USAASA progress during Covid-19

NCOP Public Enterprises and Communication

10 November 2021
Chairperson: Mr T Matibe (ANC, Limpopo)
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Meeting Summary


The Department of Communications and Digital Technologies (DCDT) highlighted the measures it had taken pursuant to its policy directive in responding to the pandemic. It had collaborated with other entities to realise their goals and established a programme management office to facilitate the continuation of a smooth provision of communication services. The Department has also created action plans based on lessons learned throughout the pandemic. It highlighted key achievements such as the efficient and consistent provision of important public service announcements and information. It has also provided zero-rated internet connectivity for many health sites and schools which require this connectivity. It has also been working closely with SASSA and the South African Post Office in the effective provision of grants to beneficiaries according to Covid-19 regulations.

The Universal Services Access and Agency of South Africa (USAASA) gave a briefing on how the pandemic has affected the roll out of their two main projects, being the Broadcasting Digital Migration (BDM) project and their Broadband project. The main effects of the pandemic have been the slowing down of the roll out of the projects due to the on-the-ground nature of the roll out, the budget changes and the need to supply tools of trade for staff to enable remote working.

Some Committee members expressed concern at the lack of detail of the USAASA report, which the Chairperson later attributed to the brief given to USAASA. There was concern that the Ministry was not present and this illustrated a lack of political will and leadership and this would result in fruitless discussions in the Committee. The Chairperson and Committee resolved to look at alternative times to accommodate ministers since Cabinet meetings usually clash with the Committee’s Wednesday meetings.

A consistent concern amongst the Members was that of the delays in the projects, particularly where third parties were involved. They wanted answers as to what was causing the delays and the nature of the involvement of third parties in these delays. There were also concerns about the unfilled vacancies at USAASA due to employees who were suspended for alleged corruption. Questions were asked about the efforts made to spread the word about the Broadcasting Digital Migration process to ensure people were aware and knew what to do to enter the process.

USAASA cited one of the reasons for project delays was the agreement by Treasury and Telkom that USAASA had to step away. This lost time but was saving them from irregular expenditure. The South African Post Office was also a source of delay due to its own internal inefficiencies. There are ongoing plans to escalate matters of delay due to third parties to mitigate inefficiencies. On USAASA vacancies and employees, conversations are still ongoing to solve this and the suspended employees have been served with charge sheets and it anticipates finalising the matter soon.

DCDT detailed its plans and efforts in providing awareness including engaging with the municipalities to disseminate information about the migration process and using on-the-ground task teams to go door-to-door. It reaffirmed its commitment to its directives and completing the migration process by March 2022. It highlighted its ongoing efforts and plans to engage local service providers to fast-track the process on the ground, support local beneficiation and use outreach programmes to spread awareness.

Meeting report

The Chairperson welcomed everyone to the virtual meeting and suggested that the meeting move swiftly to accommodate load shedding.

Department of Communications and Digital Technologies (DCDT) briefing
Ms Nonkqubela Jordan-Dyani, DCDT Acting Director-General, passed on apologies from the Minister and Deputy Minister who were attending a cabinet meeting, one of the last cabinet meetings for the year. She introduced the Department team. who were present in the meeting alongside the USAASA delegation and proceeded to brief the Committee.

On 26 March 2020, following the country entering a lockdown, the Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies issued a policy directive on how the electronic communications sector would respond to the Covid-19 disaster. This led to the development of programmes for the Department's action plan in response to enable active continuation of the economy. The Department was able to collaborate with an extensive number of players within the industry who were able to assist and realise the Department’s desired outcomes from the policy directive. The directive was categorised under the themes of working groups which were set up as follows:
Clause 5 spoke to the dissemination of information
Clause 6 spoke to availability of communications and digital services during the disaster
Clause 7 referred to type approvals
Clause 8 referred to individual track and trace
Clause 9 and 10 referred to the support DCDT needed to provide the education and health sectors Clause 11 provided for the rules of State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs).

DCDT established a programme management office (PMO) in the Office of the Director-General. This was supported by industry players assisting it with facilitating the smooth operation of the communications industry, ensuring that essential services were provided during the disaster. The PMO ran from 1 April 2020 on a bi-monthly basis or as needed during emergencies. The work of the PMO continues under the current Lockdown Level 1. DCDT has had to introduce measures and interventions to ensure that essential services are provided. Following extensive engagement with industry players, the monitoring and evaluation working group developed a report on lessons learned and an actions plan aimed at addressing the report recommendations. Some of the lessons learned included the benefits of regular communication to industry as well as the establishment of engagement forums. Further recommendations were on innovation systems, partnerships and the need for coordination.

The greatest achievements made by DCDT through industry collaboration:
• The PMO ensured real-time information through ongoing TV and radio broadcasting across all official languages, including sign language on TV platforms.
• The licensees were connected with Government Communication Information System (GCIS) through DCDT to share public service announcements through various platforms.
• DCDT assisted with dissemination of Covid-19 public service announcements as confirmed by the ICASA report.
• Ongoing monitoring of ICASA reports about Covid-19 broadcasting content.

DCDT championed the issue of ‘fake news’ and developed a framework. To date, over 2300 complaints have been received and attended to since March 2020. In July 2021, the Minister approved terms of reference for a multi-state global forum to look at disinformation, misinformation and mal-information. The forum has met and has regular work streams for deliberations, with the intent for DCDT to come up with a legislative framework to address ‘fake news’ in the digital economy.

For access to digital services, 17 sites have been highlighted for virtual classrooms and these are nearly complete. 307 health facilities have been connected since April 2020 and over 1126 education and health sites have been zero-rated.

The South African Post Office (SAPO) has been instrumental in supporting the payment of social grants during the disaster period. 1084 branch networks have been connected to stabilise connectivity as they continue distributing these grants. The drive is to open up post office accounts for the R350 social grant beneficiaries along with 4.4 million accounts opened to date to avoid long queues at post offices. DCDT continually encouraged all social grant beneficiaries to open up accounts so they do not have to go to the post office physically and thus avoid the potential spread of Covid-19. DCDT has been addressing the challenges of network connectivity in the postal networks together with Telkom and other service providers to ensure that the Post Office becomes an efficient government partner for service delivery.

Universal Services Access and Agency of South Africa (USAASA) briefing
Ms Chwayita Madikizela, USAASA Acting CEO, presented on Covid-19 implications for USAASA programmes. The pandemic had led to:
• Increase in the number of indigent households
• Dramatic increase in demand for access to internet services, particularly education and health sector
• Roll out of digital services negatively affected due to the nature of USAASA’s work which requires on-the-ground work.

USAASA’s Main Targets
- Broadcasting Digital Migration project:
Roll out of set-boxes at SAPO in three priority provincesin terms of BDM Policy September 2008.
Conducted in partnership with Sentech
In March 2015 Cabinet approved 100% subsidy to poor TV-owning households for decoder, antenna and installation
Covid-19 required extra precautions be taken when entering people’s homes.

- Broadband project:
Predominantly earmarked for Pixley Ka Seme district
Intention is to connect 280 facilities in line with the SA Connect policy
Recently received approval from Treasury to retain funds to address the delayed target to connect 300 facilities in the OR Tambo district in the Eastern Cape.

Covid-19 Impacts on Projects
- Lockdown restrictions impacted internal working environment and necessitated capacitation of staff to work remotely. There is a rotation working system so that work can continue.
- Virtual engagements had to be held for stakeholder management and awareness campaigns, which required creativity due to limited nature of engagement to adhere to Covid-19 regulations
- Closure of SAPO branches due to Covid-19 cases resulted in slow registration of BDM project and subsidies
- Chip/semiconductors global shortage resulted in delayed lead times for device availability
- Budget and Annual Plan had to be reprioritised due to disruptions
- No fatalities of staff have been reported.

Ms L Bebee (ANC, KZN) thanked USAASA for the detailed presentation. She asked USAASA to list the number of projects that could not be executed due to Covid-19 restrictions. The SA Connect project is not done by USAASA or the Universal Service and Access Fund (USAF) but by a hired service provider through tendering. Were the delays caused by the service provider, by USAASA / USAF? How much had Covid-19 affected this configuration process.

Mr M Nhanha (DA, Eastern Cape) said what bothered him is the assertion that SA Connect was outsourced to a third party to implement. The biggest question was who should take responsibility due to outsourcing by the agency. Should Parliament hold DCDT or USAASA responsible? Of the eight pilot sites, one of them is OR Tambo district in the Eastern Cape. That project was effectively at a standstill, and he would not accept USAASA or DCDT trying to push accountability onto a third party. What were the key issues that had led to the halt of the project and what plans were in place to ensure that it restarted and the stoppages do not reoccur?

He asked the DCDT Acting Director-General about the migration from analogue to digital. He had heard one of the TV stations fighting bitterly about the BDM process and it seems that many South Africans stand a real risk of being cut off and not having access to TV. What steps have been taken by DCDT to ensure that people do not get cut off. Had DCDT engaged municipalities to spread the word and encourage people to go and get the decoder?

Ms M Mokause (EFF, Northern Cape) said she was struggling to understand what the achievements were so far about the eight pilot sites. She knew that in her province there is one in the Pixley Ka Seme region but the presentation was not clear if the projects were outsourced or if there were delays. She asked for clarity as she was grappling to understand what the achievements were. Could it be made clear which sites are in the pilot project?

She said that the service providers appointed, in her belief, were outsourced. She asked if there was consequence management because it could not simply be accepted that the pilot project simply failed or was delayed. Were these service providers paid in full? Were any monies withheld because the jobs were not completed?

Mr A Arnolds (EFF, Western Cape) said USAASA mentioned the Covid-19 impact on staff who needed computer equipment to work from home which meant an increase in costs. He asked why some of the computer equipment did not meet the requirements for remote working. He asked for an update about the high vacancy rate at executive management level and at project execution level. What progress, if any, had been made to turn around this high vacancy rate?

He said USAASA’s record of delivery, even before Covid-19, was not good at all. It is known that the board was only appointed on 28 February 2021 but in terms of its oversight responsibility, he would like to know about the lack of performance. What is the progress in oversight and what is the board doing to get the agency on the right track? He asked about the status of the USAASA supply chain management employees that were suspended for alleged corruption, and what corrective measures had been implemented.

USAASA response
Ms Madikizela replied about tools of trade that in an organisation's staff complement, administrators based in the office have desktops, while managers and executive teams have laptops. They had to capacitate those that would predominantly work with desktops and have difficulty with connectivity from home. All staff were capacitated. The only impact was getting the new tools of trade, particularly for the new district coordinators they had brought in to be their eyes and ears on the ground for the projects.

There was a high vacancy rate due to a moratorium. USAASA has had to suffer unfortunate delays as filling each vacancy in the agency needs the approval of the Minister, despite its level. They have had to capacitate certain senior manager roles on a contractual basis for a year. Some for up to 18 months. This is purely because of what was provisioned for USAASA to morph into the Digital Development Fund (DDF). They have revisited the conversation with the current Minister and those conversations are still ongoing.

USAASA has been able to make big strides when it comes to the finalisation of the process for suspended staff. It was known that the previous leadership left in February 2021 and not much had been done to fast track the suspensions. But with the current management, within these six months, they had been able to charge those individuals formally, appoint a chairperson, mediator, and initiator that would deal with those cases. The staff have already been provided with the charge sheets. In November, they will be lining up the hearings to finalise the whole matter.

The projects had suffered greatly not just due to Covid-19, but because some of their service providers, such as SAPO, had come with a lot of delays and inefficiencies. USAASA has been able to try and mitigate the various challenges together with the service providers. They have established steering committees to pick up these issues and escalate them to the right level. Some of these go as far up as board level or senior levels such as the DCDT Acting Director-General. DCDT can then step in as they rely on the Department’s efforts to mitigate and alleviate some of the stumbling blocks they face in the various projects. For example, with Sentech which is delivering and installing BDM across the provinces, the delays they suffered were both from a Treasury point of view and on the ground challenges. They have had various issues with the slow run rate of installation and are dealing with this with Sentech on a weekly basis to see what they can do collectively to solve this. However, the current project run rate of Sentech is nowhere close to where USAASA would have originally liked it to be.

Ms Madikizela said that they confined the project to localisation because they wanted to achieve local beneficiation. A big stumbling block is that although there are people and entities in the various districts that are able to install devices and satellite boxes, the challenge is that they are not accredited. To form part of the programme with Sentech, parties have to be on the Central Supplier Database (CSD) as per Treasury requirements. They found that most of the small installation entities on the ground do not comply with Treasury regulations. However, what they have been able to do with Sentech and agree upon is the companies Sentech has commissioned to do the work will then contract out to localised contractors on the ground. Essentially, localised teams can work in parallel with the teams that are not compliant in such a way that they are sucked into the process that Sentech is established upon, and they can be verified and monitored. Those are the challenges that USAASA and Sentech face on the ground for BDM specifically.

Another challenge has been the installation rate. Treasury instructed what the installation rate was and USAASA could not change it. For example, the digital terrestrial television (DTT) rate was R250 while direct-to-home (DTH) was R400. With that rate, they recognised a lack of appetite by service providers to join and start rolling out and accelerating the installation work on the ground. USAASA did adjust the price in December for DTT specifically because that is where they had the biggest challenges. They bumped up the price from R250 to R370 because no accessories were provided. The DTH price remained the same because the boxes do come with full accessories and a dish. Those were the interventions they put on the ground to mitigate the flow run rate of installations. USAASA is monitoring this and Sentech has also had to employ additional people on the ground to monitor progress and to bridge the gap between its contractors and those contractors created through localisation beneficiation.

On the broadband side, the delays in OR Tambo District had been around the contract they had with Telkom. The delays were of a contractual nature. USAASA realised post-approval from Treasury, to deviate and use Telkom only. There was a huge misalignment of the master service agreement (MSA) they had with Telkom and which was approved by National Treasury. USAASA stepping away from the agreement had a huge impact on the work in the local municipalities in OR Tambo District such as King Sabata Dalindyebo, Mhlontlo, and Nyandeni. Those municipalities were predominantly affected because of the MSA. However, in walking away from the agreement, they were also able to save the agency from a possible irregularity of R158 million. Therefore, although there were delays which had a huge impact on the work on the ground, USAASA was able to come out of the contract soon enough without incurring an irregularity and therefore avoiding wasteful expenditure. However, USAASA had requested Treasury to assist it in retaining those funds. Treasury informed them two days ago that USAASA would be able to retain the funds. The OR Tambo project was now due to start and they are working with the State Information Technology Agency (SITA). From stakeholder engagement in the Eastern Cape, they have done a lot of groundwork and have achieved approval from the provincial government itself, particularly on some of the contracts they have been handling, so work on the ground can be quickly rolled out.

Pixley Ka Seme District Municipality was not a pilot site but USAASA had identified 285 sites there including in another local municipality. What they had realised together with the identification of sites was that there are not enough sites in the Northern Cape. That is why they had the target to connect the entire district as opposed to a local municipality.

Ms Madikizela referred the new remodelling of broadband and tender process query to DCDT.

Department’s response
Ms Jordan-Dyani said as public servants they are held to account and they must always avail themselves to account for the work they do. BDM has been an ongoing process. Registration started in 2012 calling on households to register at the post office to see if they qualify to receive a subsidised device from government. It continued with that registration up until 2016. It then recommenced with it in 2018 and it is still driving it now. As much as the projections say that there are over 4.5 million TV-owning households who are indigent and qualify, it has only received 1.3 million registrations.

The DCDT campaign has been through various public platforms. For example, in each post office it had posters and circulated information, it used social media platforms and designated aisles and cubicles for registration. Over and above that, DCDT has an outreach programme. It has previously worked with Department of Public Works using the Expanded Public Works Programme to assist them to bridge communities. It continues to do outreach programmes as a Department together with its entities. It has been going door-to-door in all provinces. It has also been engaging, via their intergovernmental relations team, with all provinces requesting a meeting with them and asking to bring in all the municipalities in their province. Its last engagements were with Mpumalanga and Western Cape in July and Eastern Cape in August. Previously it had engaged with Free State, Limpopo, Northern Cape, Mpumalanga, and KwaZulu-Natal and continues to engage them.

With the municipalities, it has allocated teams firstly to raise awareness. Secondly, it seeks partnership and collaboration with them to get assistance in identifying where the gaps are. Traditional leaders have also been identified as critical stakeholders to assist with mobilising and creating awareness within communities. DCDT understands that the medium and platforms it has used which include TV, radio and post office may not be sufficient. It continues to look at other means for awareness drives as it needs to ensure that it brings as many people forward.

The Department has also observed the trickiness of blended migration. For households that have a smart TV, there is the means for tuning that TV to enter the migration process. In other instances, an antenna or form of satellite is required to do this. But in households with older analogue TVs, DCDT has to provide the set-up box and the required aerial.

DCDT working together with USAASA, Sentech and other stakeholders such as the broadcasters, continue to raise awareness in all their omni-channels.

Ms Jordan-Dyani reaffirmed DCDT's commitment to the switch-off migration targets and announced that it had completed the migration process in Free State and had also switched off Kimberley. DCDT has a set target for the number of households in a community that it needs to reach before it can do the switch-off. Its teams on the ground do the required assessments. Prior to that it runs a CG, which is a crawler message on TV platforms where it informs citizens that they are undergoing a migration process and therefore need to prepare themselves by getting the necessary set-top box or equipment or follow the migration steps to migrate. She emphasised that DCDT does not want to leave anyone behind because it believes access to TV and broadcasting services should be universal as it serves as a critical platform to communicate public messages.

DCDT’s target is to focus on underserved areas in the broadband pilot project. It has identified the Northern Cape and Eastern Cape, which are the top impoverished provinces. Equally, it is mindful of other provinces that have set aside funding and are also embarking on broadband projects facilitated through SITA. It is running the parallel programme of SA Connect to apply a phased approach to broadband roll out. It is revising its model to move away from a segmented approach to an approach that integrates all the programmes and initiatives of broadband roll out across the country to have one national task team. It intends to address the unresolved challenges in the OR Tambo district.

On the large number of vacancies at USAASA , DCDT last year presented to the Committee the reformulation of its portfolio. One of the proposals was that it would disband USAASA and USAF and create a Digital Development Fund. So the intent is still to disband USAASA as an operating entity at the end of the financial year, but maintain USAF for the use of the funds needed to enable access. The new funding model is also there to assist the SMMEs because DCDT wants to grow them into the economy and for them to grow larger.

The model DCDT is now looking at is slightly different and at an opportune time the Minister will be able to provide further details. The intent however is to keep USAF operational to ensure it is able to expand its reach and broaden the participation of the SMMEs in transforming the sector but at the same time equally ensuring that services are delivered. The timeframe for the disbandment still remain as initially intended, mindful of the fact that there are a number of processes that DCDT would need to follow. What it also wanted to do was curb the additional funding allocation made by the state for the next financial year. So there is no intention to fill the USAASA vacancies but it is also looking to ensure job security for the staff and it is looking at the integration of those officials either in DCDT or in other entities in the portfolio.

Follow-up questions
Mr Nhanha noted the presence of the new USAASA board chairperson, Ms Daphne Kula-Rantho who was in the meeting but excused herself as she was ill. He was pleased that they were contemplating making use of traditional leaders because it was an overdue thought. He advised that the sooner they make use of traditional leaders, the better. He noted that some people can afford cheaper digital service providers like the DSTV basic entry packages but the same could not be said for rural areas. Therefore, the sooner DCDT engaged with traditional leaders, the better.

On DCDT going the provincial route to maximise its awareness programme, he suggested DCDT consider a direct route to reaching local municipalities, even through district municipalities. Municipalities could then cascade this to the ward councillors to take this to their communities to speed up the process. He was worried that some communities would be cut off when the cut-off time arrives.

He found it a bit troubling that DCDT does not make the call on when to switch off a particular area of province, it relies on the SABC as the DG said it has the largest viewership. He accepted this. But what was troubling is the reliance on the SABC which has competitors in the broadcasting space. He asked if reliance on the SABC as a public broadcaster was giving it an inside lane or an unfair advantage over its competitors. They could not have the SABC being the referee and player at the same time. He was not casting aspersions or doubting the integrity of the SABC, but the world of business is the world of competition. He raised this concern in the context of a point raised by an SABC competitor when it came to migration from analogue to digital. He assumed that the DG was aware this point that was raised.

He said that Ms Mokause correctly pointed out that the presentation was vague and lacked detail. USAASA came to the meeting not sufficiently prepared. If it were not for the Acting DG coming to its rescue, the Committee’s time would have been wasted. He proposed that USAASA be asked to go back and compile a report on all the contracts that are underperforming, one of them being SA Connect. USAASA is arguing that they discovered some misalignment in SA Connect and this caused problems for the project. He asked if any due diligence was conducted before the project was awarded because if there was, such misalignments could have been picked up. What was worrisome was that USAASA had also mentioned SAPO as having given them problems. Therefore, he would like a detailed report about which institutions and contracted companies have underperformed and if the Chairperson deems it fit, invite those affected to that meeting. He asked the Chairperson to consider moving the time of that meeting to the evening to allow the Minister or Deputy Minister to be part of that meeting since Wednesdays are cabinet meetings.

Ms Mokause was concerned about the lack of leadership and political will when entities appear before the Committee. The Committee needed to reconsider when they have their meetings and rather hold them in the evening when Cabinet is not sitting. The Committee, with its constitutional mandate of oversight, would like to see the Members of the Executive taking a lead and listening to the concerns from the constituencies through the Committee. It was not a good reflection on an entity or Department to appear before the Committee without the leadership of DCDT, both politically and otherwise. This needed to be corrected as they did not want to display a consistent character of sending departments away because the ministers were not present. DCDT and entities needed to be considerate when they come before the Committee and make presentations. She emphasised the need to involve the executives of the entities in these meetings because if there is no political will or leadership, there will be no progress or positive outcomes in their discussions.

The Chairperson noted the Members' inputs. For USAASA, Committee management and the content advisory had confined the brief and they would look at the points Members have raised and request USAASA to prepare a detailed report to address these concerns. He recalled the previous programme indicated meetings starting at 15:00 until 18:00. Committee management would look at this programme as it will always be a challenge getting the Ministers to attend due to the Committee meeting on Wednesdays. He would look at what the Committee could do to change the timetable considering that meetings can be held at 18:00 due to their virtual nature.

Department response
Ms Jordan-Dyani replied that DCDT's modelling concerned all free-to-air broadcasters as it is engaging with their customers specifically. When it started the project in the beginning of the year, prior to the President’s announcement of the 31 March 2022 deadline, DCDT embarked on an extensive engagement with all broadcasters, manufacturers and signal distributors in coming up with a plan. That was the plan it had presented to Parliament. At that meeting before the State of the Nation Address, the concern raised by the broadcasters was that no one should be left behind. From its perspective, it was both a commercial matter in that the higher the number of consumers it had, the more revenue it would generate, but equally that it needed to ensure that no one was left behind in the delivery of services. This is the same principle DCDT has always advocated for in terms of universal broadcasting services. DCDT agreed to the plan, but subsequently there were concerns about the availability of the devices and the speed in rolling out the project. This is why DCDT requested Sentech to onboard as many installers as possible and asked municipalities for a database and assistance in getting local installers in those areas. It also requested municipalities to assist local installers who may not have the necessary official papers to acquire these papers to ensure beneficiation to the local communities.

About eTV, DCDT switched off a couple of sites, and eTV all together has 91 sites nationally compared to the overall of over 200 sites. There were sites that eTV considered and agreed to and others they did not agree to. Therefore, eTV analog broadcasting remains operational nationwide and it will be for eTV to inform Sentech to switch off particular sites. The final intent for DCDT is to migrate the entire country.

She emphasised that the analogue to digital migration decision was reached in 2006 at an international conference and as a country, South Africa had engaged with all critical stakeholders. In 2008, then Minister of Communications Dr Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri intended to migrate the country and back then there was a buy-in by the broadcasters. Since then, DCDT has always established working groups and committees where all critical stakeholders within the sector participate. South Africa had agreed that the absolute deadline for migration was 17 June 2015 and there was no objection. A country wanting to indicate otherwise or request for an extension had to do so in 2012 at the World Radio Conference. South Africa, unlike other African countries, did not ask for a 2020 extension and committed to migration by 2015. What DCDT is trying to do now is catch-up. South Africa shares six borders with countries who have migrated. At any given point in time, there can be a signal disruption or spillage of South Africa’s analogue signal transmitters into another territory, and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) will instruct DCDT to switch off all their electronic spectra in the country. That is how dire the situation is until such time it resolves it within a 30-day period with the neighbouring country. DCDT is trying its best to avoid this and that is why it is prioritising areas near the borders like the Square Kilometre Array to ensure that it avoids being instructed by the international body to switch off the country’s signal.

DCDT is trying to catch up to the 2015 commitment and ensure that the migration process is seamless to avoid the disruption of neighbouring countries and still ensure universal broadcasting services to South African citizens. The Minister has established a steering committee and the revised plan was engaged with by all stakeholders including all the broadcasters. It has now also included commercial broadcasters to assist with the migration. The steering committee meets every two weeks and is chaired by the Minister, with all critical stakeholders participating with the intent of migrating the country by 21 March 2022. She hoped that with the assistance of the Committee, DCDT would be able to meet this migration target.

USAASA response
Ms Madikizela replied to the concern about the lack of detail in the presentation and clarified that the brief USAASA had received was it needed to look at the impact of Covid-19 on its programmes. Therefore, the presentation simply addresses the Covid-19 impact on projects, important touchpoints and USAASA's mitigation response. The points that she had requested DCDT to address are simply items that have had a change in accordance with the current Annual Performance Plan (APP) and that is why the Acting DG spoke about the remodelling of BDM and broadband. It is not that they did not come prepared, but they prepared in accordance with the brief. Due to the changes in the APP, she did not feel comfortable addressing these changes as these were still sitting with the principals, hence DCDT was in the best position to disclose those.

The Chairperson thanked the Acting DG and USAASA and said the Committee will call DCDT back to deal with concerns raised by Members.

The Chairperson said that the following week the Committee would be looking at SABC and the Committee programme. They will also look at the availability of the political principals.

Meeting adjourned.


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