Now SABC tries to define laptops as TVs


If President Cyril Ramaphosa wants us to take his much-needed reforms seriously, surely, he should start with his cabinet. When he took office as a much hoped-for reformer who would help reverse the nine wasted years under former #Presidunce Jacob Zuma, he promised, among other things, to make governments smaller and therefore less expensive.

Much has been written about how unnecessary and useless many of the deputy ministers are, several of whom have been referenced at the Zondo commission. One glaring example of an incompetent deputy minister is deputy communications minister Pinky Kekana. She achieved enormous notoriety last year for a harebrained and incomprehensibly foolish idea to reclassify smartphones as televisions so that they could also be charged a television licence fee. She also proposed outsourcing TV licences collection to DStv and Netflix.

This is to fund the SABC, that disastrously-run state-owned enterprise (SOE) that is in dire financial straits. Even as its board tries to right this constantly-interfered-with broadcaster, the minister of communication Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams continues to intervene with the plans by regularly opposing the board’s attempts to retrench any of its unnecessarily large 3,000 staff quotient.

These employees earn an average of R800,000 a year, while management is reportedly earning well over R1-million. Some 40% of this broadcaster’s costs go to this enormous workforce, which must rival Eskom for lack of productivity.

After being laughed out of town, as it were, Kekana has withdrawn her absurd idea to reclassify smartphones as television. “Over the last two months, it had been dealing with the matter and had agreed that nowhere would people using mobile phones be charged,” she told parliament last week.

But instead, the SABC would still like to define – wait for it – laptops and tablets as televisions. No, really.

The head of the SABC’s TV licences division, Sylvia Tladi, last week told Parliament: “These new devices, which have resulted in new media platforms and content dissemination channels, have a direct impact on TV licence legislation”.

That is the department of communication’s strategy to fix the SABC.

Apart from being just plain nonsensical and impractical, it just shows you the lack of imagination and the lack of common sense; and clearly the lack of competence of deputy communication minister Pinky Kekana.

How is she adding value to the fiscus, or to this vital telecoms sector?

Not that her boss Ndabeni-Abrahams is any better, but clearly Kekana could go and nobody would miss her. Given the salary of a deputy minister is R1,977,795, according to the Government Gazette. That is an instant saving of R2m to the economy, along with all of her minders and advisors et cetera.

You fix the business by fixing the business (SABC), not by twisting reality (in the form of legislation) to redefine computers as television sets so that you can prop up yet another failed state-owned enterprise.

Please Mr President fire this incompetent deputy minister and show us by sacking all the other dead wood in cabinet, that you are truly serious about reform. It’s time for action, not promises.

This article first appeared in the Financial Mail.


About Author

Toby Shapshak is editor-in-chief and publisher of Stuff, a Forbes contributor and a Financial Mail columnist. He has been writing about technology and the internet for 20 years and his TED Global talk on innovation in Africa has over 1,5-million views. He has written about Africa's tech and start-up ecosystem for Forbes, CNN and The Guardian in London. He was named in GQ's top 30 men in media and the Mail & Guardian newspaper's influential young South Africans. He has been featured in the New York Times. GQ said he "has become the most high-profile technology journalist in the country" while the M&G wrote: "Toby Shapshak is all things tech... he reigns supreme as the major talking head for everything and anything tech."


  1. It is a lie that the average sabc employee and 800k. This is a lie that management is using to justify the legal retrenchment of people at the broadcaster.
    The truth is nowhere close to that.
    The fact is, just like any other state-owned Enterprise the executive earn way too much and they have no idea on turning around the organisation. So now they are grasping at straws, so that they look like they’re doing something to turn around the organisation.

  2. Thabiso Mokotsolane on

    Let government do research on the IT and digital age from DST Netflix and others on how best they can align generating revenue rather than forcing the impossible

    Many many moons they promised transformation from analogue to digital and is still a dream

  3. Pingback: PremiumFree TV, a new free-to-view satellite service, is launching in South Africa » Stuff

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