Asha Speckman

The absence of Rosey Sekese, the director-general in the Department of Communications (DoC), increased doubts about its ability to speed up delivery on key project targets it had delayed last year, analysts said yesterday, as aspersions were cast on her competency.

Sekese, whose role is crucial for oversight and implementation, was on special leave, the department said yesterday, and Gift Buthelezi, one of two deputy director-generals, would act in her post until February 15.

The most imminent deliverables include the national switchover to digital television, the allocation of radio frequency spectrum to industry players for the implementation of next generation cellular technologies, and the development of a national integrated information and communications technology policy.

Other projects include the implementation of regulatory interventions, such as local loop unbundling, which will open up Telkom’s telephone exchange connections to its customers to rival telecoms operators. This process is expected to enhance market competition.

The Independent Communications Authority of SA Amendment Act and the Electronic Communications Amendment Act also have to be presented to Parliament. Last year the department also championed the development of a turnaround strategy for Telkom, which has not yet been implemented.

The department did not give reasons for Sekese’s special leave, but it is understood to be linked to the recommendations of the portfolio committee on communications for corrective action after she allegedly provided incorrect information about her performance contract to the committee last year.

She had misled the committee about the status of her performance contract, which needed to be signed by herself and Communications Minister Dina Pule, MPs said.

Even as analysts remarked on the implications of the uncertainty over Sekese’s future in the director-general position, they cast aspersions on her effectiveness in the department.

Richard Hurst, an analyst at Ovum, said while the changes in the department were bad news and created more confusion concerning leadership and the ability to meet objectives, Sekese’s special leave highlighted the fact that the department took allegations of misconduct in a serious light.

“Leaders in these positions are being held accountable. Based on this, I think it will be a minor blip in the road to the objectives for the [department]”, Hurst said.

Avhasei Mukhoma, a lawyer and analyst, said: “From where I’m sitting, she hasn’t been playing an active role.”

Mukhoma added that a director-general would take his or her cue from the minister in terms of policy and political matters. “The challenge is that [Sekese] was appointed by [the late communications minister Roy] Padayachie. The current minister inherited her… I think there are also dynamics at operational level.”

He added, however, that a lack of coherent strategy at the ministerial level was also to blame for much of the tardiness within the department.

Marian Shinn, the DA’s spokeswoman on communications, said Sekese’s actions cast doubt over her “ability to carry out her director-general responsibilities”, and the department’s strategic plans showed a lack of focus.