open wallets to the rescue. But they’ve been excluded from the planning. And there’s no sign they’ll be included in the rollout,” she said. “It’s time for government to payback the private sector. It’s time to engage in real, inclusive and honest conversation to create an expansionary and supportive environment. Don’t bully them for handouts Minister. You won’t get them”.
Minister Faith Muthambi’s decision to change broadcast policy and a controversial tender process for the production of the government subsidised set top boxes have created major issues to South Africa’s digital migration, Shinn explains.
Funding from national government is also another hurdle in the department’s way.
“The cost of these decoders and antennae is about R4.3 billion. National Treasury has approved only R2.39 billion”, Shinn said.
“One thing is clear: The ANC government’s policy obsession with control, rather than facilitation, of the ICT sector continues to marginalise underserviced and poor communities. South Africa’s digital divide yawns ever wider under this ANC government,” Shinn concluded.