Elon Musk won’t pay bribes to ANC cronies – so SA to miss out on Starlink’s cheap, fast internet broadband from space

Elon Musk’s Starlink, the high-speed, low-cost internet access offering from space, won’t be coming to South Africa. The reason, says tenacious SA opposition politician Dianne Kohler-Barnard, is the ANC demands that to be licenced, Starlink must first give 30% of the local company to politically connected cronies under the guise of Black Economic Empowerment. That’s a demand that Musk, who was born and raised in Pretoria and still has family in the country, refuses to countenance. This was admitted by the ANC in Parliament, prompted by Kohler-Barnard, the DA’s Shadow Minister of Communications. So while the rest of Africa stands to leapfrog into the digital age through Starlink’s cheap, fast, universally accessible bandwidth from space, ANC policy will stop South Africa from participating. Kohler-Barnard spoke to Alec Hogg of BizNews.

Relevant time stamps from the interview:

  • 01:20 Dianne Kohler-Barnard on Elon Musk’s refusal to appease the ANC’s demands for 30% equity in Starlink
  • 04:42 On SA falling down the continental pecking order as African political  rivals embrace Starlink
  • 06:03 On SA’s “catastrophic” economic status due to corruption and loadshedding
  • 07:42 On the potential value of Starlink that SA is missing out on and how it is benefitting other African nations
  • 09:28  On Zimbabwe’s former telecommunication systems
  • 10:21 On the Zondo commission and how governmental corruption in SA has led to Elon Musk’s absolute stance against appeasing ANC demands
  • 12:41 On the ANC’s apathetic stance on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and its consequences
  • 14:32 On Starlink’s aiding of Ukraine and whether South Africa’s ties with Russia have impacted negotiations with the satellite company
  • 16:43 On the politics of coalition and why the DA will never make the EFF an ally

Dianne Kohler-Barnard on Starlink’s potential value to South Africa and the ANC’s outlandish demand for 30% equity in the company

The [communication and digital technologies] minister’s response has been fascinating. Bear in mind, it was his response to my parliamentary question that I have quoted throughout. That [the ANC] would require as a licensee to have a minimum of 30% equity ownership held by persons from historically disadvantaged groups. Now, what company is going to come here and hand over 30%?

It’s absolute nonsense that he doesn’t know what’s going on and he doesn’t know what the impact [of Starlink] will be. I mean, this StarLink is something that every business is saying would be an absolute game changer. Finally, we’d have reliable Internet to do business. They want to start up businesses, they don’t have reliable Internet and this would really assist when it comes to employment massively. And again, as I recall, I wrote in my statement: imagine all the children in far flung areas where there is no connectivity. They have no links to schools, to universities, to job applications. There’s nothing. And suddenly this could be working for them. But no, the ANC have stopped them at the first hurdle.

Read more: ANC’s race rules keeps Elon Musk’s Starlink out of SA – Dianne Kohler Barnard

Kohler-Barnard on South Africa’s diminishing political stature in Africa

South Africa used to be the number one country on this continent. We are losing our places month by month, frankly, as other countries overtake us and this would be one of the reasons. [African countries with Starlink connectivity] have this magnificent Internet at a magnificent speed and we have loadshedding. That’s all we have. We have nothing else to offer but loadshedding. So our businesses are collapsing. People are spending fortunes on alternative energy sources and of course Eskom are doing their utmost to block the usage of alternative energy sources, and [making] people pay for the right to have their own energy sources. It is a bizarre situation. It’s as though the ANC government are working against the people of South Africa and in this instance it is catastrophic for us.

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On how corruption in the ANC means SA will miss out on the extraordinary benefit of Starlink

[Starlink] is just the most extraordinary service that we’re now turning our nose up to. I don’t know, sometimes the thinking of the ANC and the policies they’ve come up with are so 18th century. We’ve got Nigeria, Rwanda, Mauritius connected already and many others. I think about another 17 others looking to be joined up and many in the next month or so. But of course South Africa’s just “service date unknown at this time for which one must read never”. Really it’s the one liner for Starlink to operate in South Africa. They require Applicants licenses to have a minimum 30% equity ownership held by persons from historically disadvantaged groups for which read: ANC members. So I guess we will never receive it unless that law is changed.

And I fear this falls into the same category as, if there’s nothing in it for someone [then] no one’s interested. And what would [Starlink] do in this country? It would allow our people in the furthest corners of this country, who have absolutely no access to anything, to get access. And we’re also talking that this sort of access can assist with Internet banking, the collapsing SASSA grant issues. It’s endless. The solutions that these Starlink satellites could reveal to us. And yet it is being blocked at that level because there’s no kickback.

Read more: “Like it or not, the DA will lead the opposition,” – Nicholas Woode-Smith on the fallacy of equality in coalitions

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