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The Department of Communications has little say over whether Telkom may sponsor a political party event, as it deals with matters at “board level” only, spokesman Siya Qoza says.
Qoza was responding to concerns raised by the DA that parastatal Telkom had been one of the main sponsors of the SA Communist Party’s 91st celebratory gala dinner in Durban at the weekend.
Although Telkom signs were prominently displayed, it denies being a sponsor, saying it only bought a table.
DA communications spokeswoman Marian Shinn said the government owned 38.9 percent of Telkom and, if the stake by the Public Investment Corporation was included, the public had a 51 percent investment in Telkom.
“This means that South African citizens paid, at least in part, for the lavish dinner enjoyed by SACP comrades.”
Shinn said the Department of Communications was the custodian of public investment in the company, so Communications Minister Dina Pule should ensure that this investment was protected.
Last month Telkom reported gross consolidated financial debt of about R7.2 billion, “which the company will likely struggle to service as analysts are predicting pressure on its profitability”, Shinn said.
“Telkom is also expected to spearhead national broadband roll-out and has recently rejected the injection of significant funds from the South Korean company KT Corp to support this process. One therefore has to question the decision to fund a party political event.”
But Qoza said that in this instance, Telkom should respond to the claims and not the department.
“It’s quite simple because this would have been dealt with at a co-operative level. Those types of decisions are taken at that level. We only get involved at board level.”
Qoza said the department was not responsible for operations and the day-to-day running of the company.
The company said: “Telkom did not sponsor the SACP congress. However, Telkom bought a table at the dinner to entertain its stakeholders.”
SACP spokesman Malesela Maleka could not be reached for comment.
Shinn said she would ask parliamentary questions to find out how much was spent on the SACP sponsorship “and how Telkom justified this sponsorship”.
She added: “One struggles to imagine how this expenditure would contribute to the strategic objectives of the telecoms operator. Minister Pule has some explaining to do.”
Other logos on prominent display at the event were those of African Rainbow Minerals, the National Union of Metalworkers of SA and the Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union.
The dinner, held at the International Convention Centre in Durban, was addressed by Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe, but was not attended by SACP general secretary Blade Nzimande or his deputy, Jeremy Cronin, according to reports.