what now minister?

As South Africa's information, communications and technology industry swallows the bitter pill of not getting Pallo Jordan or Roy Padayachee - its preferred candidate for Minister of Communication - the new minister Siphiwe Nyanda is taking his time settling into office.

Since his appointment last month Nyanda has said little about his plans for the information and communications technology industry, leaving industry bosses to speculate about what the future holds.

The former chief of the SA National Defence Force has also said nothing about the failed bid by Cosatu to block the R22billlion sale of Telkom's 15percent stake in Vodacom to British communications giant Vodafone.

Top of the heap in Nyanda's in-tray is resolving the R800million financial crisis at the SA Broadcasting Corporation and the ongoing political wrangling at the public broadcaster's Auckland Park towers head office.

The industry is also looking for clues on how different Nyanda will be from his predecessor, Ivy Motsepe-Casaburri, who single-handedly blocked transformation and liberalisation of the industry to protect the assets of state-owned telecommunications giant Telkom.

Also in his in-tray is the interpretation of the meaning of the recent victory by Allied Technologies against the communication ministry and the monopoly of Telkom.

The August 2008 court order allows companies such as Altech, Vox Telecom, Dimension Data's Internet Solutions and 200 others to build their networks and provide Internet services without using Telkom.


It also forced Icasa to amend the licences of the so-called value-added network service providers to reflect their new-found muscle, which is expected to encourage competition in the industry and reduce costs in the long term.

The people of South Africa are also waiting for the ministry's interpretation of Seacom's 15000km-long first-ever submarine telecommunications cable, which Seacom chief executive Brian Herlihy says is weeks away from bursting into life.

The cable links South Africa via a landing station at Mtunzini on the KwaZulu-Natal North Coast, to international cable systems in India and Europe.

It is expected to drop the cost of doing business in the country.

Industry players have adopted a wait-and-see attitude to Nyanda's appointment but Mohammad Patel, chief executive of operator O-Tel, has been quoted as saying the "new minister's lack of relevant experience makes it imperative that he surround himself with the correct people".

"The absurdity of posting people to ministries they know nothing about should be obvious and yet it continues to be common practice.

"We hope the minister will actively engage the industry and even consider a smart move such as appointing an advisory council of telecoms experts."


So far Nyanda has met the board of the SABC and his spokesman, Tiyani Rikhotso, said: "The board appraised the minister on the recent challenges facing the SABC, including the broadcaster's financial affairs, the current salary negotiations with unions, reported differences between board members and the filling of key vacant positions, among them that of group chief executive, chief operations officer and group executive: news and current Affairs.

"The minister raised his concerns about the negative public perception of the board and executive management's ability to give direction to the broadcaster's operations."


The minister later said government was not pleased with the ongoing upheavals at the SABC.

"As a shareholder we are equally not comfortable with the fact that the SABC continues to operate without key senior executives. We urged them to finalise the process of appointing a group chief executive, chief operations officer and the head of the corporation's news and current affairs division," said Nyanda.