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Communications ministry merger still in the works

Simnikiwe Mzekandaba
By Simnikiwe Mzekandaba, IT in government editor
Johannesburg, 06 Jun 2019
Minister in the communications ministry, Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams.
Minister in the communications ministry, Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams.

Despite being first on the list of government’s consolidation plan, the communications and telecommunications departments are still in the process of establishing a unified ministry that will drive SA’s ICT agenda.

In 2014, the Department of Communications (DOC) was separated by former president Jacob Zuma into the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services and a "new" DOC.

Last November, president Cyril Ramaphosa announced the merger of the two ministries, marking the first outcome of the review process of the size and shape of the national executive and government departments. During his Cabinet announcement last month, Ramaphosa revealed further reconfiguration of ministries in his administration.

It is the view of the president that the size and shape of the state is suited to meet the needs of the people and ensure the most efficient allocation of public resources.

Detailing the progress made since Ramaphosa’s merger announcement in 2018, the DOC says it is working on the structure for the consolidated department, noting the merger will be done in line with the process and associated timeframes of the National Macro-Organisation of the State (NMOS).

“The NMOS process, for the entire government, is facilitated and led by the Department of Public Service and Administration,” it states.

As for how much longer the consolidation process will take, it says: “According to the set timeframes, the NMOS process should be concluded by December 2019.”

Job security

Following Ramaphosa's merger announcement, the ministry announced it had established working groups, made up of senior staff members from both departments, to facilitate the merger of the departments.

During this time, the communications department issued a statement via its government communications agency, expressing that department heads, Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams and deputy minister Pinky Kekana, are looking to see the process through without any staff cutbacks.

"The minister and deputy minister have both committed to working closely with organised labour, entities under the portfolio and staff to ensure the transition is seamless and does not result in job losses," the statement read.

On the job security front, the ministry remains resolute, telling ITWeb “it is not anticipated that there will be job cuts”.

According to the department, it will embark on reskilling or upskilling, wherein employees will be required to undertake responsibilities that differ from their existing responsibilities.

Previously, Ndabeni-Abrahams’s department indicated the working groups will embark on a skills matching exercise. “The department is in the process of finalising the skills audit, which will inform the placement of staff based on a skills match in line with the mandate of the reconfigured department.”

Renewed hope

Unlike past Cabinet announcements where the leadership of the DOC was always on the line, this year marked a significant change, with Ramaphosa deciding to keep the leadership of the communications portfolio.

This move was welcomed by industry pundits, who described it as a great sign of continuity and renewed outlook needed by the ICT sector.

Although Ndabeni-Abrahams has retained her communications minister post, her department has a long list of high-priority ICT projects it is in charge of, which up to now have stalled under the leadership of the previous administration.

Aside from ensuring her department becomes a shining example of the government merger programmes, the minister, through her department, must be a 21st century policymaker, kick into gear the country’s ICT agenda, finalise policy directive on spectrum allocation, as well as coordinate government's fourth industrial revolution programme, to name a few issues.

Unless immediate action is seen in regards to some of the department’s key projects, her re-appointment will count for little, pundits have warned.