Chairperson, I'm intimidated because when the clock was brought to me I saw that the minutes were already down! I'm not starting at 15 minutes, and that is why I took some time to look at the clock.
Chairperson, hon members of the House, members of the Cabinet, hon Minister of Communications, hon Deputy Minister of Communications, members of the Portfolio Committee on Communications, the newly appointed Director-General of the Department of Communications and the staff, the chairperson and other councillors of the Independent Communications Authority of SA, Icasa, board members and chief executive officers of the state-owned enterprises, SOEs, chairpersons, board members, CEOs, and senior captains of information and communications technology, ICT, and the postal industry, members of the media, all of you who are here, and comrades, it is my pleasure to introduce on behalf of the committee the Budget Debate on Vote No 27 of the Department of Communications.
The ANC maintains that information and communications technology plays an important role in national development. The success or failure of the ICT interventions to enable development will continue to depend on how all spheres of government, including state-owned enterprises, conceptualise ICT and development.
We are encouraged that the Minister is placing more emphasis on the use of ICT. We also note that the department and its SOEs' delivery programmes will be directed at specific developmental activities, such as job creation and making ICT and postal services available specifically in rural communities with clear deliverables and within set time frames.
The key question which we should be asking ourselves as a nation and a country is how we achieve this expansion of infrastructure as a developmental state. We must acknowledge that the wisdom to develop policies does not reside on one side, whether the committee in Parliament, the Department of Communications or the industry. It needs all of us to collectively approach it and coherently agree in regard to the path we as a country need to follow.
We are encouraged by aspects of the current situation, although we have noted that the department is overstretched. However, one of the key challenges we are facing is the fragmented manner in which policies are being introduced, without analysis of the effect of such policies on the sector. These are the issues which we have raised with the department, and these are the matters they will be attending to.
We welcome the appointment of the director-general. This should bring about much needed stability, improve corporate governance, and in turn improve productivity and service delivery. The chapter of all outstanding human resource matters must be closed.
We are pleased that the department is currently reviewing its organogram. We hope that their reviewed structure will focus on the actual challenges which are facing the department, which are their capacity to develop policies and their ability to look after the state-owned enterprises as the shareholder.
We must acknowledge as we debate today that the regulator is in better shape as regards stability under the leadership of Dr S Mncube. We must also appreciate Icasa's effort of holding a summit with people living with disabilities on 15 and 16 March. In due course we will, however, be taking a report from Icasa because we believe that that summit was not a talk show, but a summit which had to come with recommendations which must be implemented by the regulator and must also be integrated into the programme of the department, the SOEs and so on. So we will welcome that report from the regulator as time goes on.
The committee has previously noted the important shortcoming in the current regulatory processes, namely the absence of regulatory impact assessment before making regulations. As a result, it is not clear what the benefit and cost of some of the regulations are. Furthermore, the regulations drafted are often inadequate and have many a time had to be redrafted soon after they have been put in place.
The regulator continues to react to situations, rather than proactively engaging with the industry. We hope that that will come to an end. We want the regulator to vigorously engage with the industry so that whatever regulation they are embarking on is acceptable, and has the interests of the country and the nation at heart.
Maybe it is time to ask ourselves the difficult questions whether the current structure is still relevant today, as it was before. Do we still need full-time councillors, or do we need to move to part-time counsellors? Do we still need Icasa to be led by counsellors, or do we need Icasa to be led by executives? Those are the questions we must ask ourselves, as hard as it may be, so that we can give clarity and direction.
The issue of adequate resourcing of the regulator is long overdue. It is a matter that we cannot go back and debate about - we expect the department to come up with a clear plan on how we will empower the regulator and resource it so that it is able to execute its duties. You cannot expect the regulator to go to the operators to ask for information and then to be satisfied that they are indeed complying, because they don't have the necessary equipment to deal with or enforce the regulation, and so on.
The industry cannot, however, go scot-free. Our take on this as a committee is that the industry is fragmented. You have approximately 20 organisations in the industry, and it is not workable. We as a committee are not able to engage with you as an industry, so that we can get a common vision. We put it to you as an industry that you must go back and sort yourselves out so that we are able to constructively engage with you. Currently, how to engage with the industry is a nightmare. You must please do that so that we can start to speak with one voice as an industry, to make sure that we better the industry in moving forward.
We must also indicate that one of the priorities of the ANC-led government is job creation, as the Minister has correctly put it. However, we say that we, as a nation, seem to have lost focus. This is because most of the time the first question we should ask ourselves about whatever regulation we come with is how it is going to assist in expanding the ICT infrastructure. When we come up with a policy, the question to ask is how that policy is going to assist us in making sure that we expand the infrastructure.
By coming up with regulations and policies that do not help us to expand the infrastructure, it would seem that we are continuing to disadvantage the people in rural areas that have not benefited under apartheid. They continue not to benefit, even now, because we are unable to expand the infrastructure. We call upon the regulator, the department, ourselves as a committee and the industry to start to focus on that particular matter. That is a matter of national interest. On the issue of the spectrum we as the ANC are clear and on record that whatever road we take in regard to the spectrum should be developmental in nature. We cannot afford to go for an auction for a spectrum just to fundraise for the fiscus, while our people in the rural areas still do not have access to ICT infrastructure. So whatever policy we have and whatever regulation the regulator comes up with must ensure that we address the issue of the accessibility of the infrastructure in rural areas. There are no two ways about this. That is what the ANC resolved in its conference regarding the issue of the spectrum. We also expect that to happen so that the spectrum can stimulate the small, medium and macro enterprises, SMMEs, within the sector.
On the issue of the SABC, we are pleased that the SABC has managed the elections very well. They have surpassed what some of us were expecting them to do - I think the nation now understands what the importance of the public broadcaster is. We are pleased with the way they have managed the elections coverage. They did it in such a way that the late Mr Kgomotso Sebetso, wherever he is and wherever he is resting, will be happy when he looks back on how well the SABC has dealt with the ANC coverage. [Laughter.]
The ANC is the ruling party and, of course, it is ruling. It also has to make sure that its mandate as the ANC is pushed. However, we must also congratulate Dr Ben Ngubane on the sterling work he is doing for the SABC. The board is now stable. They might not be able to do other things, but the fact of the matter is that when you open the newspaper in the morning, you do not read about the SABC any more. You read about other things that are happening in the country. [Applause.]
We should, however, be cautious when the SABC is reviewing its editorial policy. We must make sure that all South Africans participate as much as they can. It should not be an Auckland Park process, but a process that all South Africans participate in. I must remind all fellow South Africans to "Pay your TV licence" - it is a good thing to do.
On the issue of digital migration, we are fully in agreement with the Minister that the process must move with speed, in particular the education of our community, so that they can start to understand what this process means, and how it is going to unfold.
Chairperson, in closing I would like to reiterate the following principles. The department must at all times communicate clear policy statements. The SOEs that fall under the Department of Communications governance structure must ensure that their communications messages are aligned to those of the Ministry and the department. All deliverables and timelines must be adhered to without fail. The department must ensure that it secures professional and knowledgeable resources that will drive its programme of action. Human resource development and mentorship programmes must be intensified in partnership with sector members.
The ANC will not allow any failure in the programme as outlined by the Minister. We are also encouraged that the budget as requested is sufficient in the short to medium term to address our ICT and postal needs. It is important that ICT continues to play a pivotal role and is a catalyst in our developmental agenda as a developing country. The ANC supports this Budget Vote. Thank you, Chairperson. [Applause.]
House Chairperson, Minister of Communications, Deputy Minister of Communications, colleagues and distinguished guests, allow me, as the Minister did, to apologise. It seems we share this particular frog. If my voice doesn't sound as it normally does, it's the remnants of Cape Town flu.
It is a great pleasure for me to be here today to address you on this Budget Vote of Communications. It also gives me great pleasure to report on a much improved Communications department, as well as improvements in the department's entities.
As we know, strategic plans of the Department of Communications and its entities take into account the following six key areas: define concepts, market analysis, workforce, risk and opportunities, investment and innovation, and monitoring and evaluation of the department.
It was refreshing to note that generally the department and its entities presented to the portfolio committee reports with information that was necessary and relevant and, in instances where the information was substandard, the portfolio committee did not hesitate to send them away to correct these problems. The relationship between the portfolio committee and the Department of Communications and its entities is a good and productive one.
In a growing economy the development of the information and communications technology, ICT, policy is of the utmost importance. It is essential to support an ICT sector which creates and accelerates conditions for the growth of the economy. We must, and I repeat, we must bridge the digital divide. We have just gone through local government elections and one of the most important election points for almost all political parties was job creation.
In this day and age it is virtually impossible to run a business, however small, without access to the Internet. I think I share a common dream with 99,9% of my fellow South Africans of universal access to the Information Highway. While I'm pleased that we are well on our way to equipping and providing structures for this universal access, I think I share in the frustration at the length of time it is taking, as well as the horrendously high costs involved in accessing this Information Highway.
Access to the Internet, access to this Information Highway, remains in the hands of very few South Africans. The opportunities that are possible in terms of education, social upliftment and economic growth are boundless. We, as South Africans, must not be complacent about ensuring this universal access to information, and we must ensure that it becomes the right of every single South African.
A great success story this year is the SA Post Office. Their strategic programme includes the development of customer intelligence, organisational realignment around the customer, customer experience improvement, and solution development per customer segment. What you will note from what I have just said are the key words, "the customer". This is what we want to see. We want to see an entity catering for the public with one objective, that is, to make customers' experience as easy, pleasurable and successful as possible.
When the SA Post Office presented its annual plan, etc, to our portfolio committee, I congratulated them on a job well done and I would like to do so again today. Let me say that these congratulations are conditional. If you let us down by not implementing all the good that you have indicated that you are going to do, beware! We are watching! The turnaround in Sentech can also not be ignored. From being a nightmare entity with no direction and on the threshold of a financial meltdown, this entity is now on the road to recovery, thanks largely to the dedication, hard work and perseverance of its new management. There is a very long way to go, but the signs are good, and much hope and anticipation rests on your success. Your success, Sentech, ensures social upliftment, economic growth and sustainability of successful businesses.
Great excitement now exists regarding the Digital Terrestrial Television network. We have a deadline set for December 2013. We must ensure that this date is adhered to. We simply cannot fall behind the international community, as we are already far behind and it is our responsibility to all South Africans that we deliver the service to them.
We now finally have a complete South African Broadcasting Corporation, SABC, board. I don't think in the history of any organisation have so many curricula vitae been read, interviews conducted, appointments made and resignations received. May I take this opportunity to thank members of the board, who started in hard times? You ensured that the ship did not sink completely and you did not jump ship; you stayed on board even when the water was high and cold. You helped maintain a semblance of order for the SABC, and we thank you for your dedication. [Applause.] In fact they do deserve a round of applause. However, we must always remember, that the SABC is a public broadcaster, and not a state broadcaster. It remains fundamentally important that information that is broadcast by the SABC remains free, fair and politically neutral. All editing policies must be highly scrutinised to ensure that we maintain absolute media freedom.
At present the SABC boat is stable and it is my sincerest wish that it remains stable and successful, as this benefits all South Africans. However, I would like to point out that access for the disabled remains a huge problem with regard to the SABC. People that are deaf or blind suffer because they do not have the access that fully able South Africans have with regard to the SABC. All South Africans deserve the right to access all that the SABC has to offer. Let us not let this group of South Africans suffer unnecessarily. Access for the disabled is an absolute essential.
Allow me to congratulate Ms Rosey Sekese on her appointment as Director- General for the Department of Communications. Minister, you did give us a bit of a surprise in your announcing it today in your speech, but may I thank you for making this long overdue appointment?
I would also like to thank Dr Harold Wesso. I applaud you for doing an incredibly difficult job in your acting role, and I thank you for your dedication. I'm sorry that you are sitting behind me and I can't turn around, but what you did to turn the Department of Communications around was really a marvellous achievement. [Applause.]
In conclusion, allow me to thank my colleague, the hon Niekie van den Berg, for his assistance during my time on the committee, his dedication to the cause, and his understanding that we work for the betterment of all South Africans.
A big thank you also to the portfolio committee. Besides a few disagreements that we have here and there, which I think are only normal, we genuinely enjoy a very pleasant experience and as a committee as a whole we understand that we work for South Africa. We have one task as public representatives. We have to improve the lives of all South Africans. May we, as the Communications Department and all the entities execute all our decisions with only that in mind. I thank you.
Chairperson, Minister, Deputy Minister, colleagues, everybody in the public gallery, all entities reporting to Parliament and to the Department of Communications, in last year's Budget debate Cope stressed the strategic importance of the Department of Communications, DoC, and its key role of expanding access to knowledge, information and economic empowerment.
We requested the Minister then to develop a turnaround strategy for the DoC, and to turn it into a proactive dynamic department. We also requested him to make key interventions to drive both government and the agencies reporting to it, as well as the private sector, towards ensuring affordable access to communications and information technology for irrevocable change in the lives specifically of poor communities.
Since then both the political and departmental heads have been axed and we have new incumbents in those positions. May we congratulate the new Minister today on very important immediate interventions that he has made? Amongst others is the very rational decision to revert to the DVB-T2 Digital Broadcasting Platform for digital migration, and to put the SMME sector back into production of set-top boxes. The new Minister appears to be serious about putting the department on the right road, the road to recovery, to ensure that key strategic objectives are achieved.
Can we also add our voice to the others congratulating the new DG, Ms Rosey Sekese? She will find support from our party when she does all the right things, when she achieves key strategic objectives and policy interventions over the next three to four years. It will unfortunately also require a final determination and audit of departmental skills, capacity in the department and organisational restructuring. May we please also just caution that we believe that no interim positions - vacancies - should be filled until those processes have been concluded, notwithstanding the appeal by the President that vacancies in departments should be filled? We believe it would be wrong. We should first conclude those processes.
With the right management structure and the right people in place we have no doubt, we know and believe, that the Department of Communications will be able to deliver on its mandate, namely, to open access to affordable communications highways, in particular affordable Internet bandwidth, which is the lifeblood of the world's knowledge economy.
The budget allocation to the department, including transfers to institutions reporting to it, reached a peak during the previous budget year, and will slowly decline in the years ahead. It will, in fact, decline to the same level as that of the 2007-08 budget year. The department, during the same period, from 2007 to 2008, in fact doubled its staff complement, which resulted in an escalating trend of expenditure on compensation of employees.
What is now necessary is for us to conduct an honest assessment of performance outcomes of the department in relation to its growing bureaucracy - that is mandatory - to make sure that it is not only a growing bureaucracy, but one that actually delivers on these strategic imperatives. I believe, on behalf of Cope, that what is of key importance in this process is that we should look at the Pareto Principle. What are the 20% of the steps that need to be implemented to have 80% of the impact, and not to have the reverse? We have a fantastic strategic report here by the department, but it would seem that 80% of the activities are not going to result in a 20% impact out there in the market. That needs to be determined.
I would like to go back to just a few entities reporting to this department. Firstly, there is the SA Broadcasting Corporation, SABC. We would like to add our voice to those congratulating the SABC, not only on the successful interest that they created in the local government elections, but on their very successful Fifa 2010 World Cup. It was well delivered under difficult circumstances! We also really want to applaud the SABC board and Dr Ben Ngubane on bringing stability to the board, and also to the senior management of this institution.
Progress has also been made towards financial stability in the public broadcaster, although the Portfolio Committee on Communications is still awaiting details about the repayment of moneys borrowed against government guarantees, but that will be a separate session. The board must remain vigilant to ensure that a recurrence of corrupt practices and lamentable tendencies of the past will be arrested completely, going forward.
We welcome steps that they have taken, including the intervention of the Special Investigating Unit, to bring those people who have been identified through investigations to book. That also needs to be processed, going forward.
As far as editorial policy is concerned, I would, strangely, like to add my voice to that of the chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Communications, and say that as Cope we fully support the fact that any changes to editorial policy should be made in terms of the Act. The SABC is a creature of statute, and any changes or tampering with news editorial policies via the back door will be illegal. This includes a disconcerting directive to news reporters, circulated last year, in terms of which the ANC Polokwane resolutions were regarded as the focus area for news bulletins. This is against the law generally and it is against the Constitution.
The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa, Icasa, has now fortunately moved on - it is focusing in the right direction. Its responsibility is to regulate the market and assess the impact of its regulations. We support them.
I want to make one concluding remark, Chairperson. Ms Graa Machel said earlier this year, and I want to quote from a speech she made ... [Time expired.] [Applause.]
Chairperson, first of all I want to say that I'm not a member of this committee, but it seems to be such an interesting one that I may reconsider the committees that I serve on! [Laughter.]
Our Rev Zondi serves on this committee, but he cannot be here today, and he has asked me to say a few words on his behalf.
Firstly, he asked me to congratulate the new Minister on his appointment to this portfolio - and the Deputy Minister. He didn't refer to the Deputy Minister - I'm adding that! [Laughter.] I congratulate the new Minister on the great progress he has made thus far in correcting the situation in this previously poorly led department.
The Minister has led from the front and should be commended for his decisive leadership and making many key decisions. Rev Zondi says, "Cometh the hour, cometh the man." That's you. You are that man - it is certainly true in this instance.
I also want to refer to the input of the chairperson of the portfolio committee, Mr Kholwane. I thought you made very interesting proposals and I'm sure the committee will take these further. You appear to be well in the saddle of this committee, and I wish you well. [Applause.]
However, there are many challenges that still lie ahead. I would like to outline some key areas that the IFP would like to see addressed by the department.
Internally the department is still plagued by problems in its management structures dealing with strategic alignment, human resources, financial management and institutional review.
Irregular appointment of staff without the required competencies is another. The Minister should therefore take stock of the staff complement of his department. People who are found in positions where they are not suitably qualified or incompetent to occupy them should be removed and replaced by better incumbents. The principle of good corporate governance must be strictly adhered to.
We are mindful of the fact that the present Minister inherited a work in progress aimed at turning around the SA Broadcasting Corporation, SABC. While we are satisfied that good progress has been made in improving the situation in the SABC, we are at the same time under no false illusions that the problems which beset the SABC will soon be over - on the contrary.
The other entities which fall under the broad oversight of the Portfolio Committee on Communications, such as Sentech, the Media Development and Diversity Agency, and the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa, also have their own internal challenges which need to be attended to.
For example, Sentech was, for the best part of the year under review, beset by its own financial management problems. The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa, Icasa, is another entity of critical importance which still has internal challenges which impede its smooth functioning. The Media Development and Diversity Agency, MDDA, is an entity whose importance, in our view, is being greatly undermined. This is largely reflected in its small budgetary allocation, which is not consistent with the huge mandate that it has to execute.
In conclusion, I would like to commend the officials of the department, the new Minister, the new director-general and all of the entities which fall under the wing of the Department of Communications for the good work they have done under difficult and challenging conditions. We wish them every success for the new year. The IFP supports the Budget Vote.
Finally, Chairperson, I want to say that if an overseas trip is going to be undertaken by this department, it should be remembered that I made the good speech, not Rev Zondi, and I must go! [Laughter.] [Applause.]
Hon Chairperson, our guests in the gallery, Members of Parliament present here today, this debate takes place after we have held successful local government elections, in which South Africans renewed their contract with the ANC, together to build better communities.
Hon Minister, this will not be a reality for as long as the development of information and communications technology, ICT, is still skewed, and for as long as we are not reaching out to the poorest of the poor in addressing the imbalances of the past.
Information and communications technology is a key ingredient of any economy, particularly developing economies. ICT can provide the backbone for a country's socioeconomic development, where participation of the majority of the people is only hampered by lack of access.
The history of our country is littered with the many examples of people being denied opportunities to participate in the mainstream economy on the basis of their skin colour. This has posed the challenges for universal access to ICT that we experience today. We are currently faced with the challenge of reversing the damage that was caused by decades of policies that were meant to promote racial discrimination, and which resulted in certain groups of people being denied access to telecommunications services.
The initiative to change the situation could not be left to market forces alone. Government has identified the need to develop programmes that will change patterns of telecommunications accessibility through direct government interventions.
The needs of the business sector in South Africa, should they be coupled with the needs of people in the rural areas, might run the risk of drawing the interest and resources away from the delivery of services to rural and disadvantaged communities.
The need for government intervention in directing investments in the ICT sector to underserviced areas was expressly outlined in the Reconstruction and Development Programme, RDP, in 1994, in which the RDP pledged to provide universal access to telecommunications and information technology to a broad spectrum of our people, but most importantly to schools and clinics within two years.
These considerations informed the promulgation of the Telecommunications Act, Act 103 of 1996, which specified the target of a universal access goal of 20 telephones per 100 of the population per province by the year 2000. In the context of South Africa, access to ICT services is more visible when compared on a province-by-province basis, with Gauteng being the leading province with regard to access to ICT. This has left a big gap to be filled, when one compares Gauteng with other provinces that are predominantly rural and economically depressed like Limpopo and Mpumalanga, and not forgetting my own province, the North West.
The challenge of universal access to ICT is a global phenomenon. What is particularly interesting to note about universal access in the context of South Africa is that we, as a country, have one of the best development communications technology sectors, which exists side by side with massive inequality with regard to access. This inequality has meant that a large number of historically disadvantaged communities, and particularly those in rural areas, have been deprived. This represents the challenge of this department and its entities, which must be addressed urgently.
ICT is also a key factor in the task of developing our communities. We so dearly want the business sector to invest in the rural areas and help to alleviate the problem of unemployment, but it cannot invest in areas where there is no telecommunications infrastructure, nor other infrastructure like a road network and transport.
We applaud the vision that encapsulated the repeal of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 and replaced it with the Electronic Communications Act of 2006, particularly as it underpinned the creation of a specially dedicated agency responsible for the goals of universal service and access. This agency has a mammoth task to perform, given the huge disparities that characterise the ICT sector. We encourage the department to measure its work and allocate it sufficient resources to fulfil this key mandate.
We also need to acknowledge that there were many areas where radio, television and telephone services had not fully penetrated the communities, and this meant that the legacy of apartheid was being relived, but we applaud the progress that the department and its entities have registered for the period 1996 to date. According to the SABC, we currently have a balance of 3,6 million people who are not able to receive SABC channels terrestrially.
Hon Minister, challenges still exist. For example, there is no clear vision for the ICT sector in the country and the Universal Service and Access Agency of South Africa, Usaasa, has failed to submit the Universal access and service strategy, which would develop clear terms of reference and performance indicators for the task of providing universal access.
This problem also makes it difficult to identify gaps and provide clarity on where the gaps are, which means that there is no determination of the costs involved, and this cannot be a matter of a wild guess. Therefore, the importance of providing critical information by the department and its entity, which would help to get us close to finalising a national ICT strategy, cannot be overemphasised.
The Universal Service and Access Agency of South Africa has three legs: availability, accessibility and affordability of services to the greater majority of the citizens of the country. The advent of a cell phone industry has meant that there is great progress regarding accessibility to South Africans, with accompanying cheap telephone handsets which make it possible for people to communicate. The cell phones have revolutionised the communications industry, although there are still areas which lack access and need to be attended to without any further delay.
What is the role of Telkom, as a state-owned entity, in achieving universal service, hon Minister? If Eskom is able to reach out with electricity to all four corners of South Africa, why can Telkom not do the same? Our people are suffering out there.
Hon Minister, maybe the unbundling of the local loop and digital migration might be the answer to some of the challenges, not forgetting adequate funding to all entities under Communications.
Many people have access to television sets and radios, but at times do not enjoy a full spectrum of products that they offer, because there is no coverage in certain instances or, where it exists, it does not offer adequate services. Sentech also needs to pull up its socks as the national signal distributor. I am interested to know who decides where Sentech goes and, after that decision has been taken, what the role of the Department of Communications, DoC, is. In my view, if the DoC or you as the Minister, appointed by the ANC, are part and parcel of who decides where Sentech goes, the future of our rural areas will be bright, which is not currently what the situation is. Where I come from the situation in regard to having universal access is very bad.
The other challenge is access to computers, and particularly access to the Internet and broadband services. People who do have access to computers in their households do not have access to Internet facilities. The distribution of 3G is concentrated in metropolitan areas, like Gauteng, which I have already mentioned. In the North West we are suffering very much! [Laughter.] I have to mention North West because the people of North West have nominated me to represent them on this podium, so I am speaking on their behalf.
Secondly, there is still a lack of co-ordination of universal access and universal services programmes, which points to a lack of strategy. In spite of promises by Usaasa, it is still not clear exactly where the ICT gaps are, as there is no clear definition of underserviced areas and no list of such areas in the country despite such a submission to the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa, Icasa. The majority of our people, especially the rural poor and those in underserviced areas, still lack access to both basic and advanced communications services, especially access to broadband.
Therefore, it cannot be correct and we cannot justify our children's not obtaining access, which should be a basic right, merely because Icasa is dragging its feet on definitions and Usaasa is unable to direct the industry as to where and how to address their universal service and access obligations.
In conclusion, allow me to applaud Usaasa and the Post Office on the good work they are doing for the historically disadvantaged community of Mantserre Village in the North West - Moses Kotane Municipality, under the new leadership of Mayoress Mme Fetsang Mokati Thebe. [Applause.] Usaasa has promised to supply 40 computers for each of the 5 schools. For the very first time the community of Mantserre will have a post office. [Applause.] We would also like to encourage other entities to follow suit, in particular Telkom. I see the CEO of Telkom is here. Please follow suit.
As the ANC we are not just passing this budget for the sake of supporting it; we are doing so because we believe that it will assist the DoC and its entities to deliver a better life for all. That is our key mandate. Thank you.
Hon Chairperson, hon Minister of Communications, Mr Roy Padayachie, hon colleagues in the Cabinet, hon members of the portfolio committee, all hon members, senior managers and staff of the Department of Communications, the newly appointed Director- General, Ms Rosey Sekese, leadership and management of state-owned enterprises, SOEs, captains of information and communications technology, ICT, and the broadcasting and postal industries, civil society leaders in the ICT sector, my comrades and friends, fellow South Africans, it is exactly 14 days since we celebrated the World Telecommunications and Information Society Day with the theme: "Better life in Rural Communities with ICTs".
I am glad to have participated in this in Tzaneen, where they were designing a concept of rural connectivity. I thank the Tzaneen people for acting as hosts. We celebrated the day itself in Atteridgeville, with the learners, educators and industry leaders, where 2 000 people gathered. It was indeed a marvellous day to celebrate this event.
Six days ago, on 25 May, we celebrated Africa Day in building a better Africa. Through the African Telecommunications Union we will continue to pursue issues related to Internet governance and the accessibility, affordability and availability of the electronic communications network and services in Africa. Therefore this Budget Vote No 27 comes at a most exciting moment in our country, and particularly in the ICT sector.
With the power of fixed and mobile broadband abundantly available through landed international cables and fibre optic cables in our country, we will improve government's ability to provide quality basic services by connecting Thusong Services Centres, regional offices, schools and health facilities in pursuance of our ideal society of a connected people. We will do this so that Ms Tsebe from North West no longer complains!
As the Minister said, our theme for the 2011 Budget Vote is "Taking technology to the people in the service of the people". It is relevant and not a slogan, as it responds to government's developmental trajectory and the International Telecommunication Union, ITU's, World Telecommunications and Information Society Day's theme of working to build better lives with ICTs.
This theme directs us to channel our efforts towards implementing the department's envisaged Vision 2020 and achieving government's Medium-Term Strategic Framework priority of building sustainable livelihoods, so that we will help in meeting the Millennium Development Goals, MDGs, as we approach our anniversary as a free and democratic South Africa in 2014.
In 2009 we ranked 34th in the world in fixed-line telephony, with over 4,3 million fixed-line connections. Today South Africa is one of the fastest growing mobile communications markets in the world. As of 2009 there were over 46,4 million mobile users. The country ranks 26th in terms of mobile subscriber numbers.
Findings by World Wide Worx in 2009, representing individual users, show that mobile communication in South Africa has reached 50 million connections. This confirms that South Africa's cellular market enjoys robust growth with market penetration of about 100%.
The technology of the 3G and the 2G plus is unfortunately still something we need to look at in the rural areas, as the hon Zille said. The 2G plus still gives people what we call EDGE and GPRS. However, you will wait forever just for a computer to open or to Google. It happened to me while I was in Tzaneen. I wanted to pay for my services and I waited for 15 minutes on the 2G plus.
The deployment of the 3G in the country ought to be taken seriously by the industry and everybody involved. We must ensure that all our people receive the same technology, as the world is also preparing for a long-term evolution of 4G. We must ensure that we also enjoy those benefits.
An increase in the number of undersea cables linking South Africa to the rest of the world, plus the introduction of the smart cellular phone, has seen a shake-up in local Internet access, with the number of South African Internet users passing six million, which finally breaks through the 10% mark in Internet penetration for the country.
Regarding broadband access, we are not doing well as a country compared to other middle-income countries and compared to those in North Africa, which are ahead of us. While mobile broadband has bolstered broadband access, growth remains relatively poor and not adequate to push international broadband ranking indices. It is estimated by the World Summit on the Information Society that South Africa is far behind with regard to broadband and Internet usage compared to other developing countries.
Concerning radio and television, 94% of the population has access to radio, while 84% has access to television. In bridging the existing divide in our communities, we will continue to roll out low-power transmitters, taking into account the digital migration.
We also envisage that the advent of the digital migration will close the access gap, by providing TV access to all South Africans between 2013 and 2015. Here I also want to urge the content developers and independent producers to pause and look at the whole changing environment of the explosion of TV. They must ensure that they are ready to provide us with content, otherwise we will end up with Bollywood and Hollywood third-grade movies dominating our market and with less and less South African content. They must stand up and prepare for 2013.
The SABC and e.tv will have between 18 and 27 multichannels. Unless the content producers and independent producers focus on readiness, those channels might run empty. The department should mobilise and organise them to get themselves ready so that the migration is not only about technology but also about the content that we will enjoy. If we don't attend to this issue, we will lose the battle of ideas. I am confident that these applications and services will help us as a nation and the developing world in particular to get closer to reaching the MDGs of ending ignorance and accessing information that will empower our people.
We have a responsibility to connect the remaining 21 000 schools throughout the country, of which the majority are in rural areas. We have connected only 7 000 of the 28 000 schools. There are 21 000 schools outstanding. Fortunately, plans are under way to bring in e-schools connectivity. Director-General Sekese says you were led in this particular area. I hope you will still be available to see the fruition of the e-school connectivity.
Plans are also beginning with other Deputy Ministers, as they are involved in the e-school connectivity, to ensure that e-health is also in place and that all clinics are connected so that the national health insurance will find infrastructure ready for it to be rolled out.
Another area of e-skills is to ensure that our people are e-skilled as far as the use of technology is concerned. The qualifications that we need for future workers should be ICT-focused and related in the main, so that they can also contribute to a knowledge-based economy.
With regard to the roll-out of infrastructure, we need more money, as the strategic plan of the department states. We need about R75 billion for us to be able to roll out the infrastructure. What I am referring to is also known as the info-structure, as identified in the New Growth Path. It has been identified as an economic enabler and therefore we need to ensure that the country is highly connected.
The roll-out of the ICT infrastructure requires an integrated approach from both private and public sectors. The national and provincial governments and local municipalities must work together to ensure that we roll this important element out together.
South Africa is a developmental state and government will intervene to address market failures. In this regard we call upon the industry to co- operate and collaborate in pursuit of common objectives, as universal access to ICT has spin-offs for inclusive economic growth, job creation and development.
On cyber crime and cyber security, the advent of the Internet and the new information and communications technologies didn't alert us to the possible threat of cyber crime. ICT is a transversal tool for interacting and intersecting in every major societal activity and government has the responsibility to enact laws and regulations to protect its citizens from any possible threat.
I trust we are all aware that the Internet knows no boundaries. Allow me to share with you the kind of common crimes that are committed on the Internet: credit card fraud, virus dissemination, software piracy, net extortion, phishing, spoofing, hacking, cyber impersonation, pornography and denial of service. All of these need strong laws and strong Internet governance.
Fortunately, the Cabinet has developed a document that will be engaged with during this financial year. We hope this will bring the discourse to the public and to Parliament to ensure that we are able to move our country in the right direction in terms of the laws.
With regard to persons with disabilities, the ICT sector generally is not performing well in meeting the 2% target of employing persons with disabilities. Building an inclusive information society also calls for the ICT sector to ensure the usage of sign language, subtitles and closed captions in service provision, and we wish to urge all broadcasters to maintain the service.
The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa, Icasa, recently organised an event to which the chair of the portfolio committee alluded and we hope that those resolutions will be engaged with and implemented.
Regarding the small, medium and micro enterprises, SMMEs, the youth, and women in the ICT, we will continue to support businesses of the youth and women in ICT in accordance with the Preferential Procurement Policy, as part of the programme of our department and government. We will have to ensure that these sectors and the small and medium businesses are supported.
We take pride in the fact that women are now beginning to take the leadership in our state-owned entities. The appointment of Ms Pinky Moholi as the chief executive officer, CEO, of Telkom is most welcome. [Applause.] The chairperson of Sapo, Ms Vuyo Mahlati, and the CEO, Ms Motshoanetsi Lefoka, are also women in leadership who need to be congratulated. [Applause.] Malibongwe! [Let it be praised!]
Tomorrow, 1 June 2011, marks the beginning of the last month of the implementation of Rica. We accordingly call upon all South Africans to register their details with the relevant mobile service providers. Failure to register will result in people's phones being switched off, thus reducing the progress we have made in promoting universal access to ICTs.
Let me indicate upfront that 30 June 2011 is D-day for all SIM cards, be it for mobile phones, laptops or other devices. This also includes traffic lights for those municipalities that are using SIM cards. No extension will be granted. We have already met with the industry and told them that there will not be any extension. Take it upon yourselves to go and Rica. Municipalities working with the South African postal service will ensure that every household has a physical address. Our humble gratitude goes to municipalities that have begun implementing this project together with the SA Post Office. We hope that all South Africans will end up having a postal address and a physical address in all municipalities. Currently, one of the challenges to Rica people is the fact that people don't have addresses.
In conclusion, I believe we are in agreement that we of this generation of people have the responsibility to ensure universal access. I imagine each one of you being retired and at home, or in your villages where you have retired. I imagine you sitting under a tree or in your own private space, with your laptops, tablets, iPads and smart phones, chatting with each other, kilometres apart, and unwinding and looking at prospects for future ICTs for our people.
I wish to thank the departmental staff, SOEs, civil society and industry players for welcoming me warmly when I was appointed to this portfolio. I am humbled by the induction that you provided at the time.
Most of you have also realised that I wasn't and I am not a novice. I have listened and will continue to listen to our councillors as we shape the sector.
I wish to thank my family, especially my wife, Constance Bapela, who is sitting in the gallery and who has recently been appointed as the Speaker of the biggest metropolitan council in South Africa - the City of Johannesburg. [Applause.] Working together, we will build better livelihoods.
Hon Chairperson, Minister and Deputy Minister of Communications, Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Communications, hon Members of Parliament, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, ndi matsheloni, avuxeni, thobela, greetings.
I thank you, Chairperson, for this opportunity to share with fellow South Africans how the ANC-led government, as a principled leader of the process of fundamental change, has thus progressed in taking technology to the people in the service of the people. It has fulfilled the ANC governance mandate as enshrined in the statement of the national executive committee of the ANC on its 99th anniversary.
It is evident that the ANC will continue to be an organisation that is respected and cherished by the masses of people for what it represents and how it conducts itself in practice. Hence we are all up in arms against all the ills that have the potential of undermining our organisation's lofty core values, which are, serving the people. Therefore, the ANC-led government has put in place structures, processes, cultures and systems that engender the effective delivery of services to society at large.
The ANC ascribes to the values and principles governing public administration as provided for in section 195 of our Constitution. It is therefore non-negotiable that organs of state and public enterprises should uphold this constitutional principle. They must promote and maintain high standards of professional ethics, and promote the efficient, economic and effective use of resources. Then, services must be provided impartially, fairly, equitably and without bias. Also, people's needs must be responded to, and public administration must be accountable and transparent to the public.
Therefore, the ANC's election manifesto identified one of the key priority areas as being to fight against crime and corruption. This provision has been made solely to ensure that there is transparency, accountability, probity or fairness, and respect for all the stakeholders of government in all our dealings as the ANC-led government.
We are pleased to note that the Minister has signed a performance agreement with the President. One of the key performance indicators the department is faced with is to ensure that there is an improvement in oversight and monitoring of performance of its state-owned enterprises, namely the SABC, Sentech, Icasa, Usaasa, Nemisa, Sapo and the .za domain name. We want to thank Dr Harold Wesso for his stalwart leadership during the period in which he was acting. Now the department has some tools in place with which it will be able to monitor the implementation of the critical governance policies of the SOEs. All human resource policies and implementation must be reviewed annually and the outcomes of these must be reported to the Minister. This applies to all the entities.
All benefits applicable to management in particular and staff in general must be reviewed annually and reports submitted to the Minister. The boards are required to design for approval by the Minister schemes for the payment of bonuses to senior management and the executive, or variable payment schemes, or schemes that recognise and reward good and excellent performances by senior managers.
The department is also expected to monitor performance and to reinforce effectiveness of boards and board committees. All approved policies and terms of reference governing the constitution and work of the boards and board committees must be reviewed on an annual basis and reports of such reviews must be submitted to the Minister. Prepared, approved and annually reviewed delegations of authority from the board to the executive must be submitted to the Minister.
The other responsibility of the department is to enforce accountability in terms of the Public Finance Management Act. Each SOE must timeously submit a projection of revenue expenditure and borrowings for the financial year and a corporate plan, as required in terms of section 52 of the Public Finance Management Act. Each entity must submit annual reports and financial statements as required in terms of section 55 of the Public Finance Management Act.
The other responsibility of the department is the enforcement of financial reporting to the shareholder. In order to endeavour to strengthen accountability to the shareholder, the boards of SOEs must implement the following measures.
They must ring-fence all the government-allocated and project-specific funds and report on a quarterly or monthly basis on progress towards attainment of key milestones. They must submit on a monthly basis reports of all transactions exceeding an amount of R10 million, together with an indication of appropriate approval obtained for the transactions in terms of delegations of authority. On a monthly basis the entities must report to the Minister on all acts of criminal conduct and irregular and wasteful expenditure, together with their monetary values. They must also timeously submit management letters issued by the auditors, together with management response, to the Department of Communications.
Chairperson, the Department of Communications obtained a qualified audit opinion for the year ending in March 2010. The basis for the qualification was irregular expenditure amounting to R8 501 000 and R15 701 000. In all instances payments were made in contravention of the supply chain management regulations.
A fruitless and wasteful expenditure to the amount of R54 000 was incurred due to interest on the late payment of a Telkom account, cancellation of trips, and a duplicate payment to a service provider.
There were elements of noncompliance with the Public Finance Management Act. However, the committee noted the progress that was made under the stewardship of Dr Wesso in redressing all those issues. However, what now remains as the task for our brand-new director-general is to make sure that the transgressors of the Public Finance Management Act are brought to book.
The SA Post Office received a clean audit for the financial year ended 31 March 2010. This is an ideal governance model worth emulating. I would also like to congratulate them for the good work and say that they should maintain the good standard. [Applause.]
Sentech received a qualified audit opinion for the financial year ended 31 March 2010. The basis of the qualification was that the Accounting Authority was not able to confirm the fruitless and wasteful expenditure disclosed as R31 million, and the irregular expenditure disclosed as R14 million. This represented all fruitless and wasteful expenditure.
The Accounting Authority's report also raised the issue of whether it is a going concern. The accounting report further indicated that in the event that the DoC does not meet Sentech's request, there is significant doubt about the ability of Sentech to continue as a going concern. Therefore they may be unable to realise their assets and discharge their liabilities in the normal course of their business. There were issues of noncompliance with laws and regulations.
Let me take this opportunity to congratulate the Accounting Authority of Sentech for commencing the business rescue proceedings, and the progress made thus far is that the collection rate has improved drastically. The cash-generating position is now strong and has improved significantly. The board is confident that Sentech will continue to function as a going concern.
The committee therefore still awaits the comprehensive report detailing steps management and the board have taken, and consequences they have brought about, in relation to the fruitless, wasteful and irregular expenditure.
The Universal Service and Access Agency of South Africa, Usaasa, received a clean audit for the financial year ended 31 March 2010, with emphasis on matters of a fruitless and wasteful expenditure amounting to R65 885, and an irregular expenditure of R562 950.
The committee therefore still awaits the comprehensive report detailing the steps management and the board have taken, and the consequences they have brought about, in relation to fruitless, wasteful and irregular expenditure.
The SA Broadcasting Corporation, SABC - this is our chairperson's baby - received an unqualified audit report for the financial year ended 31 March 2010, with several emphases on several matters amongst others were the going concern issues.
It is pleasing to note that the SABC turnaround strategy is bearing fruit in terms of the corporation's desired outcomes. Progress has been made thus far. All members of the board have complied with the disclosure requirement and the board is fully functional. Thank you. [Time expired.] [Applause.]
Agb Voorsitter, agb Minister, Adjunkminister, aan almal wat nou nie Afrikaans verstaan nie, s ek dat ek vandag my toespraak in Afrikaans gaan lewer. Ek wil graag met u gesels.
Ek wil vir u s dat ek tot dusver my bedenkinge oor parlementre debatte het.
Voordat ek verder gaan: U is al soveel keer vandag hier verwelkom dat u nou rrig waar seker welkom voel in die vergadersaal.
Nee, ek het my bedenkinge oor parlementre debatte, want dit lyk so al vir my asof mense nie na mekaar luister terwyl 'n debat aan die gang is nie. Maar die indruk wat ek vandag hier gekry het, was dat die gesprek onderling opbouend was. Dis die idee wat ek gekry het. Ek is eintlik bekommerd; ons is so "nice" met mekaar vandag, dit lyk vir my ons hou van mekaar, en daaroor is ek 'n klein bietjie bekommerd!
Nietemin, ek wil graag die nuwe Minister en Adjunkminister gelukwens met dit wat hulle tot nou toe reggekry het want, soos u weet, die ergste ding wat met jou kan gebeur as jy as 'n nuweling Parlement toe kom, is om lid van die Portefeuljekomitee vir Kommunikasie te word! Met die gemors wat aan die gang was by die SAUK en al die ander entiteite, is dit vandag nou eintlik vir my lekker dat ons nie met mekaar hoef te baklei nie, juis omdat die Departement van Kommunikasie so 'n integrale deel van elkeen van ons se lewens is. Vandat ons vanmre wakker geword het, hoe belangrik was kommunikasie nie tot op hede in ons lewens nie? Die telefone, die radio, die televisie, noem maar op ...
Daarom is dit so belangrik dat kommunikasie in Suid-Afrika moet werk want, lank nadat goud en diamante en steenkool klaar opgebruik is, moet ons ook nog ons kommunikasie h waarmee ons kan woeker. Kyk maar na enige land wat werk aan sy kommunikasiestrukture. Die penetrasie wat die IT-bedryf byvoorbeeld in die samelewing het, beteken enorme groei in die bruto binnelandse produk.
Die ANC is aan bewind in Suid-Afrika, maar ek dink as Lede van die Parlement is dit elkeen van ons se plig om so hard as moontlik te werk om hierdie belangrike departement op koers te hou.
Ek het nou die Minister en die Adjunkminister geluk gewens met hul harde werk tot dusver. Wat vir my belangrik is, is dat die Minister en die Adjunkminister, anders as in die verlede, teenwoordig was. Hulle het tyd gemaak om te kom sit in die vergaderings van die Portefeuljekomitee vir Kommunikasie. Dankie, Adjunkminister, dat u en die Minister u program so gerig het, want dit is tog belangrik. In die verlede het 'n mens die indruk gekry, terwyl ons in die portefeuljekomitee oor belangrike sake praat, dat dit is asof dit net by die ministerie verby gaan.
Dr Wesso, ek moet vir jou ook baie dankie s. Ek het jou al in die portefeuljekomitee geluk gewens. Ek sal nooit u lang gesig die dag daar in die Marksgebou vergeet toe u ges het die Departement van Kommunikasie is 'n sinkende skip nie. Dr Wesso se woorde was: "The Department of Communications is in absolute disarray."
Dit was sy woorde. Maar Dr Wesso, synde die waarnemende direkteur-generaal, het baie hard gewerk, natuurlik met die hulp van die res van die departement, om hierdie sinkende skip weer drywend te maak. Daar wag nog baie harde werk voor vir die nuwe direkteur-generaal van die departement, maar ek dink die werk wat tot nou toe gedoen is, gaan di skip in elk geval op die water hou.
Daar is 'n paar sake wat ek nou net wil noem. Wat my bietjie pla, vandat ek nou in die Parlement gekom het, is dat daar vakatures in die Departement van Kommunikasie is. As my geheue my nou nie parte speel nie, dink ek daar is 'n totaal van 116 vakante poste. Minister, dit kom nou al 'n paar jaar lank aan. Elke keer hoor ons dis as gevolg van herstrukturerings. Nou, ek dink 'n mens kan 'n tenkskip net soveel keer draai voordat jy in jouself vasry. So, ek dink ons moet nou 'n punt bereik waar mense aangestel moet word want werk moet gedoen word.
Daar is nog iets wat my pla, en dis die groot hoeveelheid mense in senior poste in die departement. 'n Mens kry so half die indruk daar is te veel base in die Departement van Kommunikasie en te min ...
Hy's top heavy!
Ja, hy kantel so 'n bietjie, soos ek en Oom Koos partykeer, n!
Nietemin, ons moet regtig waar indringend daarna kyk, want as 'n mens kyk na 116 mense wat nie agter hul lessenaars in die Departement van Kommunikasie se kantore sit nie, is dit ongelooflik baie! Ek is nou net bekommerd die departement loop dieselfde pad as wat die SAUK geloop het. Wat het die SAUK gedoen? Waar daar byvoorbeeld een baas was wat na hierdie mikrofoon omgesien het, is daar drie base aangestel. Nou kyk hulle na mekaar en daar is niemand wat weet hoe om die mikrofoon te werk nie. Dis my problem, agb Minister. Daaraan moet baie dringend aandag gegee word.
Ek is baie bly dat die besluit gemaak is oor die Europese Digitale Terrestriale Televisie-standaard, DTT. Ek is net baie jammer dat daar soveel water getrap is voordat die besluit gemaak is, maar dit is nou weer politieke besluite van die verlede. Ek l dit nie voor u deur nie, Minister. Dit is nou historiese feite, maar ek is bly die keuse is gemaak. Dis net jammer dat tyd verlore gegaan het en dat ons deur Brasili moes hardloop om nou eintlik die Parlement se geld te mors. Dit was baie lekker en interresant in Brasili, maar nietemin ...
Ek wil vir u een ding vra, agb Minister, en dit is dat u nooit moet toelaat dat politici die SAUK beheer nie. Ek was in daardie dae by die SAUK. Dit was nie baie lekker om destyds oproepe te ontvang nie - van Riaan Eksteen wat destyds nog die direkteur-generaal was - en dan te hoor dat oom PW se vrou iets gehoor het wat ek oor die draadloos sou ges het. Dan was ek in verskriklike moeilikheid! Dit is die effek van politieke beheer op so 'n belangrike organisasie soos die SAUK. Ek het gewerk in die aktualiteitsprogramme, waar jy elke dag verslag moes doen of iemand nie dalk per ongeluk iets leliks oor die Nasionale Party ges het nie. Jy moes alles mooi fyn "edit" want as jy dit wel uitsaai, is jy in die moeilikheid. Ek is dus seker daarvan, Minister, dat ek baie vetroue in u het. (Translation of Afrikaans paragraphs follows.)
[Mr N J VAN DEN BERG: Hon Chairperson, hon Minister, Deputy Minister, I just want to say to all of you who do not understand Afrikaans that I am going to deliver my speech in Afrikaans today. I would like to have a chat with you.
I want to tell you that, so far, I have had my reservations regarding parliamentary debates.
Before I continue: You have been welcomed here so often today that by now you must surely be feeling truly welcome in this assembly hall.
No, I have my reservations regarding parliamentary debates, because it would seem to me as if people are not listening to one another while a debate is taking place. However, the impression I am getting here today is that the discourse has been mutually constructive. That is the idea I got. I'm actually worried; we are being so nice to one another today, that it seems to me as if we like each other, which is what worries me a bit! Nevertheless, I would like to congratulate the new Minister and Deputy Minister on what they have been able to do up to now because, as you know, the worst thing that could happen to you when you arrive at Parliament as a novice is to become a member of the Portfolio Committee on Communications! With the chaos that prevailed at the SABC and all the other entities, it is actually nice that we don't have to quarrel one another today, precisely because the Department of Communications is such an integral part of all our lives. Since waking up this morning, how important has communication not been in our lives up to now? The telephones, the radio, the television; you name it ...
That is why it is so important for communications to work in South Africa, because long after gold, diamonds and coal have been exhausted, we must still have our communications to make the most of. Look at any country that maintains its structures of communication. The penetration of the IT industry in society, for instance, means enormous growth in the gross domestic product.
The ANC is in power in South Africa, but I believe it is the duty of all of us as Members of Parliament to work as hard as possible at keeping this important department on course.
I have just congratulated the Minister and Deputy Minister on their hard work so far. The important thing to me is that, unlike in the past, the Minister and Deputy Minister have been present. They have made time to attend the deliberations of the Portfolio Committee on Communications. Thank you, Deputy Minister, that you and the Minister were able to arrange your programmes accordingly, because this is important, after all. In the past one gained the impression that, while we were discussing important matters in the portfolio committee, it was as if this simply passed the Ministry by.
Dr Wesso, I must thank you as well. I've already congratulated you in the portfolio committee. I will never forget your long face that day over at the Marks Building, when you said that the Department of Communications was a sinking ship. Dr Wesso's words were: "The Department of Communications is in absolute disarray."
Those were his words. However, Dr Wesso, being the acting director-general, worked very hard, with the help of the rest of the department, of course, to get this sinking ship afloat again. A lot of hard work still awaits the new director-general of the department, but I think that what has been done up to now will keep this ship afloat.
There are a few issues that I just want to mention now. What has disturbed me a little since I arrived at Parliament is that there are vacancies in the Department of Communications. If my memory serves me, I think that in total there are 116 vacant posts. Minister, this has been the case for a few years now. Every time we hear that this is as a result of restructuring. Now I think one can only turn a tanker so many times before one gets stuck. So I believe we should now reach a point where people have to be appointed because there is a job to be done.
Another thing that disturbs me is the large number of people in senior posts in the department. One gets the impression that there are too many chiefs in the Department of Communications and not enough ...
It is top heavy!
Yes, it is tipping over a bit, like Oom Koos and I do at times, right?
Nevertheless, we should really take a thorough look at that, because if one considers that 116 people are not sitting behind their desks at the offices of the Department of Communications, that is an unbelievable number! I'm just worried that the department will go down the same road as the SABC. What did the SABC do? Where they had one boss, for instance, to man this microphone, three bosses were then appointed. They sit there looking at each other while not one of them knows how to operate that microphone. That is my problem, hon Minister. Very serious attention should be given to this.
I am very glad about the decision on the European Digital Terrestrial Television standard, DTT. I am just sorry that we trod water for so long before taking this decision, but once again, these were political decisions of the past. I'm not laying this at your door, Minister. These are now historical facts, but I am glad that the choice has been made. It is just a pity that time was wasted and that we had to rush through Brazil and actually waste Parliament's money. Brazil was very enjoyable and interesting, but still ...
There is one thing I want to ask you, hon Minister, and that is never to allow politicians to control the SABC. I was at the SABC in those days. Back then it was not very nice to receive calls - from Riaan Eksteen, who was still the director-general at the time - and then to hear that Uncle PW's wife had heard something that I was supposed to have said on the radio. I was in terrible trouble then! This is the effect of political control on such an important organisation as the SABC.
I was employed in the actuality programmes, where you had to give daily reports on whether someone might have accidentally said something negative about the National Party. You had to edit everything carefully because, if you did broadcast it, you would be in big trouble. So I am sure, Minister, that I have great confidence in you.]
Nothing has changed.
Ja, maar ek praat solank en doen solank voorbrand, agb Ollis.
Daar is 'n baie belangrike saak wat ek net onder u aandag wil bring. So van die SAUK gepraat, die toerusting word oud. Daar moet gereeld gekyk word na opgradering. So ook is Sentech se toerusting besig om oud te raak. As ons in hierdie nuwe omgewing in wil beweeg, moet ons sorg dat daar op 'n gereelde basis na toerusting omgesien word, en dat Sentech en die SAUK se wiele nie afval soos wat die geval is met Eskom nie.
Die poskantoor het vandag soveel komplimente gekry. Ek wil net vir die hoof uitvoerende beampte vra - en jy weet nou al wat ek gaan vra - waar is Toekomsrus se poskantoor? [Gelag.] Ek was nou die dag met die verkiesing daar, en die poskantoor is nog nie gebou nie. Gaan hy gebou word?
So, geagte vriende, die hoof uitvoerende beampte van die poskantoor het my belowe Toekomsrus se poskantoor is een van die dae gebou daar waar die ou poskantoor afgebrand het.
Baie dankie aan al ons kollegas wat lekker saam gewerk het. Ons het hier en daar baklei met mekaar. Dankie ook, Natasha. Ek wil vir jou s jy is so vol moed, maar as jy so lank soos ek in hierdie portefeuljekomitee is, dan sal jy ook so 'n grys baard h soos ek! Baie dankie, geagte vriende. Dis vir my 'n voorreg om Lid van die Parlement te wees, en natuurlik, om 'n lid van die DA te wees. Baie dankie. (Translation of Afrikaans paragraphs follows.)
[Mr N J VAN DEN BERG: Yes, hon Ollis, but meanwhile I am talking and making the first approach.
There is a very important matter that I just want to bring to your attention. Talking about the SABC, the equipment is ageing. Upgrading should be given regular attention. Sentech's equipment is also getting old. If we want to move in this new direction, we will have to ensure that the equipment is regularly looked after and that Sentech and the SABC's wheels don't come off as is the case with Eskom.
The post office received so many compliments today. But I just want to ask the chief executive officer - and you already know what I'm going to ask - where is the Toekomsrus Post Office? [Laughter.] I was there the other day, during the elections, and the post office still hasn't been built. Is it going to be built?
So, hon friends, the chief executive officer of the post office has promised me that the Toekomsrus Post Office will be built one of these days, where the old post office burnt down.
I want to thank all our colleagues who have worked together so well. We quarrelled occasionally. Thank you too, Natasha. I can tell you that you are full of spirit, but when you have been in this portfolio committee for as long as I have, you will also have a grey beard just like me! Thank you, hon friends. It is a privilege for me to be a Member of Parliament and, of course, also a member of the DA. Thank you.]
Mhalingaphambili, maLungu eNdlu yoWiso-mthetho, neendwendwe ezisihambeleyo namhlanje, ndivumele ndikhahlele kwingqwele, inkonde utata uRholihlahla Nelson Mandela, omnye wamaxhego azinikelayo ekulweni inkululeko yeli lizwe. Ndivumeleni ndimqwenele impilo ende nemyoli ngelixa ehleli nosapho lwakhe eQunu. (Translation of isiXhosa paragraph follows.)
[Ms S T NDABENI: Chairperson, hon members of the National Assembly, distinguished guests who are visiting us today, please allow me to greet the icon and veteran Mr Rholihlahla Nelson Mandela, one of the old men who valiantly fought for the freedom of our country. Allow me to wish him a long, healthy and happy life as he is relaxing and spending time with his family at Qunu village.]
Hon Chairperson, it is indeed a great honour to be one of the speakers in front of your good selves today. This is my maiden speech in this committee, so please be nice and generous with your time management! [Interjections.]
Many studies have shown that, in order for South Africa to be globally competitive and more effective as an efficiency-driven country, we need to improve the rolling out of information and communications technology, ICT, connectivity to schools, rural development, and health centres to ensure that we have sufficient e-government services, ICT entrepreneurs, employees and employers, who are required for the knowledge-based global economy.
Rural access to ICT has been highlighted as a key aspect in driving development. The concept has been debated at the international level by multilateral agencies such as the World Bank, the United Nations, and the International Monetary Fund. Key gatherings have included the G8 Summit in Okinawa, the World Summit on the Information Society and regional conferences on digital integration. The establishment of several global initiatives are attempts to sensitise the international community to the plight of millions of people around the world who have been excluded from the benefits of the information society.
It is argued that rural access to ICT boosts production, improves household income, reduces inequalities and widens market options. It is seen as a way of reaching out to those that would be excluded from the developmental benefits of ICT. A universal access fund is one mechanism for motivating and mobilising private investment in rural areas through subsidies and incentives under a free market telecommunication sector so that services are extended to disadvantaged areas and people.
It was here in this very building where the convergence of ICT was developed through Parliament's passing the Electronic Communications Act, Act 36 of 2005. It remains an unchanged venue, where President Zuma's state of the nation address speaks, in particular, to the communications sector.
The priority has been an urgent need to increase investment in the second economy through reducing the cost of doing business in the country. This is in order to bridge the digital divide and narrow the gap between the rich and the poor through empowering in particular underprivileged and underserviced communities with the necessary ICT skills. It is also to convert the current analogue broadcasting of television and radio to digital platforms. With regard to lowering the cost of doing business in the country, the President's speeches have acknowledged the strides made in intensifying the liberalisation of the telecommunication sector through the establishment of a second national operator, Neotel.
Several announcements have been made during the state of the nation address over the past financial years regarding bold ICT interventions. These include the following. Firstly, there is the finalisation of plans by mobile telephone companies and Telkom to address call termination rates for the benefit of consumers. These call termination rates refer to the cost of making a call from one service provider to another telephone company.
Secondly, there is the setting up of a call centre through which prospective investors and government can track the process in respect of land acquisition, infrastructure and environmental impact assessments. Thirdly, there is the allocation of funds to Sentech for the digital migration process and the provision of the national wireless broadband network infrastructure in rural and underserviced areas.
Fourthly, there is the allocation of the Universal Service and Access Agency of South Africa to ensure that the country has 100% coverage by 2020 and the provision of five million set-top boxes to indigent communities in the country. Finally, there is the completion of the process of launching the undersea cables for developing high speed international broadband capacity.
All these initiatives have been developed in a bid to lower the cost of doing business in the country in order to attract investment that will provide sustainable opportunities to uplift the poor and marginalised communities. Furthermore, they were developed to ensure that the country's business and industries are internationally competitive.
Before the attainment of democracy 17 years ago, over time the people of this nation waged a long and sometimes bloody struggle to secure and expand their freedom from the crown, and from some of the battles which were emotionally driven by both the former colonial unjust structures and an awful life lived under the apartheid regime. Propelled by the ideas of the Enlightenment, they ultimately forged the Freedom Charter and invested their time and future aspirations in the nonsexist, nonracist, nontribal and oldest liberation movement on the continent to govern and lead the country into the shared vision.
Today, after a difficult four decades, which begin with racial seperation and ended with joyful democracy celebrations, they have progressed firmly despite the recession. Our nation has arrived at a pivotal moment once more. A global economy that once stood on the brink of depression is now stable and recovering.
However, as we enter this chapter in our shared history, profound challenges lie before us, and this includes bringing stability to the public broadcaster and widening its footprint coverage. There is the need to ensure that the regulator monitors compliance, which introduces ICT devices that are mindful of people living with disabilities.
In a world where the prosperity of all nations is now inextricably linked, a new era of co-operation is required to ensure the growth and stability of the global economy, especially in the ICT sector. As the ICT revolution races through the streets of the Middle East and North Africa, the entire world has a stake in the aspirations of a generation that longs to determine its own destiny. To this end, the Meraka Institute and the National Electronic Media Institute of South Africa, Nemisa, are in the process of finalising a memorandum of understanding in order to train students to be employment-ready and to develop a curriculum with institutions of higher learning with a view to ultimately expanding it as a faculty of ICT at universities.
These ICT opportunities come at a time when the international order has already been reshaped for a new century. Countries like China, India and Brazil, a group of which South Africa is a member - we are talking about Brics here - are growing by leaps and bounds. In this regard, gone are the days when Roosevelt and Churchill could sit in a room and solve the world's problems over a glass of brandy though, I'm sure, hon members of the opposition parties, you would agree that some days we could all use a stiff drink! In this century though, our joint leadership will need to build new partnerships, adapt to new circumstances, and remake ourselves to meet the demands of a new era, and this begins with driving our economic leadership in the ICT sector.
According to the New Growth Path, infrastructure development can create 25 000 jobs a year in energy, water, communications and infrastructure through to 2015. An adequate communications environment provides the backbone for a modern economy, thereby expanding the infrastructure that will help reduce communication costs.
It is critical to improve infrastructure in the former Bantustans - and not because I come from one of them - which continue to suffer from backlogs in household services, transport and communications. Notwithstanding urbanisation, the rural population remains large and engaged in the rural economy.
Government, through the Postbank, is therefore trying to improve telecommunications and Internet connectivity so as to provide financial services across the country. In this regard, the department and its entities will appear before the committee to outline their direct and indirect job creation.
We cannot take joy from the fact that the giants of this industry refuse to comply, or take time to comply, with the regulations we make. This delay, whether deliberate or not, poses a challenge to what we in this Parliament and the country want to achieve. When the ANC took a decision that it was high time that ownership and transformation of our industry took centre stage, it was not because we wanted votes, but because we wanted to ensure that all the people benefited and contributed effectively to economic development and the improvement of services. [Applause.] Besele ndiza kuzicelela. [I was just about to request it myself.]
As Tata Mandela said in A Long Walk to Freedom: "There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered." The ANC has adopted very good policies, and that has been confirmed by the majority of this country through the previous elections. It is for this reason that we urge the Department of Communications to do what is expected of them. It must exercise its authority to ensure that all role-players in the industry adhere to what government requires.
An activist department requires clear leadership and competent staff that are well-resourced. I hope that as we have filled the position of the director-general, you are also going to urgently fill the other critical positions. This will assist the department in improving its co-ordination of its entities.
When we nominated people to fill the SABC Board vacancies, we were clear that we wanted to see a speedy recovery and effective change in the SABC, which has a critical role to play with regard to informing our people. I must congratulate the existing board members for holding the fort when this institution was experiencing problems.
The SABC is not perfect, but we hope that with the turnaround strategy presented to Parliament things are going to improve. This requires the provision of clear leadership and dedicated personnel, as the document alone will not deliver the results. We have taken a conscious decision to effectively monitor the implementation of the goals that you set for yourselves, so as to ensure that the money we allocate indeed delivers the required service.
The low rate of females and young people in top management positions in this sector is a cause for concern. We, in the ANC and in the portfolio committee, want to assure all of you that we will force you to improve this situation. It cannot be that a woman who is 23 years old is able to take care of her 40-year-old husband, but is not recognised as a capable person without a fight. The SABC is the most male-dominated institution at top management level and we in the portfolio committee will not approve any structure that does not seek to address that. We hope that the Department of Communications, DoC, will lead by example in this matter.
For this sector to effectively deliver on its targets a huge budget is required. The capacity of the SABC to deliver on its public broadcasting mandate and inform or drive the agenda of the public needs an increase in the budget. Of course this will not be done by way of a thumbsuck, but through the presentation of a clear plan and the dedicated efforts of the current leadership of the SABC. We also need to revisit the Media Development and Diversity Agency, MDDA, funding model to ensure that it talks to the effective and efficient service that is enjoyed by all those in need. We appreciate the efforts put in by the Sentech leadership in addressing the challenges that have faced the organisation. These include low staff moral, poor project management methodologies, neglect and underinvestment in the broadcasting and radio network.
Whilst we can play politics as politicians, we must ensure that service delivery to our communities is not affected. I appreciate the fact that even our opposition parties in the portfolio committee understand why the ANC had to deploy the Minister, Dr Ben Ngubane, to the SABC and the others that we have put on the board - you've heard them here confirming and appreciating the leadership that has been provided.
In conclusion, I would like to sincerely thank the Minister and his department, the chairpersons of boards and their management, and the portfolio committee members for their effective contribution to building a better South Africa. I am not forgetting Cllr Leah Khumalo and Dr Wesso, as well as Mr Nicholson, for their patriotic efforts to ensure that they performed the duties that were temporarily assigned to them. Indeed, you have made us proud.
The ANC supports the Budget Vote. [Time expired.] [Applause.]
Chairperson, I thought you were going to say "deployed elder"! Thank you very much.
Firstly, hon members, let me express our great appreciation to all the contributors who have spoken in the debate today. I think they have all made vitally important points that have driven home the message. One of the most fascinating things to come out of this debate is the concurrence that all the political parties have in echoing the sentiments the hon Van den Berg stated in his contribution to the debate.
He highlighted for us the vital importance of communications in the everyday life of our people. It brings us right to the centre of the central theme of this debate; that is, it is not technology for the sake of technology, but it is technology for the enhancement and the improvement of the lives of the people. I think that has been the most powerful message that has come out of this debate. How can we find concurrence with each other - notwithstanding the fact that we may come from different trajectories - around one single common viewpoint, that is, how can we best serve the interests of the people?
Hon Kholwane, the chairperson of the portfolio committee, is I think justified in drawing our special attention to the vital importance of the regulator in all of this work. He calls upon us to make sure that there are enough resources and says they must be mobilised to empower the regulator to do its job properly. I think there is also great unanimity among the speakers in reminding us that the public broadcaster is perhaps one of the most important institutions in our society today, and the caution that the public broadcaster is not a state broadcaster is most certainly welcome.
I thought that it was quite funny that hon Van den Berg should say we should never let a politician manage the SABC, and yet it is you, the politician, who give us the managers for the SABC and we work with what you give us! The review of the broadcasting policy landscape is an important initiative. It must take us into those terrains and into understanding this instrument of social cohesion in our evolving democracy.
Hon Koos van der Merwe has left the House, and I will have to swing back to Zondi when we think about those international visits! Let me take this opportunity to say that the SABC remains a critical focus for us. We have made significant strides in stabilising the corporation, and this was acknowledged by all the speakers. We are appreciative of the leadership of the board and the executive leadership of the corporation and, particularly, the leadership of Dr Ben Ngubane.
I am aware that in a short while, on his return from Libya, the President will announce the appointment of the remaining four members of the SABC board. There will also be the announcement of who will be the Deputy Chairperson. The SABC board informs me that within a couple of weeks they will be entering into the process of finalising the selection of the chief executive officer for the SABC.
On the question of the most important project, on which all the members agreed and which is the implementation of the digital migration programme, every speaker highlighted the vital importance that we must meet the 2013 deadline. It is clear that we remain very confident that we are on track and that we have the enthusiastic participation of all the state-owned entities to achieve precisely that.
We are told that a successful trial, conducted by broadcasters and the signal distributor, has demonstrated that South Africa is ready for the process of migrating from Analogue Terrestrial Television to Digital Terrestrial Television, DTT. Substantive work has been done by all the parties concerned. For the first time we now have an implementation plan that has been constructed by the private sector together with the public entities of the department. My office has determined that we shall establish a special implementation office to drive the DTT programme. It is a project in which the people will be about 30 strong, totally focused on driving the DTT programme.
We are indeed very encouraged by the fact that we have received all this support from the parties and speakers concerned. We want to thank you very much and we wish you all a very good year. I thank you.
Thank you, hon Minister. Members are reminded that the EPC on Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs will meet in the Good Hope Chamber at 14:00 and the EPC on Health will also meet at 14:00, but in this venue.