Muthambi must explain interference in ICASA
16 October 2014
The DA has in its possession a letter that the Minister of Communications, Faith Muthambi, has sent to ICASA councillors instructing them to vacate their offices by the end of November.
We believe the Minister has acted unlawfully by issuing this instruction.
The letter, dated 6 October 2014, states:
"Section 7(4) of the ICASA Act as amended makes provision for Councillors whose term office has come to an end to remain in office for an extended period not exceeding forty-five working days pending finalisation of the selection/appointment process for their successors. Since your contract has ended, I wish to inform you that the above section will not apply."
There is nothing in the legislation that gives the Minister the right to revoke this forty-five working day extension. The extension is automatic if no replacements have been appointed.
The fact is that no progress has been made to replace the four councillors.
The Portfolio Committee on Communications still needs to advertise the vacancies, embark on a nomination process and provide the Minister with a shortlist of 6 candidates.
There is no chance of this happening before the end of the forty-five working day extension.
The outgoing councillors are Joseph Lebooa and William Currie (whose terms finished at the end of September) and William Stucke and Miki Ndhlovu (whose terms will finish at the end of October.
Given the potential unlawfulness of the Minister's actions, I will be calling for her to appear before the Communications Portfolio Committee to explain herself.
In particular, she must explain:
What authority she has in law to revoke the forty-five day extension as provided for in the ICASA Act; and
Why she has moved to dismiss the councillors, despite the fact that the Portfolio Committee has not begun the process of appointing new councillors.
ICASA has a mandate to regulate the SABC and allocate high-demand spectrum, communications infrastructure, commercial radio and TV licensing. This kind of government interference will fuel speculation that Minister Muthambi wishes to control the broadcast regulator as part of government's plans to create a Department of Propaganda.
As a Chapter 9 institution, ICASA should be impervious to ministerial manipulation. Minister Muthambi must explain herself without delay.
Statement issued by Gavin Davis MP, DA Shadow Minister of Communications, October 16 2014
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