South African President Jacob Zuma announced his new cabinet ministers over the weekend, and while some ministers remained with their current portfolios, a great number of posts have been filled by newly-appointed ministers who had no previous experience in their respective areas.

Traditionally the Department of Communications oversaw all aspects of telecommunications in South Africa, including broadband, broadcasting and the various other forms of communicating. However that department has been renamed the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services, to be led by Dr Siyabonga Cwele, while a new Department of Communications headed up by Minister Faith Muthambi has been established.

The matter has caused some confusion, as it seems that the ministries could have overlapping portfolios. The biggest surprise in the technology sector is that the Department of Communications will comprise of the Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa), the SABC, the Government Communication and Information System (GCIS), Brand South Africa, and the Media Development and Diversity Agency (MDDA).

The department’s main goal will be to create a communications policy and strategy, and as Zuma explained, the new DoC will also be responsible for branding the country internationally. “We have established a new communications ministry which will be responsible for overarching communication policy and strategy, information dissemination and publicity, as well as the branding of the country abroad,” he said.

Muthambi is simultaneously South Africa’s seventh Minister of Communications and its first, given the new scope of the department under her tenure. The late Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri, who was appointed in 1999 is still the longest serving minister of the portfolio with a tenure of almost 10 years. On average, South Africa’s communication ministers serve about two years in office before being either shuffled or removed.

Outgoing Minister of Communications, Yunus Carrim was minister from July 2013 until this weekend, while Dina Pule, his predecessor served from 2011 to 2013. Roy Padayachie served for exactly one year, and before him Siphiwe Nyanda had a tenure of about a year-and-a-half. Controversial minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang only served as acting minister until Nyanda was announced.

Muthambi has a bit of a spotty past as she was the controversial former municipal manager at the Makhado municipality, where she was suspended on fraud charges.  Although she has been a member of parliament’s portfolio committee on communications, Muthambi has no experience in communications.

According to her LinkedIn page, she was the manager of Labour Relations in the Limpopo premier’s office, and for four months in 2002 served as Senior Manager of Corporate Services for the Mutale Municipality.

The ANC’s Parliamentary Caucus website lists her first education as B. Proc from the University of Venda (1993-1996), and completed a number of courses and curriculums after that, which include Certificate in Computer Training and Masters in Public Management, and lists that she is currently busy with her LLB and Research for the Masters in Public Management Certificate in Leadership.

[Source – ANC, LinkedIn, image – Flickr Creative Commons]