Back to one communications ministry

December 3rd, 2018, Published in Articles: EngineerIT

Minister of Telecommunications and Postal Services and Communications, Stella Nbabeni-Abrahams

The announcement by President Cyril Ramaphosa that the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services (DTPS) and the Department of Communications (DoC) will be merged into one ministry did not come as a surprise. It has been on the cards since the State of the Nation address earlier in 2018. The questions remain: when will the new minister be appointed and who will it be?

Stella Tembisa Ndabeni-Abrahams was the obvious choice as she has been the Deputy Minister of Telecommunications and Postal Services since 31 March 2017. She also served over five years as deputy minister of communications.

When former president Jacob Zuma separated communications into two departments, there was a major outcry from industry. The outfall was disastrous for South Africa and stopped the clock for any major developments in the sector. The much discussed allocation of additional spectrum came to a halt and various other schemes driven by Minister Cwele became the order of the day. The merger was problematic from the start with the two ministers continuously at loggerheads. To bring some order into the situation, an agreement of understanding had to be brokered between Faith Muthambi and Dr Cwele.

We should take our hats off to the communication industry in South Africa who have engineered many innovative schemes to make mobile broadband available as best as possible, albeit at a high cost to users.

It took the president to decree that spectrum will be made available when he instructed DTPS to get on with it. There is now much optimism that Minister Ndabeni-Abrahams will expedite the allocation of mobile spectrum and get digital migration off the ground with speed.

Making the announcement, the president hesitated to give details of how the departments will merge. From his address it appears that DPTS and DOC will for now remain two departments but unified under one minister. Minister Ndabeni-Abrahams will be in for a tough time to make sure that both digital migration and release of spectrum will happen with speed. The two are, for now, still managed by two different departments. She will need a lot of clout!