Mokonyane's poor performance doesn't bode well for DOC

Read time 3min 50sec
Communications minister Nomvula Mokonyane. (Photo source: GCIS)
Communications minister Nomvula Mokonyane. (Photo source: GCIS)

The Department of Communications (DOC) needs decisive leadership, and the appointment of minister Nomvula Mokonyane to steer the ship "is simply not it".

So says Democratic Alliance (DA) communications shadow minister, Phumzile Van Damme.

In his first Cabinet reshuffle, president Cyril Ramaphosa this week moved Mokonyane from "financially mismanaged" water and sanitation to the communications portfolio. Pinky Kekana joins the DOC as deputy minister.

Mokonyane's retention and subsequent move to another government department was unexpected, as she is regarded as the reason the water department has been brought to its knees and is unable to manage SA's drought crisis.

Van Damme believes with Mokonyane at the helm, the collapse of the communications ministry is certain. "Mokonyane [is] not suited to be minister of communications, or any other Cabinet position, as a matter of fact."

Rocking the boat

According to the DA MP, Parliament has worked hard to steer the DOC and its entities, especially the SABC, to calm waters. Those actions cannot be rocked by a minister who has demonstrated failure at managing a government department, she states.

Van Damme points out that some of the ministry's entities, including the Independent Communications Authority of SA (ICASA) and the Media Development and Diversity Agency, are all in deep crisis.

Her sentiments have been echoed by other political party members, as well as chairperson of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa), Themba Godi.

Godi took to his Twitter page and said: "It is my view that with the shambles at Water & Sanitation, minister Nomvula Mokonyane doesn't deserve to serve in the Cabinet."

The DA commends and is in full agreement with Scopa's decision to take a firm stand against her appointment, says Van Damme.

"We challenge and encourage the Portfolio Committee on Communications to also voice their objection to her appointment. The committee can count on the DA's support in taking a stand against Mokonyane."

Missed opportunities

ICT policy and regulatory expert Charley Lewis says the main concern is that in reshuffling Cabinet, Ramaphosa missed a clear opportunity and pressing need for the reintegration of the DOC and the telecommunications and postal services department.

The "new" DOC, as it is sometimes referred to, was established as a result of former president Jacob Zuma's decision to split SA's telecoms ministry in 2014.

At the time, Zuma said the ministry would be responsible for overarching communication policy and strategy, information dissemination and publicity, as well as the branding of the country abroad.

There was never a case beyond political expediency and the need for control of the SABC as a Zupta mouthpiece for the sundering of the former DOC in the first place, Lewis states.

"Reintegrating the two departments is all the more urgent, given the slew of legislation on the parliamentary agenda for 2018."

He explains: "We already have an ECA Amendment Bill. We await Bills, we are told, for the ill-advised dismemberment of ICASA back into SATRA and the IBA, for the creation of the Digital Development Fund and the dissolution of USAASA and ZADNA.

"It's a complex set of legislation, with profound implications for the regulation and management of the entire sector, one that needs to be considered as a single package, one that needs to bring communications back in from the wilderness where it has been languishing. Most importantly, it's a package that needs to be considered in the light of the sector as a converged ICT ecosystem."

Lewis concludes that Mokonyane's deployment to the communications ministry can only be viewed as a short-term stop-gap measure.

"It is a pity that she has a limited track record in the sector. One therefore hopes she will exert her considerable talents and force of personality in the interests of bringing the two departments back to where they belong, under a single converged umbrella, acting in the interests of the broad sector as a whole."

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