Padayachie under the microscope

Paul Vecchiatto
By Paul Vecchiatto, ITWeb Cape Town correspondent
Johannesburg, 03 Dec 2010

While communications minister Roy Padayachie appears to have hit the ground running, his performance will remain under the microscope, says Democratic Alliance (DA) national spokesperson Lindiwe Mazibuko.

Yesterday, the official opposition party released its Cabinet scorecard report in which Padayachie's predecessor, Siphiwe Nyanda, received the second lowest score of one out of a possible of 10.

Nyanda was fired from his post in last month's Cabinet reshuffle, with Padayachie being appointed by President Jacob Zuma to head the troubled communications ministry and department.

Since Padayachie is still very new in his post, his performance has not been rated, but Mazibuko says he appears to have hit the ground running and appears to be the best performing of the new Cabinet ministers.

“His decision to withdraw the Public Service Broadcasting Bill is good, but his staying in five-star hotels is not good,” she says.

Late last month, Padayachie announced that the draft law to govern the SA Broadcasting Corporation would be scrapped and the process would be started again. Among its more controversial proposals was a 1% tax on all to fund the broadcaster and to scrap TV licences.

“The minister must understand that any new law dealing with the SABC must limit his ability to interfere politically, and that his remit is confined to the financial well-being of the organisation,” Mazibuko says.

While serving as deputy communications minister from 2005 to 2009, Padayachie stayed in the upmarket Pretoria Sheraton Towers hotel, until he was allocated a house by the Department of Public Works. The news prompted DA shadow communications minister Natasha Michael to ask the Public Protector to investigate if public funds were misused.

Finance minister Pravin Gordhan received the highest score of nine out of 10 in the DA Cabinet score card, and Mazibuko says Padayachie will have to work hard to receive a similar mark.

“We do give everyone the benefit of the doubt, and Padayachie has some experience after having been deputy communications minister; however, we will be following developments closely,” she says.

Some of the issues that Padayachie will have to tackle include the reconstruction of the Department of Communications, such as the appointment of competent people in permanent positions, and rebuilding staff morale after it was shaken during the fight between Nyanda and his fired director-general Mamodupi Mohlala.

Mazibuko says issues such as local loop unbundling, interconnection rates, digital TV migration and the bolstering of regulator, ICASA, would also have to be finalised.