SA government wants “stronger hand” in Telkom

The South African government is looking to strengthen its hand in Telkom, Deputy Minister of Telecommunications and Postal Services Hlengiwe Mkhize recently told MyBroadband.

Mkhize was answering questions about the rumours that the government was looking to sell its stakes in Telkom and Vodacom to bail out Eskom.

Though the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services (DTPS) is the custodian of the government’s shares in Telkom, Mkhize said any discussion about selling the stake would start with National Treasury.

Should Treasury decide to offload some of the shares in Telkom, it will then approach the DTPS.

Mkhize added, though, that the government wants to guard against causing privatisation as an unintended consequence.

“We don’t want to bring about privatisation through the back door,” she said.

Prof Hlengiwe Mkhize, Deputy Minister of Telecommuincations and Postal Services
Prof Hlengiwe Mkhize, Deputy Minister of Telecommuincations and Postal Services

In fact, the government wants to strengthen its oversight role over state-owned companies such as Telkom.

Mkhize said some of the problems being experienced in South Africa’s information and communications technology (ICT) sector is due to a lack of oversight.

“Our oversight unit needs to be strong to pick up on warning signs, rather than just reacting when things go wrong.”

To that end, she said they must strengthen the boards of state-owned enterprises.

“We rely on board members to make the right decisions and to employ the right people,” said Mkhize.

The recent Budget Vote on Telecommunications included mention of an ICT enterprise development and SOE oversight programme.

Its objective, according to the Vote, is to ensure optimally-functioning ICT state-owned companies.

Under this programme, DTPS has undertaken to:

  • Review the mandates and funding models for state-owned companies by March 2016.
  • Develop and implement oversight models for state-owned companies by March 2016.
  • Monitoring state-owned companies’ compliance with statutory requirements on an ongoing basis.

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SA government wants “stronger hand” in Telkom