OBITUARY:’Comrade Roy left without a scandal’

Even though Radhakrishna Lutchmana Padayachie (62), commonly known as Roy, was minister for public service and administration when he died last week, he will be remembered most for his work in the ministry of communications.

From April 2004 he served as the deputy minister of communications under the controversial Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri. In May 2009 he was appointed deputy minister of public service and administration by President Jacob Zuma, but in October 2010 he was called on to replace Siphiwe Nyanda as communications minister.

Padayachie’s association with Matsepe-Casaburri’s disastrous term left some stakeholders questioning his ability to manage such a key sector.

Nyanda left Padayachie problems in many areas to solve after the former’s term was plagued by controversy, including alleged interference at the SABC, attempts to reverse South Africa’s decision on the digital television standard, alleged excessive expenditure and his rather public dispute with then-communications director general Mamodupi Mohlala.

Padayachie hit the ground running. His first move was to release a statement about how he wanted the local loop unbundled within 12 months. It would have given other operators access to millions of South Africans homes, businesses and consumers, and boosted competition and brought down prices.

The communications portfolio
However, it is a complicated regulatory minefield and Padayachie could not meet his own target. The digital migration process for South African television also appeared to stall during Padayachie’s reign.

Zuma has paid tribute to Padayachie, saying he made his mark in the communications portfolio where he used the opportunity to bridge the digital divide.

“He was often seen in remote areas delivering computers to poor schools. He also worked hard to establish telecentres so that the children of the poor can have access to communication facilities.

“He was equally passionate about expanding banking services to the poor. He wanted Postbank to become a bank of first choice for communities that have little or no access to commercial banking services or facilities.”

His deputy at the department of public service and administration, Ayanda Dlodlo, said Padayachie had never been personally involved in any scandal. “When I told the media that Comrade Roy has left without a scandal, I said so with pride. He understood that the department of public service and administration  is the heartbeat of the government and always acted in a manner that fulfils the government’s objectives. Let his death implore us to be more conscious of the people we serve and emulate the lives led by people like Roy.”

Padayachie died while on duty in Addis Ababa in Ethiopia.

Speaking at his funeral, Zuma said: “As a democrat and freedom fighter, he wanted to see democracy and good governance entrenched throughout the continent, hence his dedication to the African Union’s African peer review mechanism.

“At the time of his passing, he was busy with strategies to improve the recruitment, career-pathing and the retention of skills in the public service to create the ideal public service for a developmental state.”

Padayachie was born in Clairwood, south of Durban. After matriculating from Tagore High School in Clairwood, he earned a bachelor of science degree from the University College for Indians, which later became the University of Durban-Westville. He served as an executive member of the Natal Indian Congress and executive committee member of the United Democratic Front in KwaZulu-Natal.

He distinguished himself as a member of the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal’s negotiating team at the Congress for a Democratic South Africa. – M&G reporter

Roy Padayachie was born on May 1 1950 and died on May 5 2012

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