THE BIG DEBATE BURSTS BACK - WITH REDI TLHABI

Sunday, May 25, 2014

SHOCKER. Faith Muthambi becomes South Africa's new minister of communications; is the 6th communication minister in 5 years.


In a shocker for South Africa's struggling media and communications industry battling with massive and weighty issues simply not being addressed by government, president Jacob Zuma has announced Faith Muthambi as the new minister of communications, as the department of communications is being split of into a new ministry of telecommunications and postal services.

Yunus Carrim who just started making headway heading up the communications ministry is now out - replaced by Faith Muthambi who has no broadcasting experience.

Faith Muthambi did sit as a member of parliament's portfolio committee on communications, but has no formal communications, media, broadcasting or broadcasting management experience or qualifications.

She has a controversial past (and lists "reading" as one of her personal interest): Faith Muthambi is the former controversial municipal manager at the Makhado municipality.

There she was suspended for certain allegations, stayed at home with full pay, got a performance bonus of more than R80 000, left under a cloud after she resigned, and was redeployed by her political party to parliament in May 2009.

Faith Muthambi becomes the 6th minister of communications in South Africa in five years - dealing yet another setback to a directionless communications and telecommunications industry which needs clear and concise directives, decisions and leadership, but hasn't gotten any.

Faith Muthambi replaces Yunus Carrim, who in succession replaced Dina Pule, Roy Padayachie, Siphiwe Nyanda, Manto Tshabalala-Msimang and Ivy-Matsepe Casaburri since 2009.

Jacob Zuma's ANC-led government decided to spin off telecommunications and the South African Post Office from the communications portfolio.

The department of communications will now concern itself with the SABC, the broadcasting regulator Icasa and pressing issues like digital terrestrial television (DTT) migration.

Faith Muthambi lands herself in a massive issue: that of conditional access (CA) or set-top box (STB) control and whether it should or should not be included in the STB's for DTT in South Africa.

The other massive issue Faith Muthambi will struggle to deal with is the beleaguered South African public broadcaster.

The SABC has been plagued by mismanagement, corruption, in-fighting and political bias, and the corporation is currently without a CEO and an acting chief operating officer who is matricless, lied about it, and who has been implicated in abuse of power, mismanagement, corruption and who - according to the Public Protector's report - "should never have been appointed at the SABC".