Tech’s New Sheriff: Malatsi Disrupts Comms Status Quo

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    The Sizzling Hot Seat: Will Solly Malatsi Fire Up SA’s Stagnant Communications Department?

    Solly Malatsi, the newly-appointed minister of communications and digital technologies, is the man tasked with revamping South Africa’s beleaguered communications department. And by all accounts, he’s got a monumental task ahead of him. The department has been plagued by policy paralysis, corruption, and leadership woes, leaving a trail of destruction in its wake.

    Analysts say Malatsi’s to-do list is a daunting one, with spectrum policy reform, telecoms regulation, and saving the South African Post Office and South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) from oblivion topping the agenda. Arthur Goldstuck, MD of World Wide Worx, believes Malatsi has the potential to bring much-needed stability to the department, which has been plagued by politicking and patronage.

    Walker, associate VP for META region at IDC, is also optimistic about Malatsi’s prospects, saying, “We expect him to increase government focus on promotion and investment of ICT across departments and ministries as a vehicle to accelerate economic growth and also as an effective tool to expose corruption by increasing visibility and transparency across government.”

    Batyi, CEO of telecoms industry body, the Association of Communications and Technology, adds that Malatsi will have to navigate a complex regulatory landscape, including digital migration, 2G and 3G migration, next-generation spectrum policy, and the merging of Sentech and Broadband Infraco.

    Goldstuck notes that the absurd number of ministers of communication in the past 13 years – on average one a year – meant the department was in effect leaderless, rudderless, visionless, and hopeless. “It highlighted the extent to which government failed to recognise the significance of the portfolio, treating it as an avenue for largesse rather than key to service delivery to the population.”

    Mondli Gungubele, the newly-appointed deputy minister of communications and digital technologies, is set to play a crucial role in stabilising the department. Batyi believes the new minister will have to deal with serious challenges, including policy uncertainty and paralysis due to leadership changes over the past two decades.

    “The industry has evolved in the last 30 years, with almost each decade bringing new and interesting dimensions in the broader ICT industry,” says Batyi. “If both the minister and deputy minister are in sync, the new leadership will be in a position to unlock the full potential of the industry in the years to come.”

    As Malatsi takes up the reins, he’s got some tough decisions to make. Will he be able to fire up the department, or will he get stuck in the same old bureaucratic quagmire? Only time will tell. One thing’s for sure, though – it’s going to be a wild ride.

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