Once Communications Minister Faith Muthambi was delegated the responsibility of driving the digital migration process by a Presidential proclamation in the country, she immediately initiated the process of reviving the Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) migration project.
South Africa is this month celebrating Women’s Month, and Nthambeleni Gabara takes a look at the strides made by the Communications Minister since her appointment.
“The time has come for us to revive the DTT project and inject new energy into it. It is now the time to clear the impasse that has prohibited the nation to embark on the switch-on stage of the digital migration project,” she said at the time.
Minister Muthambi, who is currently doing a Masters degree in Public Management with Univen, after previously obtaining a BProc degree from the University of Venda in 1996, and completing her Attorney’s Admission Exam in 2000, was also not shy to inform the nation that policy and legislation for digital migration were some of the challenges delaying the project.
“It is my firm understanding that policy clarity is the key to unlock all the other critical issues of implementation of the DTT project. As government, we’ve this ultimate responsibility to develop a broadcasting policy environment which takes into account the people’s constitutional rights of access to broadcasting services.
“We can assure you that we will develop a policy that aims to create a conducive environment for smooth migration from analogue to digital. We have a duty to migrate citizens as smoothly as possible,” she said.
The second challenge was whether to adopt a Control Access System or not on the STBs. This matter has been a major source of contention in the country, which has even led to court challenges.
This after Cabinet approved the Broadcast Digital Amendment Policy which makes provision for the inclusion of a “control system” in Set Top Boxes (STBs) and endorsed commencement of the country’s digital migration.
As a true leader, Minister Muthambi admitted in public that the country will miss the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) deadline in June 2015, and immediately initiated a process of signing bilateral engagements with five neighbouring countries (Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland, Mozambique and Namibia) to mitigate cross border radio frequency spectrum interference.
Beyond the ITU deadline to switch from analogue to digital broadcasting, there is no television ‘black out’ in South Africa – thanks to Minister Muthambi’s interventions.
In testament to Minister Muthambi’s commitment to changing the lives of people in the country for the better, last year, President Jacob Zuma held an Imbizo in the Msunduzi Municipality in Pietermaritzburg and thereafter Minister Muthambi was deployed to conduct a door-to-door service delivery campaign in the area.
Realising the devastating living standards of residents, the Minister adopted ward 14 and further identified seven families for houses. Most of the families were living in small, overcrowded mud houses.
In addition, last month, the minister unveiled a computer centre with high speed internet connectivity in the rural village, while the houses, which will have six rooms, are almost complete.
And a year prior to that, Minister Muthambi also took Evuxakeni Psychiatric Hospital, in Giyani, Limpopo, under her wing to help improve and make it a centre of hope for the patients living there.
At the time, the walls were cracked, there was a shortage of staff, the kitchen was in a dilapidated state, the toilet pipes needed to be replaced and the facility needed more geysers.
Today, the cracks have been fixed, the kitchen has been revamped, toilet pipes have been fixed… patients are bathing with hot water as there are geysers.
Minister Muthambi’s achievements are also acknowledged by the Portfolio Committee on Communications who commended the five-year strategic and annual plans she tabled in Parliament.
Committee chairperson Joyce Clementine Moloi-Moropa said: “The entities have been there, but what we are seeing now are entities that are aligning to the department. They are really trying and as a committee, we are generally satisfied.”
There is stability and improvement in terms of growth of the five entities which includes Brand SA, Film and Publications Board (FPB), Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA), South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) and the Media Development and Diversity Agency (MDDA).
Minister Muthambi has become known for standing by her belief that in a democratic country, government communication should be characterised by the free flow of information.
In an effort to rebrand South Africa’s image and to take a more active role in shaping how the country is perceived, Minister Muthambi has revived government’s relations with community media.
The Minister has identified four strategic goals for the 2015 – 2020 period and these include improving the capacity of the department and its entities to deliver; creating a responsive communication policy and regulatory environment; improving government communication and branding and transforming the communication sector.
Minister Muthambi was appointed Minister of Communications with effect from 26 May 2014. She is a Member of Parliament and the Pan African Parliament since April 2009. She serves as a member of the Thohoyandou Black Management Forum (BMF) branch.
Muthambi is currently a member of the Provincial Executive Committee of the ANC in Limpopo, a member of the Provincial Working Committee and a convener of the Legislative and Governance Sub-committee.She is also a member of the Black Lawyers Association and of the South African Women Lawyers Association.