Durban - Digital tablets are the latest technology to be introduced as tools of the trade for 69 ordinary members of the KwaZulu-Natal legislature.
The members, who were already enjoying free laptops, which are equipped with an internet connection, and cellphones, have now been given the tablets free.
The Speaker, MECs and the premier are not among the 69, as they receive their gadgets separately.
Provincial government spokesman Wesley Canham said in the previous term the legislature had spent more than R1.7-million on laptops for members.
Early last week, the members were seen at the legislature in Pietermaritzburg queuing to receive their Samsung Galaxy 310.1 tablet, which, according to The Mercury’s research at computer retailers, cost about R8 000 each.
Canham said MTN had provided the devices free.
“These tablets were offered free to members as part of the existing contract with MTN involving cellular phone and data bundles to members and qualifying staff.
“The tablets come loaded with a R100 data bundle. Upon depletion, members will re-charge at their own cost,” Canham said.
However, MTN general manager for direct sales Victor Rakhale denied that MTN had provided the tablets free.
“MTN would like to categorically state that there is no truth to MTN providing free devices to the legislature.
“The KwaZulu-Natal Legislature is a client of MTN, and as part of the normal contractual agreement, members of the legislature receive tablets and devices.
“The devices are loaded with data and airtime based on a subscription for a 24-month period. After the lapse of the subscription, the standard upgrade process will take place.
“This applies to all MTN clients, whether from the private or public sectors,” said Rakhale.
Pressed to respond to MTN’s statement and reveal how much the provincial legislature paid for the items, Canham said: “Our corporate contract allows us to negotiate promotional items. This term we negotiated for our tablets over the contract period.”
He said members qualifying for the tablets and laptops were those whose job descriptions forced them to work outside the office often.
The computers and tablets would help reduce the use of paper and encourage a clean environment.
Canham said members would be trained on how to use the technology.
It seems even the DA, which is known for criticising extravagant spending of public money, is impressed by the technology.
DA MPL Mark Steele said: “We will accept any means provided by the legislature that will enable us to perform our oversight role better.” - The Mercury