No, I am trying to explain to the Chairperson what has happened to some of the members. So, they thought today was a debate on Communications, but ... [Interjections.]
Just a minute, hon member. Are you explaining ...
Are you trying to say we should not give Mr Madisha another opportunity to speak if he comes back, or we should give him an opportunity? Address yourself to that issue.
No, no, Chair. I am trying to explain why he was confused, if he was confused. [Interjections.]
Can you please sit down, hon member? [Interjections.] Sit down, hon member. [Interjections.] Just sit down. [Interjections.]
Take your seat, chief! [Interjections.] Just take your seat, chief! Hon members, I have just said ... [Interjections.]
There he comes! [Laughter.] There was no confusion in the hon member! The hon member wrote a note to say that he had urgent business to attend to. Because we are democrats, we will allow the member to speak now. Speak, hon Madisha! [Interjections.] [Laughter.]
Chairperson ... [Inaudible.] ... this is exactly what is happening to our government ... [Interjections.] ... and I will explain. Truly the people of our country must see this. They must understand that confusion will always be created to make sure that what the people have to come up with does not take place.
I want to emphasise that we cannot support this Budget altogether. The Government Communication and Information System, GCIS, established in terms of section 7 of the Public Service Act, 1994, is meant to meet all of the demands of our democratic human rights environment.
With the loyal support that this government has had from the voters in successive elections, one would have expected a quid pro quo from this government. Unfortunately South Africans, who were made to endure an information deficit as a result of apartheid and poverty, are generally still lagging behind in that respect in 2014.
Those of us who were in that movement for almost three decades are disappointed at the kind of thing that is happening. Our people do not have the information to engage in meaningful dialogue with government. Citizens with grievances therefore have to take to the streets and, shockingly, they continue to resort to mindless vandalism in making their point.
I must emphasise that we are all pessimistic about whether the department will succeed in switching off analogue television by this time next year when the deadline arrives. Neither do we believe that the department will have succeeded in allocating the spectrum required for broadband penetration.
I also want to emphasise that we will not support this Vote because we stand for transparency, we stand for digital migration, we stand for broadband penetration, and we stand for the public broadcaster, for example, and all the other matters that we are talking about. [Interjections.] We stand for the perpetuation of what late President Nelson Mandela raised, his legacy. Where this department is headed is not acceptable to us. [Interjections.]
We cannot in good conscience support this Vote. We can't. My former comrades are lost and my former comrades are killing our people. [Inaudible.] [Time expired.]
Hon Madisha, will you take your seat?
Thank you very much. [Applause.]
Members, let us observe the decorum of this House, please. I now call upon hon member MacKenzie.
Chairperson, on a point of order: We have a responsibility as Parliament, as debates are recorded verbatim here. The Table should guide us in this respect, whether here today ... [Interjections.]
What is your point of order, chief?
It is what I am going to say.
Put the point of order.
The point of order is that what we are supposed to be discussing today is not being recorded as such. What we are discussing here today in this debate is not being recorded as what we are supposed to be discussing. I say this because today we are supposed to be discussing Communications and Telecommunications. According to the programme, we are discussing Communications. Now the Table should guide us in this respect, because it has caused a lot of confusion to members.
Chairperson, on a point of order: We have had two debates. The other debate on the GCIS was yesterday and it proceeded properly. Today we have Communications. It is a joint committee sitting and we have been proclaiming it as both.
We are not sure where the confusion comes from. People who consistently attend the committee meetings have no confusion and understand what is happening. It is the debate on Budget Vote No 27 - Communications. There is no confusion, it is straightforward, and it has been reflected as such. Any point of order stating that there is confusion is wrong.
Thank you very much. Let us agree that we are continuing with the debate on Communications and that there is a joint portfolio committee dealing with both matters. Can I call upon you, hon MacKenzie? I know that you are not confused! [Laughter.]
Chairperson, for a maiden speech, to have to do the walk to the podium twice was a bit much, but I am here!
Hon Minister, hon Deputy Ministers, and hon members from the DA and other parties ... [Laughter.] ... digital terrestrial television has much to offer South Africans - a better TV signal, potentially more programming and services and, most importantly, freeing up the exceptionally valuable spectrum used by analogue signals for broadband use, which is the so-called digital dividend.
I am pleased to note that this is the first thing we can all agree on, hon Kubayi.
Back in 2006, South Africa and other nations signed a treaty with the International Telecommunication Union that committed our country to migrating completely from analogue to digital broadcasting by June 2015. In other words, we'll switch off the analogue signal and we'll switch on the digital one. Digital terrestrial television will be born.
I note the Minister's intention to finalise policy, as he says, within a month. Well, Minister, the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and frankly we have heard plenty of intentions before about digital terrestrial television.
Should we fail to do this, the consequences are very serious indeed: Our analogue signal will no longer be protected, we will be in breach of an international treaty, and our failure to abide by this treaty means further reputational damage to South Africa and our standing in the eyes of the international community.
Our international reputation already suffers from poor performance in regard to several indices. We can't afford any further loss in our international standing, or the erosion of our national brand, which Brand South Africa has asked South African taxpayers R169 million to protect.
This is the second thing we can all agree on, hon Minister Cwele.
Minister, you said that within three months you would designate the date of the start of the switch-on. Well, I have some good news for you. It has already started.
During the recent round of Budget Vote presentations - those to the joint sitting of the Telecommunications and Postal Services and the Communications committees - it was clear that the entities responsible for the technology, distribution, broadcasting and roll-out of digital terrestrial television are ready to go. Some have been so for quite a while now.
For example, Sentech can provide 83,7% of our people with digital terrestrial television. The rest will be served by satellite, meaning a 100% population coverage. The Universal Service and Access Agency of South Africa is sitting on a cash pile of almost R1 billion, ready to install set- top boxes, aerials and dishes. The SABC has already switched on its digital test signal and is broadcasting in this format.
This is the third thing we can all agree on, hon Ndlozi.
Now, if you've got an older analogue TV set, you'll need a set-top box, or STB, to convert the signal to analogue so you can watch it. You could watch it without this STB, but the quality would be quite terrible.
Without going into too much detail, I've read quite widely and extensively over the last while, and if there's a fourth thing we can all agree on, it is this. This is the point where all agreement stops - between the government, between manufacturers, between broadcasters and between industry associations.
Eight years ago the government came up with a misguided scheme for the local manufacture of set-top boxes. It was meant to create opportunities for our people, using black economic empowerment as a yardstick. And for eight years now the government has been flip-flopping as pressure has been brought to bear, from one group of interested stakeholders after the other.
The government is not alone in this indecisiveness either. Several stakeholders themselves have changed their positions, especially around the inclusion or exclusion of a conditional access system. Broadcasters and manufacturers are unable to reach any kind of agreement over access control, and government appears to be caught up in the middle.
Perhaps this explains why South Africa is five years behind schedule with digital migration. We have until June next year to meet the ITU deadline to complete our migration. To put this into perspective, Zimbabwe and Rwanda, for example, are ahead of the curve and ahead of us. We are so far behind because ANC policy indecision has created unrealistic expectations and thumbsucked numbers on job creation. All of this is pie in the sky.
We have a government terrified of litigation from stakeholders who've invested time, money and energy in gearing up for DTT based on policies and proposals that have changed more often than the number of Communications Ministers, and that's a lot. While a tender for set-top boxes was issued, changes in the strategy meant this tender fell away and no new tenders have been called for. Now, I am not going to weigh in on the side of a control mechanism or not, or on issuing a tender for set-top boxes or not, because, frankly, I am not the Minister and I am not the government. [Interjections.] My maiden speech. That's your job, Minister. It is what you're being paid to do.
When danger threatens, there are three ways people respond: fight, flight or freeze. Like a rabbit in the headlights, this government appears to have frozen. You, Minister, have to make a very tough decision, and it's tough because it is very clear that, no matter what you decide, you're not going to keep or make every party happy. You are going to have at least one stakeholder that is exceptionally unhappy, no matter what you do. There is no win-win solution. Accept that reality.
What is non-negotiable, though, is that South Africa has to migrate to DTT to meet our obligations by June 2015. It is also non-negotiable to ensure that no one is excluded from receiving signals and is cut off, even if it is only from the 70% good news dished out by the controversial Hlaudi Motsoeneng - the Goebbels of the SABC - with his self-awarded matric, and his partner in claiming unentitled qualifications, the SABC chairperson Ellen Tshabalala. Perhaps it is not so difficult to see why his appointment was made permanent. If you do not have qualifications at the SABC, you simply make them up! [Laughter.]
In March this year former Minister Carrim said, and I quote:
This bickering has to stop. We need to move forward swiftly in the interests of the country.
Swiftly indeed - we've only got nine months left. It is eight months if we take away the month you will need to gazette an amended policy, and there are five months for you to designate the date of the start of the switch- on.
The DA is excited about DTT. We are excited because we support broad-based black economic empowerment and the benefits of economic inclusion that the roll-out of DTT infrastructure holds for all our people. The time has come ... [Interjections.]
Hold on, hon member. Hon members, we have no problem with your interjecting, but stopping the member from debating is not helpful. Member, you have two minutes left.
Thank you, Chairperson. The time has come to reissue the tender for STB manufacture and ensure that the companies chosen have the existing capacity and capability to do so to a high standard, on time, and with the right quality.
We trust that the delay in reissuing the tender has nothing to do with awarding tenders to tenderpreneurs or crony networks of connected individuals. Rest assured, the DA will be monitoring this process very closely.
The ANC promised six million job opportunities as part of their election manifesto. Well, this is one way you can start to deliver on that promise. The real job creation lies in the distribution, installation and maintenance of set-top boxes, aerials and dishes. So, issue the tender and have them made!
Former Minister Carrim also said government was "extremely close" to making a decision about how to proceed, even if final consensus could not be reached. Well, four months later, with a new Minister and a split department, where until yesterday we did not know which state-owned enterprise belonged where, you are now a little bit closer to making that decision.
While we South Africans love to leave things to the last minute, including our driver's licence renewals and our tax returns, the fact is that if you don't decide, and decide now, you'll be breaking an international treaty; you'll be damaging our reputation internationally; and you'll be denying our people access to opportunity, employment and programming.
You have some hard choices to make, Minister, and to carry on flip-flopping on policy is not one of them. Make the decision, stick with it, make the call and make it happen. Thank you very much. [Applause.]
Hon Chairperson, Ministers, members and guests, together with the officials and stakeholders, I think it is important that I start with hon Ndlozi before my time is up.
Hon Ndlozi, we cannot move at speed when the DA still hoists the flag of resistance to transformation of the country, and other black people do not understand themselves. We must also tell the truth that under the leadership of the bitter, sugar-coated National Party cover, the DA, you wouldn't be where you are and exercising your freedom of speech. [Interjections.]
A good leader will explore all avenues in governance to develop the country, while intensifying processes for skills development. This is so that in future you can nationalise certain areas, having armed yourself with the necessary skills.
Economic dynamics dictate situations of supply and demand and competitive advantage; hence the need to import in certain areas. We can assure hon members that there are goods which are being exported by South Africa to other countries. Our role is to exercise patience and acquire skills which will enable us to import less and export more, whilst such situations as you complain about are not far in the future but here.
Hon Ndlozi, young as you are, you need to show as an African that you respect any adult. Whoever thinks it is a joke to lose the father of one's children should feel ashamed of himself, because he has been put through in his own country.
Hon Mama Winnie Mandela's ancestors did not come to Africa but had their roots in Africa, and those who share with her that history will sympathise with her. Those whose ancestors had no roots in Africa, but came to Africa, will rejoice at her situation. We are not ashamed of fighting for the land of our ancestors, but I think they have actually overstayed their welcome in our country. [Interjections.] How ungrateful! Hon members should express their thanks that the hon member Buthelezi is not here in this House. He would teach you a lesson or two about African culture.
Hon member Tsotetsi, there was a hand up, and I am not sure whether the hon Ndlozi has a point of order.
No, it is not ... [Inaudible.] [Laughter.]
Hon Tsotetsi, it does seem it wasn't hon Ndlozi.
Through you, hon Chair, I wish to say this to the hon Ndlozi. The reason why I said I wanted to start with you is because someone spoke before you and I wanted to address the matter of the comment, the silly comment, that was made about Mama Winnie Mandela. So, that is part of my response to you. That is why I said I wanted to start with you, before my time was up, so that I could address that issue. It is not you. [Interjections.] You are confused, not me. You don't feel ashamed of yourself for rejoicing at other people's situations. Anyway, it is of your making, and that is why you are not worried about that.
My subject this afternoon is ICT infrastructure, which is key to development.
It is important to give a brief background of where we come from as a country with respect to information and communications technology. Some of us still remember the dark days - and some were not yet born then - when we used tape recorders, floppy discs and typewriters. This brief background will show how far the government has moved in socioeconomic policies which are intended to improve the quality of life in South Africa.
Letter writing was the main ... [Interjections.] You shut up! Letter writing was the main means of communication.
A point of order, Chair.
In urban areas the letter would take a week or two.
Can you stop a moment? There is a point of order.
I would just like the Chair to rule on whether it is parliamentary to tell another hon member to shut up.
Hon member, it is not unparliamentary. [Interjections.] Hello! [Interjections.] It is unparliamentary. I am sorry! Hon Tsotetsi, can you please withdraw it?
Chair, I withdraw my statement and I will learn to respect others. [Interjections.]
Hon Tsotetsi ...
I did, Chair.
... can you please withdraw it? [Interjections.] Oh, she did withdraw it. [Interjections.]
Your mic wasn't on.
It was on. Letter writing was the main means of communication in urban areas. The letter would take a week or two, sometimes three weeks, to reach its destination. There was also the telegram, instead of which we use the SMS today. One would take a journey to the post office to send the telegram. In most rural areas letters would be delivered from the post office in town to schools or stores - and we know what the rural roads are like. Possibly the letter could take even more than a month.
All these horror stories took place during the apartheid regime. As we roll up our sleeves to develop South Africa, it must be taken into consideration that in the 20 years we are celebrating there has been a baggage of resistance to transformation.
We started with the Government of National Unity. What is nonsense?
Your history lesson.
We started with the Government of National Unity as part of the effort to alleviate fears of terrorism, as we were perceived as terrorists.
The second five years were also difficult, as the ANC government found the country in debt and had to be creative and formulate mechanisms for damage control.
After 1994, development gradually kicked in, and with the march of time there came a need to accelerate as far as information and communications technology infrastructure was concerned.
South Africa is no longer isolated internationally, but embraced. Can we applaud the ANC-led government for that? [Applause.]
The development of ICT infrastructure is the hub of our national development agenda. Let us take cognisance of the fact that our Ministry is newly established. Therefore, our role requires a more rapid application of programmes of action. We need a wider range of technologies to assist our organisation in running more efficiently.
Our Ministry is tasked with raising the telecommunications and postal services sectors to a higher scale of operation. Bearing in mind that our country's telecommunications sector is growing at a rapid rate, estimated at R179 billion in 2011, it is expected to reach R187 billion by 2016. The services targeted, which are essential to everyday mechanics and integral to effective service delivery, include hardware, software, networking, and implementation. If only we can account for all these figures.
Chair, with regard to digital migration, allow me to reflect on the recent speech delivered by our hon Minister, Mr Siyabonga Cwele, of the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services, at the African Telecommunications Union Plenipotentiary Conference in Harare. Amongst other important issues, he confirmed that our ICT policy review process is under way, and we hope to finalise the process in the current financial year.
We also agree with the International Telecommunication Union focus on the importance of broadband to accelerate the economic and development prospects of our country and region.
The policy review process aims to promote access to ICT services, which will also strengthen collaboration between the ICT sector and other service sectors, such as banking, commerce and agriculture, and other new services. I am just rushing because my time is short.
As regards the impact of ICT infrastructure on education, the Government Gazette of 24 January 2014 refers to a panel whose mandate is to review the policy and ensure that South Africans have the following rights. According to the National Integrated ICT Policy Green Paper:
South Africans have a right to access a diverse range of information, opinion and news of relevance to their communities and lives ... South Africans have a right to equitable universal access to communication infrastructure and services ...
South Africans are entitled to communication services that reflect, respect and uphold community standards (as well as our culture) and values in accordance with the constitution; South Africans have a right to privacy and to protection of personal information ...
It is unfortunate that ICT development is being abused and people's privacy is being tampered with. Criminal activities are also being masterminded through this development. However, we must never lose hope, but continue mobilising for the good, and for the best utilisation of ICT.
Agencies such as Ikamva National e-Skills Institute and Manas Design and Detail are playing their part in skills development, the creation of small, medium and micro enterprises, and job creation.
I would now like to refer to hon Shinn before my time is up. There is no confusion in the ANC; hence the continuous support for it nationally and internationally. The percentage that you are making a noise about doesn't change the fact that South Africa is led and governed by the ANC.
Your divide and rule attitude of singing songs of praise to some Ministers at the expense of others is mere repetition. You are repeating a song, but it is a recitation without memory.
Moreover, you have only read and heard about the previously disadvantaged communities; hence your continuous discrimination. You have never been committed to their plight and their development, and you will never ever be committed to them, because you are running after their cheap labour. You still have the mindset that quality lies only under a white skin. What a daydream!
If the DA is the party to associate with, why were you isolated internationally? You must thank this democratic government that you are accepted again under the leadership of the ANC. [Applause.]
Then, to the hon Khubisa, all the programmes of government in all the departments have as an obligation job creation - both casual and permanent. However, we strive for decent, permanent jobs. I must honour you for reminding us to fast-track this, but make time to go through all the departments of the government; you will get tired of reading about job creation, job creation, job creation. It is there.
Hon Madisha, I sympathise with you for not having enough time to try to appeal again to people to consider Cope in the next national elections. Hon Madisha, my former comrade, reconsider whether you will stay in Cope, because the fact of the matter is that Cope is not coping, and neither are you. [Interjections.]
Hon Mackenzie, your short memory, forgetting the names of other parties, is noted. ICT will assist you - you just google and you will remember who governs South Africa.
South Africa is alleged to be five years behind, because of your resistance to transformation. It is true that you are not governing South Africa, and that will never ever change. You had your time to govern South Africa and you messed up. So, you won't get that chance again. [Interjections.]
With regard to qualifications, in my previous life I worked for the Department of Transport in Gauteng. We had directors ... [Interjections.] ... whose qualification was Std 8. The "Std 8" was written in Afrikaans - "st 8". They were directors. Others would resign, only to come back as consultants for the same departments. [Interjections.] You are the ones who damaged your reputation internationally and not in South Africa. [Interjections.]
Hon members, let's allow the speaker to speak.
It is not the ANC that tarnished your image internationally. You were isolated because of the manner in which you were governing. You were a racist regime and you were discriminating, and you are still doing that.
On the other hand, Chairperson, let me just reiterate the position of this ANC-led government. The 53rd National Conference of the ANC identified the ongoing problems facing South African society.
Hon Tsotetsi, your time has expired.
Chairperson, can I have one more minute? [Interjections.] I am not your maid! Be careful how you talk to me. [Time expired.] [Applause.]
Hon Chairperson, I would like to begin by thanking all the members who participated in this debate for their support and valuable inputs.
I will make sure that Comrade Madisha and I have tea together so that I can give him information and clarify some of the things that seem to be troubling him. I am sure that after my explanation he will be able to understand where we are going.
Hon Kubayi, the chairperson of the committee, stressed the importance of the massification of e-skills. I think this is going to be a very important programme for all our citizens. It does not refer only to high skills. It is only when people are able to utilise ICT facilities that we can increase the demand for them. It is for this aspect that, with our meagre budget, we will continue to try to get more resources, and at the same time collaborate with other educational institutions to massify e-skills.
Currently, we have a programme which includes four universities in this country. I think we will learn a lot from it, particularly because it is a distance e-learning programme, where people can acquire these skills without going to the institutions themselves.
It also opens opportunities for our youth to be involved in these e-sectors if they acquire the skills for their own development, as well as all other marginalised sectors of our society, including women and small enterprises, particularly rural enterprises. In other countries like India we have seen how their rural farming communities have just been transformed by the use of information and communications technologies.
In South Africa we have a huge informal sector, and these people are trading on a daily basis. Ikamva National e-skills Institute is involved in this sector to develop informal ICT applications, because applications can only work if they are developed to solve local problems. This is so that we can assist this sector to grow and be part of the formal sector of the economy.
With regard to the broadband roll-out in Cape Town, of course we welcome the roll-outs of the broadband plan which are being done by all the provinces. What is key here is that I think you should have been honest, like your Premier Zille, who thanked the State Information Technology Agency for actually running this programme and getting it operational. [Interjections.] We welcome the programme, but if we check it in terms of scale, it is really nothing compared to what the Gauteng government is doing. [Interjections.]
There is nothing there.
Yes, they do have the plans and they are implementing them for the programme. [Interjections.]
But what is critical is what some members have been saying, that in the rolling out of all these plans, by the cities and the provincial government, we must make sure that the plans correspond with the South Africa Connect broadband policy, which has been agreed to.
A lot of members talked about the issue of digital migration. There seemed to be general agreement, and I fully agree with hon Shinn here, that we should not allow broadcasters to stall this process. Most of the consultations that have been taking place have been involved in trying to get consensus among the broadcasters. I think the draft amendments which were put were trying to accommodate all the broadcasters. Those who want to use the set-top box control must use it, and those who don't want to use it, mustn't. But the set-top box control has important functions. We don't want dumping of these cheap foreign products on the South African market.
We particularly want to increase ICT electronics manufacturing in South Africa. This is very important because, if you check statistics, while there has been growth in job numbers in the sector, when it comes to electronics the job numbers have been decreasing. This brings me to the point, hon Ndlozi, that we are saying that we cannot afford to continue importing these things on the present scale when there is an opportunity to manufacture them locally, and ultimately assist with transforming this sector and bringing new entrants and black industrialists into the sector.
With regard to the reorganisation of the state, I tried to explain this in my input. There is no confusion in the ANC, although there may be confusion elsewhere. Let me explain this again. The purpose of reconfiguring the state is to ensure a focused approach by this new department so that we can achieve the objectives we have set out to achieve in what we have all agreed on, the targets of the National Development Plan. It is not about reversing the global processes of convergence or causing confusion to the regulator - the regulator will always be there.
Reporting to whom?
Reporting to whom? That is the question.
On that question, it will report to the ANC government ... [Interjections.] ... because we have one ANC government. [Interjections.]
Who will direct digital migration? It will be the ANC government, because we act collectively as the ANC government. [Interjections.] We are not a federal party; we are one national government, which acts collectively. [Interjections.]
Lastly, before they make me deaf, I think hon Mabe's dream of free voice calls is not too far-fetched. In the not so distant future, we really believe that once we have increased this infrastructure roll-out, we will have many entrants competing, and we will do what other countries are doing, where voice calls are free and people are competing on data, because the demand will be for data.
Thank you very much for supporting the Budget Vote. [Applause.]