The South African government was embarrassed at the high cost of telephony in the country, South African Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka told delegates at the 60th World Newspaper Congress in Cape Town.
Addressing a lunch hosted by the International Marketing Council of South Africa, Mlambo-Ngcuka told hundreds of newspaper editors from around the world that South Africa had achieved much since the advent of democracy in 1994, but had also struggled with a range of problems.
These included the slow progress in extending the information and communication technology infrastructure and the high cost of telephony. "We are terribly embarrassed we haven’t been able to bring down the cost of telephony as fast we’d hoped," she told delegates.
"We continue to face challenges, old challenges, new challenges and some challenges we have created ourselves," Mlambo-Ngcuka said. "We have achieved much since the dawn of political freedom more than a decade ago, but we do have a long way to go".
Among the challenges facing South Africa were tackling crime and enhancing safety, reducing the number of unemployed young people and the perplexing problem of how to share the benefits of the country’s extended period of economic growth.
Mlambo-Ngcuka said the government expected to spend R400-billion on infrastructure in the lead-up to the 2010 soccer world cup, much of this on the transportation network.
"Just in case we don’t win the cup, we will have public transportation," she jested.
Mlambo-Ngcuka confessed to the editors that South Africa had been "bad at communicating our successes".
She added: "If you have a heart, please help".
Meanwhile, International Marketing Council of South Africa CEO Yvonne Johnston agreed "we don’t always get the understanding we would desire in the world’s press." She told the editors: "We know that now you have visited our extraordinary country, you will look at us in a new light and we invite you to be partners bringing understanding and insight to solving the extraordinary challenges that lie ahead".