Department of Communication and Digital Technologies Revised 2021/22 Annual Performance Plan

NCOP Public Enterprises and Communication

30 March 2022
Chairperson: Mr J Nyambi (ANC, Mpumalanga)
Share this page:

Meeting Summary


The Department of Communication and Digital Technologies (DCDT) presented its revised 2021/2022 annual performance plan (APP) in a virtual meeting and highlighted that the SA Connect implementation plan had been revised to ensure that the country could achieve 80% broadband connectivity by 2024.

The Broadcasting Digital Migration (BDM) was supposed to spill over to 2023. However, this timeline had had to be brought forward. There were initially 41 APP targets, which they had revised to 35. The Department had had to revise its strategy regarding the transformed digital society target outcome. The national BIFN-S priority programme had been developed to focus on three strategic priorities: broadband infrastructure roll-out, artificial intelligence and cyber-security. Information communication technology (ICT) investment initiatives were developed to contribute to the SA Investment Conference.

For the BDM programme, there were two targets related to the installation and ensuring indigenous households received the necessary devices, which had initially been a voucher to enable people to get the necessary device, and 3.2 million vouchers had been distributed. There had been a dispute between E-TV and the Minister of Communications, with the broadcaster disputing the number of indigenous households who qualified or were free to air viewers. R200 million had been allocated to the Broadband Access Fund from the Presidential Employment Stimulus Fund. The DCDT had identified savings of R15 million, which had then been paid to the South African Post Office (SAPO) to reduce the financial pressure it was facing.

 Members of the Committee were concerned about the source of the R15 million in savings and the transfer to SAPO. They also asked about whether the BDM awareness campaign was reaching all communities, including those in rural areas. They requested information about the public announcement made by the SABC that they would not be participating in the analogue switch-off. 

The DCDT assured Members that the R15 million in savings had come from the reduction in travel and accommodation expenses during the lockdown period. The BDM awareness drive dealing with the switch-off had been done through radio advertisements, while pamphlets were also handed to individuals and posters were put up at post offices in the languages spoken by particular communities. The Committee was told that the court had dismissed E-TV's case with costs. The Minister had written to the Chairperson and the Speaker about the public announcement made by SABC and would be meeting with the SABC to clarify the situation. The Minister would like to withdraw the quarterly reports that the SABC had tabled until there was clarity on what it had meant about the "revenue loss" in their letter to the Minister.

Meeting report

DCDT on changes to 2021/22 APP

Ms Nonkqubela Jordan-Dyani, Acting Director-General (ADG), Department of Communications and Digital Technologies (DCDT), said the presentation would highlight the changes the Department had to make to the annual performance plan (APP) for 2021/22. The changes were based on a revised model.

Background to revision

The Department was midway through the medium term strategic framework (MTSF), and the priority was on targets that supported other programmes within the MTSF. For instance, the Covid-19 pandemic had shown that as a country, South Africa could not do without connectivity. The project was initially planned over a ten-year period, but the DCDT had to revise its SA Connect plans to ensure that the country could achieve 80% broadband connectivity by 2024.

The broadcasting digital migration (BDM) was supposed to spill over to 2023. However, this timeline had to be brought forward. The Department had to ensure the broadband rollout through spectrum auctioning, and this had been concluded successfully. Additionally, there was a need for rapid deployment of guidelines and a policy to ensure access to infrastructure.

It was against this background that the Department had decided to change its APP targets. The environment was still a challenge for the DCDT in terms of dependencies. For example, the Office of the Chief State Law Advisor was under vast constraints because it had to prioritise the Disaster Management Act and its provisions. This had caused a delay in the amendments to the DCDT bills.  This meant that they had had to take a close look at the revisions.

Although the country aimed to raise investment, the DCDT did not want to confuse international investors and potential partners. Therefore, they had decided to reconfigure their investment lobbying. They would rather collaborate with the Presidency and the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition (DTIC) for hosting the SA investment conference. The provincial changes in the APP had been factored in. They had had to revise their APP targets from 41 to 35 to ensure the success of the revision of their strategy and approach.

The concurrence of National Treasury, the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) and the State Law Advisors was required, but there had been a delay. The SA Connect implementation plan and the broadcasting digital migration were the revised targets.

Summary of revisions to APP

Regarding the transformed digital society, the DCDT was already facilitating the operations of the Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa (BRICS) Institute for Future Networks (BIFN-S). The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) was the designated entity, but they had given the Department a bill of R23 million for the first year. For the years after, the bill is about R41 million for the operational budget, which is not allocated in the DCDT budget. The Department had had to revise its strategy, and now was collaborating with state-owned entities -- the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) and the University of Johannesburg (UJ). They were willing to collaborate with the Department at the UJ regarding artificial intelligence. UKZN would work with the Department's implementing entities to coordinate the broadband infrastructure rollout and cybersecurity.

Information Communication Technology (ICT) investment initiatives had been developed to contribute to the discussions at the SA Investment Conference. They had had a successful ICT investment forum with stakeholders who had suggested initiatives in terms of expanding the digital infrastructure in SA and building the platform industries and digital technology.

The enabling digital transformation policies and strategies target was aimed at formulating policies and strategies that would be responsive to the new environment. The initial target was to submit the South African Post Office (SAPO) Amendment Bill to Cabinet for approval for introduction to Parliament. However, with the delays experienced by the Department, they had decided that in the first year they would submit a revised draft SAPO Amendment Bill to Cabinet for public consultation approval. The data and cloud policy had been developed and submitted for approval.

The regulatory entities responsible for regulatory oversight were the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA), the Film and Publications Board (FPB) and ZADNA, the .za domain name authority, which was the registry. For the Regulatory Reform Bill, the DCDT had asked these entities for their input in formulating the business case. They had decided to put the work related to the regulatory reform, the bill for the state digital infrastructure and state digital services in the business plan, rather than the operational plan, because of the external dependencies. Additionally, they were working with other government entities and consulting the Department of Public Enterprises (DPE). The DPE were the main custodians dealing with issues regarding the reform of state-owned entities.

An integrated report on digital economy programmes had been developed. They had decided that in the coming financial year, before formulating the digital economy master plan, they would conceptualise it through a country framework. The target in the new APP would speak to a countrywide digital economy framework.

Regarding the ICT development strategy for small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs), the approval of the strategy lay with the Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies because it was work within the areas of focus and power that were mandated to the Minister. The revised ICT SMME development strategy had been submitted to the Minister for approval.

The spectrum auctioning and the introduction of new social obligations to operators had resulted in ongoing work on the cost to communicate programme. The DCDT, with the assistance of ICASA, had decided to look at monitoring the social obligations in the new financial year.

The White Paper on the Audio and Audio-visual Content Services Policy had been revised for the Minister's approval, and the Electronic Communications Amendment Bill had been submitted to the Minister. The Department did not want to send the amendment in portions and parts, so they had decided to submit it to the Minister until all other areas of the Bill had been factored in. Once they had an Electronic Communications Amendment Bill, they would submit it to Cabinet for onward transmission.

There was a countrywide report on the fourth industrial revolution (4IR), and the Committee's 4IR strategic implementation plan had been developed and submitted to the Minister. The relevant departments and structures were doing the actual implementation, and the DCDT would monitor the programmes and submit an update on their progress. The Department did provide a quarterly update to the government cluster for the DG's cluster oversight. Various government departments were expected to submit a progress report.

 A new target had been introduced in terms of the digital transformation policies -- the Rapid Deployment Policy.  It was one of the key reforms of government and a priority under the Presidency and Operation Vulindlela. The Rapid Deployment Policy had been finalised and submitted to the Minister.

The outcome for increased access to secure digital infrastructure now included three targets related to SA Connect naming funding sources for Phase 2, establishing a project management office for SA Connect for Phase 2 and funding for the household connectivity programme. The SA Connect model had been revised and submitted to Cabinet for approval. With the approved Cabinet model and implementation plan, the Department still had the authority for executing the target, so it had to revise its APP. Also, instead of a project management office, they had established a steering committee that was led by the Minister at the meetings convened to monitor the execution of Phase 2.

The operations of the digital transformation centre had been facilitated. In 2018, the Department had committed to establishing a digital transformation centre and building its capabilities. They had reflected on the work done by the CSIR on the 4IR centre, and decided not to duplicate and exhaust their limited resources. The DCDT was collaborating with the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) and the CSIR in coordinating the work on the 4IR website.

For the BDM programme, there were two targets related to installation and ensuring indigenous households receive the necessary devices. This was initially a voucher to enable people to get the necessary device, but the Department had decided to come up with a revised BDM implementation model. The initial model had consisted of a private-public partnership. However, there had been a dispute between E-TV and the Minister of Communications. This meant that the DCDT had had to deal with what they had control over, which was the South African Broadcasting Corporation's (SABC's) sites. They had revised the target to a switch-off of SABC analogue television transmitters coordinated across all provinces by 31 March 2022. There were no new or revised targets under the high-performing portfolio to enable the achievement of respective mandates.

Outcome of revised APP

Instead of 41 targets, there were now 35 APP targets for 2021/22. These were related to:

Enabling digital transformation policies and strategies, with 13 targets;
Increased access to secure digital infrastructure, with five targets;
A transformed digital society, with four targets; and
A high-performing portfolio to enable achievement of their respective mandates, with 13 targets.

2021/22 Financial Information

Ms Joy Masemola, Chief Financial Officer (CFO), DCDT, said that in the medium term allocation for the  2021/2022 financial year, the Department's budget had been adjusted to provide an additional R3.9 million under compensation of employees (COE) to allow for salary adjustments. R200 million had been allocated under goods and services for the Broadband Access Fund from the Presidential Employment Stimulus Fund.

During the process of adjustments, the DCDT had noticed some savings. R15 million allocated to the SAPO had been identified from savings within the Department to reduce the financial pressure faced by SAPO. This was also done at the end of the financial year to assist the entity. The total amount of the transfers was R2.9 billion.

Ms T Modise (ANC, North West) asked why the DCDT transferred money to SAPO at the end of the financial year. If money was transferred on time, SAPO would be able to perform the activities of their entity. SAPO was struggling with their post offices, and sending money late was physical dumping. What were they going to do now with the money? Since they were not going to use the money, it would have to go back to the National Treasury unless SAPO had already committed the money when the transfer was made by the DCDT.

Mr A Arnolds (EFF, Western Cape) asked for a follow up on the R15 million in savings that had been identified by the DCDT. Where had the R15 million savings come from? He was concerned that it had come from a project that had not been attended to. He commented that there was no issue with the revised targets, but why was the revised ICT SMME development strategy going to be submitted to the Minister? Previously, it had been submitted to the Cabinet. The revised targets were not supposed to go through the Cabinet, only through the Minister. Were all the policies and strategies being revised?

The Acting Chairperson asked the DG to address any challenges she wished to bring to the attention of the Committee.

Ms Modise asked if the DCDT had informed all the communities that it would be switching from analogue to digital. Had it considered those who lived in rural areas and did not have television or listen to the news? Had they considered those who watched TV for reasons other than for the news? Had they been informed about the switch?

She was also concerned about the language barrier. Most news outlets used English, and some old people in the rural areas did not know or understand English. Had the Department gone to the rural areas to teach people what the transition to analogue meant? What had the Department done to inform communities?

DCDT's response

Ms Jordan-Dyani said the transfer that the CFO had been referring to was above the normal transfer. It was a request from SAPO to assist with the financial crisis that they were dealing with. SAPO still owed some of its debtors, and this had threatened to close some of the post offices. They also owed other statutory bodies like the South African Revenue Service (SARS), the medical aid and pension fund, and Telkom.

She said the savings came from the goods and services budget -- mainly from travel and other areas. Meetings were held virtually because travel was restricted under lockdown, as well as the circumstance at Parliament. This meant that they could reallocate the money calculated for travel to assist SAPO. She assured Members that it had not been fiscal dumping.

Regarding the process of making changes in a policy or strategy, the Department would initially take the matter to Cabinet. However, there were government structures they had to take the changes through, mainly under foresight, which were the clusters. At the cluster level, the Department would be informed whether their changes impacted other government departments. However, there was a separate budgetary process if it was a request for additional funding and the Department needed to consult National Treasury. The policies and strategies had been reintroductions to the ICT SMME strategy which had been adopted in 2018, so they were refinements and improvements to the strategy. They had been redirected to say that the Minister should be the one who signed off on the changes. During the consultation and drafting, they had consulted the relevant department, and they were satisfied.

Regarding the BDM, the project community awareness programme had commenced in 2014. The DCDT had established steering committees or forums that involved all broadcasters and representatives of civil society. They had since acknowledged and taken into consideration the fact that the people who would be most affected were households or individuals. Since 2014, the DCDT had been working with the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) in terms of involving the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) members, the South African Local Government Association (SALGA) and municipal councillors. However, they had run out of funds to fund the EPWP and to mitigate this they had employed district coordinators. There were currently 44 district coordinators on the ground that had been moving from province to province. The DCDT had also had several engagements and forums with each province and requested each of them, through the Office of the Premiers, to bring the relevant officials, municipal representatives and managers, to meetings.

Referring to communications packages and information, she said posters were put up at police stations and pamphlets had been distributed to schools and post offices. The communications packages and information pamphlets were in 11 languages to ensure that they were inclusive. The DCDT had used community radio stations to broadcast communication through adverts. They had identified the languages spoken in a particular community and ensured that the broadcaster used those particular languages. Segments within radio were procured to present talk shows. These allowed the DCDT to go into detail about the BDM project. Before the switch-off, CTCG messaging that runs at the bottom of the TV screen, as well as advertisements, were run by broadcasters to inform communities that the country was switching-off, and those who qualified should go to the post office for registration. This model was refined to introduce a zero-rated app to enable people to register with no charge through a website on the app. Additionally, the Department ran with mobile operators to send SMSs to pay-as-you-go mobile individuals every two weeks to inform them about the switch-off and the two alternatives being offered. During the lockdown period, they had increased the number, but it was conflicting with the Covid messages that were being sent out. Regardless, messages were still being sent out. The Minister held also monthly briefings to update the communities on the options available to them in terms of how and where they could get a decoder and register.

Initially, they had close to 1.2 million registered people, and this had risen to 1.4 million. This was what the Department had been currently doing regarding the rollout of subsidised decoders across the provinces.

As part of the revised model, the Minister had agreed to set up a steering committee that included all broadcasters -- free to air and commercial broadcasters. If commercial broadcasters were to catch indigenous households, the DCDT would cross-subsidise them. The number of installers working with broadcasters had been increased. SENTECH had assisted to ensure the drive for installation. The installers had worked with the communities and councillors. A database for local installers had been required to ensure that the community benefited. The database included over 8 900 installers across the country. At the provincial level, the installation drive often sparked interest, as people saw that installations were being done and would inquire how they could register and who qualified. The project was currently still open to installers and others who would still like to register. Those who qualified and registered would be provided with the device or the setup box, and the installers would come and install the device.

It should be noted that for the people who had registered before 31 October 2021, the devices would have been installed before the switch-off. Those who registered after 1 November would be provided with a set-up box, but the installation would happen during a period of three to six months, depending on where the person was situated in the country. In some areas, like Mpumalanga, extensive work had already been done and people who had registered, including those who registered in November, had already received their devices. The switch-off had been done in five provinces.

Regarding the court case between E-TV and the Minister, E-TV was disputing the number of indigenous households who qualified or were free to air. Additionally, there might be more indigenous households than the number the DCDT had. However, the Department could not work based on assumptions, because they had done the programme, conducted public awareness, and the information was at the post offices. People would have to come forward to get a device. There would be fruitless expenditure if 2.5 million devices at R1 200 each had been procured and were then left in a supply warehouse with no recipients. The court had dismissed E-TV's case with costs. The broadcaster had to pay for 50% of the Minister’s legal representatives. They also had to pay 100% for ICASA, the Chairperson of ICASA and Vodacom's legal representatives who were parties supporting the Minister.

The switch-off was supposed to be done by the end of March. However, the courts had afforded the Minister three months to ramp up the installation process for the 500 000 indigenous households that still needed installations. The switch-off would commence at the end of June.

The programme had been in South Africa since 2004 and the Department had committed to the switch-off by 2012. However, this had been shifted to 2015 because South Africa had never applied. The DCDT consulted with the broadcasters extensively and had a spectrum forum that had convened quarterly sessions even during the radio conference periods. Before 2015, South Africa had an opportunity to indicate whether it would be able to meet the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) deadline. The implications in terms of the digital transformation were that there was still a risk that if there was an interference with the signal frequencies of any of South Africa’s neighbours, the country would be forced to shut down its frequencies in the country until they could resolve the problem. This could potentially impact other services that relied on the frequencies.

The regulator had indicated that the auctioning had proceeded with the spectrum bands, meaning that they were no longer owned by the broadcasters. They had until the end of June to give back the bands, but they would be reallocated bands in uniformity with the rest of Africa and Region One. All parties, including E-TV, had been participating in the spectrum engagements in the DCDT and the steering committee led by the Minister. Hopefully, with the court ruling, they would get all parties to accept and agree with the terms set by the court.

The installations were continuing, and the DCDT was working with the SABC. In terms of when the transmission sites would be switched off, the SABC would give the Department the go-ahead, as they have done before when the switching off was done in five provinces. Once the threshold in the agreement had been reached, the SABC would give the DCDT the signal to switch off in the remaining provinces.

The Acting Chairperson asked the CFO to address the issue of transfers.

Ms Masemola stressed that the transfer was not a case of physical dumping. The process of identifying savings had started before the conclusion of the adjustment budget. The letter from SAPO had also been received before the process was done. However, to increase the transfer to SAPO, the DCDT had needed approval from National Treasury to ensure the money was paid, and in January, R15 million was paid to SAPO.

The second phase of identifying the savings had commenced in December when the Department had projected the budget/expenditure because some projects could not continue. The budget for travel was usually fully utilised, but the pandemic had meant that they could not fully use the money due to the restrictions. Hence, the savings from travel and accommodation. This was not an exercise started by the DCDT. It commenced as a result of the financial pressures faced by SAPO.

The Acting Chairperson asked the DG to address the matter of SABC and the submission of plans to Parliament for matters relating to the plans to be corrected.

Ms Jordan-Dyani said that on 7 March, the Minister had received a letter from the SABC with concerns about the revenue loss. The Minister had written back seeking clarity on what the entity meant by revenue loss. The SABC made quarterly submissions and the DCDT had had turnaround meetings with them. It should be noted that the revenue loss had occurred before the plans to switch off. The SABC had experienced a revenue loss from September/October, but it had picked up in December and then declined again in January. The switch-off had started in November, December and January, which fell outside the period claimed by the SABC. There was a strategy spearheaded by the DCDT to help address how the SABC could be repositioned in the digital space, and what the opportunities would be when the migration was completed. The DCDT and SABC had made applications to National Treasury to request that the SABC be cleared in terms of the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA). The response from the National Treasury had been favourable.

The Minister’s letter had been sent on 24 March. The following day, the SABC had made a public announcement that they would not be participating in the switch-off, and they had also instructed SENTECH to do the same. This was considered a breach in the relations between the Department and the SABC. The main concern was that there would be a disconnect between the annual report and the quarterly reports that had already been tabled. The Minister had written to the Chair and Speaker about the matter and would be meeting with the SABC to clarify the situation. The Minister did not want to create an impression that she had misled Parliament, and would like to withdraw the quarterly reports that the SABC had tabled until there was clarity on the matter, and the SABC had explained what they meant about the revenue loss in their letter to the Minister.

The Acting Chairperson noted that such perceptions became a reality when there was an absence of information.

Mr Arnolds asked the Chairperson if the DCDT could provide the Committee with a detailed report and written response on the distribution of the 3.2 million vouchers and the 970 broadband sites.

The meeting was adjourned. 


Download as PDF

You can download this page as a PDF using your browser's print functionality. Click on the "Print" button below and select the "PDF" option under destinations/printers.

See detailed instructions for your browser here.

Share this page: