AS THE FESTIVE SEASON APPROACHES, many cash-strapped consumers are facing a bleak Christmas. Unfortunately, despite earlier optimism that a recovery is in sight, it now appears that Dubai's debt crisis could well delay an upswing for world economies.
The South African consumer is waiting with trepidation for the promised electricity price hikes and another massive jump in the petrol price, to name but a few lowlights. What was seen as a potential breakthrough for the local consumer ower interconnection fees - has not really materialised either. And I blame the politicians.
When the issue of South Africa's mobile interconnection rates cropped up recently, all but the operators agreed that the 125c per minute we are paying is outrageous. ICASA then stepped in and made its usual impotent noises, before declaring victory. The regulator announced that the operators had agreed to bring down interconnection rates under an industry-led process, with operators agreeing to have the new contract agreements in place by the end of this month, and full implementation of new rates as soon as February next year.
Naturally, this was laughed off as a typical ICASA move, and ICASA was laughed off for being... well, its typical self.
Enter Patricia de Lille. The Independent Democrats leader heroically took up the interconnection battle and laid a complaint with the Competition Commission.
It almost brought a tear to my eye watching De Lille take on the mobile giants. In October, she was not impressed when MTN and Vodacom decided to reduce the blended interconnection rate by 19%, to 78c, with immediate effect.
The wrangling continued for some time, until finally, in November, communications minister Siphiwe Nyanda announced that an agreement on interconnection rates had been reached.
The three cellular network operators had agreed to cut the peak rate from 125c per minute to 89c, starting from February for Vodacom and Cell C, and March for MTN. The off-peak rate of 77c is unaltered. Unfortunately, this was a far cry from the levels that industry and the consumer had wanted to see.
And De Lille? Clearly happy with the extent to which her career had been resuscitated, she declared that the move was "Parliament's Christmas gift to the nation".
Oh well, once a politician, always a politician. Bah Humbug!
This content has been locked. You can no longer post any comment.