WikiLeaks last week released over 100,000 US embassy cables from around the world, which included thousands of cables from Southern Africa.
According to one of the published cables, which WikiLeaks says was created on 23 October 2009 in Pretoria, Ambassador Donald Gips hosted a luncheon discussion with leading executives of U.S. ICT companies in South Africa on 25 September.
The cable, which is described as ‘sensitive but unclassified’, says that “Executives from AT&T, Cisco, IBM, Intel, Microsoft, and Qualcomm participated in the discussion on challenges in broadband and skills capacity development at a working lunch with Ambassador Gips at his residence on September 25.”
According to the WikiLeaks document the “executives called for improvements in South African Government (SAG) decision-making processes and for increased public-private collaboration.”
Leadership shortfalls at DoC
“Leadership shortfalls at the South African Department of Communications (DoC) have hurt the sector because other ministries have jumped in, confused the issues, and created more bureaucracy.”
The cable explains that the “executives agreed that former Minster of the Department of Communications (DoC) Ivy Matsepe-Caseburri had been the wrong person for the position and had been kept in it too long.”
“She lacked the technical expertise to implement changes necessary to reduce Telkom’s monopoly on the sector. There was an absence of strategic planning at the DoC to deal with capacity constraints in the sector.”
Skepticisms about the ability of the new leadership at the DoC
The document further states that the “executives expressed scepticisms about the ability of the new leadership at the DoC to address these challenges, but noted that planned government and private sector initiatives could lead to improvements if collaboration is effective”.
“In the view of lunch participants, the appointment of new Minister of Communications Siphiwe Nyanda was a lost opportunity to improve leadership in the sector.”
“They argued that the appointment was purely political in nature, since Nyanda has no ICT expertise, because the Zuma administration was bound by the African National Congress (ANC) to appoint Nyanda to a Ministry, and the DoC was the only portfolio in which he did not have any business ties or other conflicts of interest.”
AT&T, Cisco, IBM, Intel, Microsoft, and Qualcomm were asked for comment, but the companies did not respond by the time of publication.