President Jacob Zuma’s announcement that communications minister Dina Pule had been sacked was greeted with relief by stakeholders tired of the upheaval and lack of action that has characterised her reign.
DA parliamentary leader, Lindiwe Mazibuko, was straightforward in her response. “We are pleased that the minister of communications, Dina Pule, after some initial foot-dragging, has been finally removed from the cabinet. The minister has been found guilty by the Public Protector in her investigation into the ICT Indaba scandal, and is currently under investigation by both Parliament’s Ethics Committee and the South African Police Service,” she said.
Her colleague, DA spokeswoman on communications Marian Shinn went even further, expressing the hope that a criminal investigation into Pule’s actions while minister would not fall by the wayside.
“Dina Pule’s removal from the executive does not vindicate her from the much awaited Public Protector report on her connection with the ICT Indaba in Cape Town in 2012, or the parliamentary ethics and members’ interest committee report. Nor should it in away prevent a full and fair investigation by the SAPS into her allegedly corrupt conduct as reported in the media,” Shinn said. “It is of extreme importance that a clear message is sent out to all those who hold executive office that should they in any way misuse their positions that they will be investigated and held to account in terms of the law.”
Pule was initially deputy minister of communications, having previously served as deputy minister of the Presidency for Performance Monitoring and Evaluation between 2010 and 2011. She became minister after the incumbent, Roy Padayachie, died.
Pule has faced a raft of unseemly allegations of corruption during her term of office. These include claims that she had given her boyfriend Phosane Mnqibisa free reign in her department, allowing him to make appointments to the boards of the SABC, the Post Office and other state-owned enterprises. She was also accused of abusing millions of rands intended for an ITC Indaba in Cape Town last year. Mnqibisa appeared to be the big winner in that conference, allegedly walking away with R6 million for four days work.
She was also involved in a nasty spat with the Sunday Times, whose investigative team exposed a number of dodgy dealings related to her and her boyfriend, Mnqibisa. The board of the SABC completely collapses during her time, and allegations of ministerial interference were exposed by the SOS Coalition, whose PAIA application revealed the letters of resignation by board members and the reasons they threw in the towel.
Congress of the People spokesman JJ Abrie said Pule became the “the epitome of greed and abuse in Zuma’s Cabinet” and said it had been calling for her axing since last year.
Tuwani Gumani, general secretary of the Media Workers Association of SA (MWASA) said in a statement that the frequent changing of the guard in the communications ministry was a cause for concern. “Except for the forced replacement of late Honourable Roy Padayachie, the other personnel changes have not served to enhance the performance of the ministry and its portfolio organizations including the SABC, ICASA, TELKOM, SAPOS and others”, he said.
“It is overwhelmingly concerning that such a critical portfolio has accounted for serious opportunity-costs in a world economy driven by ICT’ and has failed to provide desperately required leadership in efforts to address the country’s growing challenges of poor education, deteriorating health provision, dismal service delivery, deepening poverty, widening socio-economic inequality, joblessness and economic depression.
“The country ranks second-last in math and science among its peers, simple male circumcision procedures kill many and whilst being the biggest economy on the continent, the communications ministry has dismally failed citizens in attaining a meaningful dividend from technological innovations in the ICT space,” he added.
Pule has been replaced by Yunus Carrim, the former South African deputy minister of co-operative governance and traditional affairs. He holds a BA (Hons) and M.A. in Sociology from the University of Warwick (England) and an International Diploma in Journalism from Darlington College of Technology (England).
Carrim told eNCA he would address “long standing” issues that have plagued the department. But he warned he couldn’t “wave a magic wand” and make significant changes in the first few months. But he has promised to “move swiftly” to set and achieve targets to turn the department around.
MWASA has urged Carrim to “use and employ his vast experience as an academic, a professional and a legislator to turn the ministry around and reposition its bouquet of organisations to lead national developmental strategies. There is simply no excuse for further mediocrity when the pace and depth of necessary change demand resolute, visionary and consistent leadership”, he said.
“We hope the new minister will champion and lead efforts to conclude the long-overdue ICT Policy Review process thus laying the foundation for improved broad based, inclusive and meaningful access to the information highway.”
Gumani said it was essential that a closer working relationship should be forged between the ministries of education and communications to improve generic e-literacy and e-skills levels. “The ICT sector must be repositioned to provide an enabling environment for all other sectors of the economy and to be the springboard for inclusive socio-economoic development,” he said.
Carrim seems to agree. He told Sapa shortly after he was sworn in that his first job was to listen to people to learn what he needs to to proceed. But he agreed South Africa’s information economy needed attention. “Clearly, we are lagging, even though we made significant progress in the early years of our democratic transformation,” he said.
He said he was committed to “turning around” the SABC, and working with the public to do so. “It will happen, but it won’t happen simply through the role of the politicians. We all have a stake in this.”