The Democratic Alliance has uncovered a press release from Chinese telecommunications giant Shenzhen Skyworth Digital stating that it has, through “its factory in Johannesburg – co-owned by local company BUA Africa – successfully completed its first shipment, delivering a total of 70 000 set-top boxes (STBs) across South Africa”. By Marian Shinn, DA’s Shadow Minister of Telecommunications and Postal Services.
BUA Africa is not one of the 26 South African companies awarded a share of the R4,3 billion STB manufacturing and distribution tender managed by the Universal Service and Access Agency of South Africa (USAASA) in April 2015.
While BUA Africa did attend the 2 December 2015 mandatory briefing for companies interested in tendering, the company’s name is absent from the panel of winning company names that was briefly posted on USAASA’s website in April.
In the absence of any official release from USAASA or the Department of Communications on the placement of orders for STBs, I call on Minister of Communications Faith Muthambi, who took charge of the Broadcast Digital Migration programme of which the STB tender is part, to urgently state if orders have been placed and, if so, with who.
CEO of USAASA Zami Nkosi was yesterday quoted in ITWeb as saying that an order for 1,5 million STBs had been placed, but he did not name with whom the orders had been placed. When I approached Mr Nkosi to respond to the Skyworth press release, he said he knew nothing about it and stated that no STBs had been delivered. He said 83 500 STBs would be delivered on November 30.
Mr Nkosi did not respond to my question as to whether BUA Africa submitted a tender.
According to BUA Africa Investments company records, the company was registered on 20 May 2014, so could have submitted a tender in its own name before the deadline of 6 January 2015. One of its three directors, Thulani Ngesi, is deputy CEO of Microtronix Manufacturing.
Namec Microtronix was the only company to have been awarded a share of all four categories of products comprising the tender. Namec Microtronix has no registered company details. Microtronix attended the mandatory December 2014 briefing.
The STB manufacturing programme – developed to encourage new black-owned companies to get a foothold in South Africa’s electronic manufacturing industry and to create jobs– has been enveloped in rumours of corruption by politically-connected individuals and enterprises – almost since inception. It is widely accepted that many of the groupings formed to take advantage of the programme have scant manufacturing experience or the facilities to be viable STB producers in the long term.
It is time for government transparency via frequent communications on the progress of the STB order, manufacturing, beneficiary distribution and installation process.
Government plans to give 5 million STBs to identified poor households, although research shows that it is likely that 8 million poor households would qualify. There is also no full budget allocation for the, currently estimated, R4,5 billion cost of the STBs.