Managed liberalisation was deeply flawed

World Wide Worx MD Arthur Goldstuck recently unveiled its Cisco Internet Access in South Africa 2008 report, showing a significant slowdown in Internet users in South Africa during the 2001 to 2006 period when Telkom’s monopoly was at its strongest and most damaging.

This, according to Goldstuck, was a clear indication that Government’s "managed liberalisation was a deeply flawed and damaging policy, becoming a euphemism for maintaining the status quo".

Goldstuck argues, however, that communications minister Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri should not be blamed as she was merely pursuing the officially cabinet-backed policy directives.

A recent column by Vodacom’s ex-CEO Alan Knott-Craig went one step further, saying that “the telecommunications industry has been fortunate to benefit from the light but firm touch of Communications Minister Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri and her team".

Knott-Craig also said that “in SA, a predictable and stable legislative environment has made the South African industry very attractive to foreign investors. Proof of this is that one month after the biggest financial crisis in decades, Vodacom’s UK shareholder, Vodafone, said that it would invest R22,5bn in SA to increase its share in Vodacom by 15%.”

Many consumers, however, argued that Vodacom was one of the biggest benefactors of the government’s managed liberalisation policies, making it easy for Knott-Craig to warm up to the communications minister.

Consumers and industry experts have also expressed their unhappiness with the minister in the past, some calling for her resignation. This was again highlighted with her failed attempts to stop the self-provisioning of VANS – and the conversion of VANS licences to Individual-ECNS licences – which promise to liberalise the local telecoms market.

Goldstuck concluded that the new cabinet had the opportunity and the imperative to make telecoms inclusive, but that it would depend heavily on whether a competent individual would take over from Matsepe-Casaburri or whether it would be a political appointment.

Do you think Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri is to blame?  – Give your views

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Managed liberalisation was deeply flawed