It has been a turbulent year for Dina Pule. She has been accused of nepotism, she had to implement the government`s plan for Telkom – which the financial markets are still unclear about – and she has been taken to court by e.tv over the migration of digital terrestrial television, which has caused further delays.
There has also been constant speculation about her alleged romance with businessperson Phosane Mngqibisa and how he might have benefited financially from the relationship.
When the Mail & Guardian spoke to Pule earlier this year, she maintained that she had done nothing wrong and refused to comment on the nature of the relationship. She hinted that a vendetta was being waged against her to embarrass her and, by proxy, President Jacob Zuma, a key political ally of hers.
The ministry of communications is a key portfolio and if the minister is having to put out political fires there is less time for her to focus on the key challenges in the ministry and in the information, communication and technology (ICT) sector.
Some of the pressing challenges include the allocation of spectrum, the unbundling of the local loop to allow operators access to the part of Telkom`s copper network that delivers services to homes and businesses, addressing low broadband penetration and the switch-over to digital terrestrial television.
According to the 2011 census, 64.8% of South Africans had no access to the internet. But six months into the year the department of communications had not met its target of a 7% increase in broadband penetration for the financial year.
The department was also meant to have established 60 e-co-operatives in the current financial year to enable youth-owned small enterprises to enter the ICT sector. Six months into the year, none had been established.
It`s clear the department is failing to make progress with key projects.
Added to this, it has massive staff shortages, must manage problem institutions such as the SABC and Sentech and has to deal with an underresourced regulator. One can see why its hands are full.
Several stakeholders blame Pule for Telkom losing more than 47% of its share value in the past year because of the government`s scuppering of the KT Corporation deal and the resignation of Telkom`s chief executive, Nombulelo Moholi.
But the delays of key projects are not all of Pule`s making. The fact that she was the third communications minister in less than a year also created major disruptions. But some stakeholders still claim that the sector remains rudderless under Pule.