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.]