ANC blocks Starlink in South Africa

The Democratic Alliance says it is clear South Africans will never receive free Internet or data unless an ANC cadre or tenderpreneur provides it.

This is according to Democratic Alliance (DA) MP Dianne Kohler Barnard, who was responding to a written response to Parliamentary questions from the Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies, Mondli Gungubele.

Gungubele responded to questions about the blocking of SpaceX’s Starlink broadband service in South Africa.

“For Starlink to operate in South Africa, they require… Individual IECS/IECNS applicants or licensees to have a minimum 30% equity ownership held by persons from historically disadvantaged groups,” Kohler Barnard quoted Gungubele as saying.

Elon Musk’s SpaceX started rolling out its Starlink satellite Internet service globally when it opened its beta testing to the public in November 2020.

However, despite multiple Starlink satellites covering the country at any point during the day, the company has not launched in South Africa. It said availability would be subject to regulatory approvals.

The hold-up is likely due to the regulations that Gungubele highlighted in his response, which Kohler Barnard describes as “laughable”.

“It is simply laughable that an international multibillion-dollar company must hand over at least 30% of its equity to the ANC government to operate within South Africa,” she wrote.

Dianne Kohler Barnard, Democratic Alliance Shadow Minister of Communications

“If Starlink were available in South Africa, children in even the most rural of areas would have access to information and learning materials, and others would be able to educate themselves beyond the constraints of formal universities or schools which millions simply cannot afford.”

She added that, instead, the ANC would prefer to “keep the people in the digital dark, uneducated, and unable to create prosperous opportunities for themselves or lift themselves out of extreme poverty”.

More than 20 countries on the continent have either rolled out or are scheduled to receive the satellite Internet service in the near future.

These include neighbouring Eswatini, Nigeria, Mozambique, Angola, Gabon, Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda, and Tanzania.

South Africa could be one of the only African countries not to receive Starlink due to these regulatory hurdles, the DA said.

Kohler Barnard says she plans to “immediately” propose that Gungubele amend the regulations and contact Elon Musk and SpaceX to pressure the ANC into granting regulatory approval.

“I will immediately be writing to the Minister to amend these regulations to remove the archaic, irrational and ridiculous hurdles to progress,” she writes.

“Additionally, the DA will ask both Elon Musk’s office and SpaceX to make an application to the ANC government to provide these services within South Africa and pressure the ANC into allowing our people to join the rest of the world online and not become the digital pariah of not only our own continent but the rest of the world.”

Now read: Starlink tested in the Kalahari — 167Mbps in the middle of the desert

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ANC blocks Starlink in South Africa