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Enrichment in sea cable project irks DA


2008-03-03

If you are really interested in rapid deployment of submarine cables, then you don’t go imposing these equity requirements
Communications Minister Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri has published proposed guidelines to compel a 51% African shareholding in the company that lands a submarine cable in the country.

However, Democratic Alliance communications spokeswoman Dene Smuts has criticised the requirement — billed by the minister as necessary for the “rapid deployment of electronic communications facilities” — as being designed for nothing other than the rapid enrichment of African participants in submarine cables.

“If you are really interested in rapid deployment of submarine cables, then you don’t go imposing these equity requirements,” Smuts said.

The roll-out of undersea telecommunication cables is critical for providing greater access to affordable broadband.

Smuts said the guidelines, if adopted in their present form, would enable the minister to decide on the shareholding of undersea cable companies. The communications department has justified the need for South African participation on grounds of national security, but Smuts dismissed this as nonsense.

In terms of the proposals on which comment is invited before April 11, South African entities must on their own, or with other African entities, have a shareholding in the cable landing operation of 51% or more.

South African partnership is secured by the requirement that the operator must have an electronic communications network service licence registered in terms of South African law.

These requirements will not apply retrospectively to the consortium that operates the existing Sat-3 international submarine cable, and which includes Telkom. However, it will apply to any new cable that will connect with Sat-3.

The minister will be empowered to authorise the landing or local operation of “an international submarine cable, a cable landing station or an international submarine cable system”.

Smuts said she disputed the use in the guidelines of a clause of the Electronic Communications Act dealing with rights of way for telecommunications infrastructure to establish cable landing rights, and warned it would open the way for litigation.

Source: My Broadband
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