Broadband roll-out programmes won’t be affected by several key staff having exited the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services, says a spokesperson.
Opposition political party the Democratic Alliance (DA) revealed on Thursday that the government ministry has lost its third deputy director general (DDG) in five months, sparking fears of instability.
Siya Qoza, spokesperson for the ministry, confirmed with Fin24 that DDG Sam Vilakazi has resigned from the department to join an unnamed parastatal company.
The exit of Vilakazi follows the department having fired Themba Phiri and Gift Buthelezi. This means that only two of six department DDGs are left in the ministry: DDG for state owned companies oversight Sibongile Makopi and DDG for infrastructure support Tinyaiko Ngobeni.
Meanwhile, the DA says the ministry’s chief director of e-applications, Kedibione Maluleka, was also fired earlier this year.
“These major upheavals and the loss of telecommunications knowledge are having a detrimental impact on the department’s critical programmes needed for the key South Africa Connect programme to roll out broadband infrastructure throughout the country, as well as to lower the cost to communicate and policy development of issues such as local loop unbundling and open network access,” said Marian Shinn, DA shadow minister of telecommunications and postal services, in a statement.
The SA Connect programme plans to offer 90% of South Africans a minimum speed of 5Mbps by 2020.
However, Vilakazi, Phiri and Buthelezi were all also reportedly facing internal disciplinary hearings regarding a R756m digital migration media tender, which is being investigated by the Special Investigating Unit (SIU).
A previous deal between the ex-department of communications and Media Corner to market digital TV migration soured amid allegations that the company did no work despite being paid.
The ministry’s spokesperson Qoza would not comment on whether Vilakazi left because of the SIU investigation.
Despite these issues, Qoza told Fin24 that the ministry’s broadband programmes are still on track and that the Dr Kenneth Kaunda District municipality has recently budgeted R10m for the roll-out Wi Fi Hotspots across the district as part of government’s first phase plan to install broadband in eight rural district municipalities.
“The department is seized with the task of coordinating the roll-out of broadband infrastructure at national, provincial and local government levels,” Qoza told Fin24.
“Structures to do this have been established in all provinces.
“The roll-out of fibre will take place in local communities so it is heartening when municipalities set budgets aside to roll out broadband. It is only through such partnerships that we’ll be able to meeting our targets of rolling out broadband infrastructure in all parts of SA, especially in the rural municipalities.
“As indicated earlier, deputy director general for administration, Sam Vilakazi has resigned. However, he is not lost to the broader public service as he is taking up an opportunity in one of the government companies,” Qoza told Fin24.