Thank you, House Chair. Fellow South Africans, I rise to introduce the committee Report submitted for consideration to this House. The first quarter Report of the Department of Communications and the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services, were considered in October, the month of O R Tambo, the longest serving President of the African National Congress. This giant of our national liberation movement distinguished himself as a truthful man almost to a fault.
Speaking that the Solomon Mahlangu Freedom College, in Tanzania, in 1994, Tambo said and I quote: "Let's tell the truth to ourselves, even if the truth coincides with what the enemy is saying." Our observations and recommendations, indeed, are about loyalty to the truth with the acknowledgement that political grandstanding by opposing views is not enough to confront the practical challenges that our people are faced with.
The committee considered the first term Report and welcomed the reconfiguration of Cabinet and the ongoing mergers of departments including the communications and telecommunications. The reconfiguration of the departments must include the reconfiguration of all entities reporting to it for efficiency. Having so many boards and executives, it is not sustainable in these hard economic conditions. The committee welcomed the key plans for the department to commit to digitisation of government and driving the necessary transformation in the sector.
It is a historical fact that all South Africans must face that any technological advancement brings the fear of job losses. Therefore, the discussion we must have as a nation is not whether for industrial revolution, IR, will lead to job losses or not, but what are we doing as a nation to respond from a skills revolution point,
hence our support for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, 4IR, Commission established by our President, Cyril Ramaphosa. The committee welcomed the decision by government to issue the spectrum policy directive. The release of the high demand spectrum must help to drive down the costs to communicate and data prices.
The lowering of the cost to communicating will contribute to the industrialisation of the economy and create favourable conditions necessary for small, medium and micro enterprises, SMMEs, and co- operatives to thrive especially those in the new entry. I, therefore, submit this Report for consideration with an understanding and hope that even those that were in the committee will be loyal to the truth and that truth is that they supported without any objection in the committee. I therefore submit, hon Chair. Thank you. [Applause.]
Thank you, Chair. I note that the DA do deserve a position in the committee. House Chair, one of the first things that President Ramaphosa did when taking office during the first term as he joyfully said that the departure of the thief in chief was to merge the Departments of Communications and Telecommunication and Postal Services into one. This was a good and positive move and he didn't have to wait until the sixth term to do it because it was
obvious. It made an absolute sense and we welcomed it at the time and we still do.
In this spirit, we remember the regular attendance at our committee meetings of former Telecommunications Minister, Dr Siyabonga Cyprian Cwele, who seldom felt to miss a meeting even if he had to excuse himself and leave early. I will contrast this with the current Minister, Stella Ndabeni- Abrahams. Her appearance before the committee is once or twice, that's it. We trust she will attend more so that she could hear first hand of issues that her department and portfolio are facing, rather than from the officials whose first priority is to take care of their positions rather than to deliver accurate and reliable information to the Minister and this Parliament.
Part of this accurate and reliable information is to answer to written questions. I was assured that the Mondeor Post Office would be refurbished and upgraded by November and in not in one written question, but two, that was the answer given. My regular correspondent, a resident and Sapo customer, Mr Daseau Jos of Mondeor tells me that to date no one is onsite and nothing is happening. Someone is misleading Parliament and we trust that it is
the officials and not the Minister, but we will not let this matter lie. And that is an intended pun.
I personally visited the Wierda Park Post Office a month ago. Informal traders are occupying and selling goods from the post box section, which is unlocked and vandalised with vagrants sleeping, urinating and defecating in the area. This is where the customers collect their post. A section of the palisade fencing at the back leading to the taxi holding area has been broken, allowing unfettered access to the post box area. In the darkness one can't begin to imagine the terror of a defenceless person dragged into an area like this. It is only a matter of time until something like this happens again. Let us not forget the tragic murder of the young woman at the Clareinch Post Office and out of respect for her family, I won't use her name here.
The committee was assured that the SA Post Office, Sapo, was taking firm steps to address the issue of customer and staff security and securing the facilities so that this would not happen again. However, the evidence on the ground suggests that this is not so and this is no way to build trust between the SA Post Office and its
public or between the department, the Minister and us Members of Parliament, MPs.
The first quarter report shows that Sapo has only met six of its 12 targets with an acting chief executive officer, CEO, and an acting chief financial officer, CFO. This fears to be absurd and, unfortunately, the rather exceptional Mark Barnes has left and he really started to turn things around. The proposed removal from the Postbank from the post office group will disembowel the entity and leave it broken and useless. The rationale behind this move remain shrouded in secrecy as is the appointment of a brand new board and a proposed new business model for Sapo. What is worse is that we are now told that Sapo will not be profitable as Mr Barnes had planned by 2020.
Let me say this clearly, we believe that was Sapo was on the right track and supported government's efforts to stabilise and turn this entity around. Now, there is another game going on here and we will not be part of this. In summary, the DA will not support any further bailouts on Sapo, not one cent. The committee recommends that the separation of Sapo and the Postbank does not financially compromise the Sapo. Please follow these recommendations. If there is a high spot in this first quarter report it is the department's activities
in the international arena where the International Telecommunications Union, ITU, World Radio Conference 2019 and the Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, Brics, Ministerial meeting in South Africa proudly punches well in and above its weight. The department and its officials are to be congratulated for flying our flag so proudly here.
The welcome merge of the two departments lead to the quick policy directive from the Minister to Independent Communications Authority of South Africa, Icasa, to release the spectrum - a spectrum that should have been released almost 15 years ago. It was therefore very welcome when Icasa published its information memorandum on the spectrum release, setting out possible spectrum blocks for auction. Among these blocks are 700 and 800 megahertz bands, currently occupied by the broadcaster for analogue transmissions that were supposed to end in 2015. Yet Icasa's latest information memorandum on spectrum offer spectrum to network operators who will open their networks to mobile network operators that have more than 51% black shareholding - that is that business model, well and good, but it doesn't say how much they will pay for this access. Then there is also a set-aside of a very valuable spectrum for the new Huawei, a company intended to be used as a vehicle for the black economic empowerment and transformation of the sector - well and good.
The new mobile network operators that are accessing the existing networks will be competing with the new Huawei also owned as the transformation ... so, two transformation vehicles will be competing against each other. That is a smash. Clearly, this hasn't been thought through properly and we trust the industry and stakeholders will use the time until the end of January to help Icasa craft a comprehensive, fair and effective spectrum auction process. The cost of innumerable delays in releasing spectrum is yet to be quantified, but you are moving in the right direction and for that both Icasa and the department need to be acknowledged. That said, we don't believe this department overall is efficient, effective or even capable driving the vehicle fast enough and to meet the objectives of the Fourth Industrial Revolution that the ruling party is so fond of talking about. The DA does not support this Report. Thank you, Chair. [Applause.]
Hon Chairperson, the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services is better placed to lead the revolutionalising of our society. Better managed, the Postal Bank can be a liberatory institution providing credit for the poor and marginalised. The department has failed to reconceptualise the role that it could play in placing not just information to the most
marginalised of society, but also providing them with economic catalysts.
The Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services is indecisive on the SABC and seems to be a communications desk of Treasury. It has failed to protect the broadcaster from Treasury's delay to capitalise it, resulting in poor workers not being paid at the State-Owned Enterprises, SOEs, if they do get paid they get paid late. The department is failing to recognise an industry consensus that digital migration is the SABC's lifeline. It is the only way the SOE can regain its market dominance against the corrupt Multichoice which survives through bribes.
Instead of implementing migration, the department is hiding behind plans and more plans whilst R182 million is wasted in storing unused Set-Top Boxes. On Independent Communications Authority of South Africa, Icasa, issue, since the data must fall public enquiry three years ago, the cost of data has remained unaffordable for ordinary South Africans, Icasa is failing whip service into line. Instead of the department and Icasa pressurising service providers to lower costs and free SMSs, they have allowed them to hide behind the lucrative spectrum which stands to benefit many individuals.
We endorse the roll out of the spectrum but it cannot be used as a scapegoat by greedy mobile service providers who are simply refusing to reduce the data cost. Icasa has the mandate to enforce the licence requirement for service providers to provide free internet to 5000 schools in the country. Instead of enforcing this requirement, Icasa connived with the service providers to reduce the number from 5000 to 1500 schools per service provider.
The department has allowed Treasury to influence the separation and selling off of assets. The selling off of assets in the SABC is unsustainable and will further disadvantage the organisation. The separation of South African Post Office and Post Bank is ill- advised. The process of amalgamating the two departments and streamlining of systems is low and tends to hold back progress. Hon Chair, we therefore request that you note the objection of the EFF.
Hon Chair, we further wish to state that both Afrikaans and English speaking people here in the country, were oppressors during apartheid and we are unapologetic about it. Thank you [Applause.]
Point of order hon Chair. I am again approaching you based on the remarks that were since made. I am approaching you in terms of the National Assembly Rules 64, National Assembly Rule
82 and National Assembly Rule 85. Rule 84, clearly expresses itself as to how members should conduct themselves in this House, displaying accordance and decorum to the House. Rule 82 addresses the point of being respectful and to conduct themselves in a respectful manner.
Order! I am listening hon members; take your seat hon Maotwe.
Hon Member: Ufuna ukuthini wena... what do you want to say?
Rule 85 deals with the issue of verbal abuse. Therefore, I would put it to you hon Chair to consider the remark that has been made, that English and Afrikaans speaking citizens of this country are indeed oppressors. [Interjections] I want you to rule on this as soon as possible. Thank you, hon Chair.
Hon Hunsinger, I have heard something about in the past, so I am not going to immediately rule until I get proper advice. What the hon member said talked about the past, during the time of apartheid. I will get advice. Thank you very much [Interjections.] Hon Khawula, what is the problem? No, no, we do not do that ma, hah.
Hon Chair, universe access for all citizens in South Africa is non-negotiable as we enter an age that will be dominated by information technology, access and sharing. In the execution of its mandate in the first quarter, the department achieved 50% of its planned quarterly targets. Hon Chair, our country cannot afford to achieve 50%, not when the rest of the world is making far greater advances than we are in respect of communications. This places our country at a distinct disadvantage, socially and economically.
In respect of entities that report to the department, one needs to look no further than the SABC for an example, of failed management which finds itself currently indebted to service providers for billions of rand and has applied to Treasury for a life saving bailout out of R3,2 billion. Hon Chair, it requires a complete overall as it clearly cannot rectify its substantial mismanagement. In many instances, Icasa does not have skill sets required and its inability to find experts to support the execution of some of its critical objects in engineering and technology, led to its failure to achieve a percentage of the target it had set for itself.
The film and publication still has instances of irregular expenditure and Brand South Africa still has vacant posts, though we acknowledge the progress made on the spectrum. Telecommunications
achieved 90% of its planned target for quarter one, yet Information and Communications Technology, ICT, infrastructure support failed in development of the monetary report on the provision of broadband services to 570 connected sites owing budget constraints and a failed SETA procurement process. This is unacceptable.
The SA Post Office only achieved 50% of its target, which is poor. We hope that with the new leadership they will be able to turnaround the poor targets of the SA Post Office and jobs for loyal cadres does not always translate into well managed entities, hon Chair. South African Post Office, Sapo, and SABC should take note of other entities like National Electronic Media Institute of South Africa, Nemisa, Universal Service and Access Agency of South Africa, Usasa, and Sentech that are currently achieving 100% of targets set and seek to follow their examples. The IFP supports the report. I thank you.
Hon House Chairperson, I rise on behalf of the ANC to welcome the committee report but I want to start my input with a bit of history. At the beginning of the sixth term of Parliament we have considered the first quarter report as the Portfolio Committee on Communication. We were giving the baptismal of fire. The chief priestess in that baptismal was none other than DA shadow Minister,
the hon Van Damme. Of course, those were the great times for the DA or at least it appeared like that to an outsider.
A couple of weeks later Ms Van Damme was concerned about the right wing hawks of the DA accusing her of assaulting a racist DA supporter at an V&A Waterfront. It is no secret that the conservative wing of the DA has now consolidated and more than ever, we will represent the interest of the established businesses in the ICT industry and other sectors.
Hon House Chairperson, on a point of order: I rise in terms of relevance. The hon member is talking about hon Van Damme and the business of the DA. [Interjections.] Can't she focus on the report in front of her? She does not have one, House Chair. I have one that she can use.
Hon Mackenzie that is not a point of order.
The ANC-led government is resolute that we will work to resolve the challenges in order to strengthen the public sector that serve the majority of South Africa. The SABC is one such entity where the board and management have implemented a plan that have
saved almost R1 billion. Indeed most of us tend to focus on the special appropriation of funds to support the SABC pay its debt and remain operational. However, the real focus must be on the quality of services and inclusion of all our people.
In this regard, the ANC is following closely the process of digital migration that has been going on for a number of years with limited success. The roll-out of set top boxes to millions of households must be concluded in a cost effective manner. In the sixth term administration, government must achieve a long standing policy position particularly repositioning and modernisation of South African post offices. The committee will fast track the legislation dealing with the licensing of post bank as a state bank.
As the Chair of our committee has said the ANC supports the recommendations that the Minister should identify areas of duplication of functions and review the configuration of entities in order to achieve greater efficiency and cost containment. In these tough economic times, the phenomenon of state-owned enterprises and government entities, each one with its own board of directors and CEOs, COOs and CFOs is not sustainable. The ANC therefore calls for prudent expenditure and strengthening of the public sector.
... ngizothanda ukukhumbuza owethu-ke umhlonishwa u-Mackenzie ukuthi makakhumbule ukuthi ekomidini wuye-ke oye waphakamisa ukwamukelwa kwalo mbiko kwase mina usotswebhu ngakuxhasa lokho. Ngakhoke bengithi ngithanda ukumkhumbuza-ke ukuthi iqiniso malibe setafuleni. Ngiyabonga. [Ihlombe.]
Hon members, we have rules in this House which we must adhere to. One of those rules is the respect for each other. I am referring to the point of order again that was raised by hon Hunsinger. To say the hon member on the podium talked about the languages in the past in the time of apartheid. It differs from the first Ruling that I made, although I must caution that we respect each other and respect all the languages of South Africa. I am not going to ask you to withdraw but just cautioning that we must respect our languages. They are our languages and we must continue in that way. Thank you, hon members.
The mini-plenary session rose at 15:52. -----------------------