Urgent answers needed on Thami Ntenteni appointment
21 June 2015
The DA has reason to believe that President Zuma’s appointment of Thami Ntenteni to the Media Development and Diversity Agency Board on Friday, and his impending appointment to the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa, may be unlawful.
According to archived press reports, Mr Ntenteni was convicted of culpable homicide in 1998 and received a custodial sentence exceeding one year. If so, this may render him ineligible to serve on both the MDDA Board and the ICASA Council.
Reports in the public domain indicate that:
On 30 November 1994 Mr Ntenteni was reportedly found guilty of driving under the influence of alcohol. 
In 1998, Mr Ntenteni was reportedly again found guilty of driving under the influence of alcohol and culpable homicide in 1998. 
He reportedly caused an accident on the Ben Schoeman Highway in Gauteng in which a woman, Elizabeth Molefe, was killed and three people (Jane Dube, Doreen Mncube and Robert Zondi) were injured.  They were witnesses in the court case that followed. 
It was reported that the BMW Mr Ntenteni was driving crashed into a Volkswagen Passat from behind. The BMW was allegedly travelling at high speed. Passengers in the Volkswagen were trapped inside the burnt out wreckage until emergency workers arrived, and were then taken to hospital. Mr Ntenteni was not injured. 
It was reported that Mr Ntenteni was arrested at the scene, but was later released from the Randburg Magistrates Court with a warning and no bail, which was deemed unusual. 
Another report claimed that Mr Ntenteni was sentenced to five years in prison for culpable homicide and two years for drunken driving and negligence. 
Another report suggests that Mr Ntenteni was “sent to jail for a period of three years” and “conducted himself exceptionally well in jail.” 
Correctional Service Department spokesperson Russel Mamabolo reportedly confirmed that Mr Ntenteni had been released from prison on September 3 2001. 
It was reported that Mr Ntenteni resigned from his position in Deputy President Mbeki’s office a few weeks before he was found guilty. 
Section 5(f) of the Media Development and Diversity Act states:
“A person may not be appointed as a member of the MDDA Board if he or she has been convicted after the commencement of the Constitution of the Republic South Africa, 1993 (Act no. 200 of 1993) of a crime specified in Schedule 1 to the Criminal Procedure Act, 1977 (Act no. 51 of 1977), and has been sentenced to a period of imprisonment of not less than one year without the option of a fine.”
Culpable homicide is specified as a Schedule 1 crime in the Criminal Procedure Act.
Section 6(1)(k) of the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa Act states:
“A person may not be appointed as a councillor if he or she has been sentenced, after the commencement of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1993 (Act No. 200 of 1993), to a period of imprisonment of not less than one year without the option of a fine.”
If, as indicated in press reports, Mr Ntenteni was sentenced to a year or more in prison (without the option of a fine) he would be ineligible for the MDDA Board and the ICASA Council. At this stage we do not have official confirmation that he was sentence to more than a year in prison, although it would explain the gap on his Curriculum Vitae between 1998 and 2001.
I wrote to the Chairperson of the Communications Portfolio Committee, Joyce Moloi-Moropa, just over a week ago on 13 June in an attempt to ascertain:
1. Whether the Portfolio Committee secretariat commissioned a background check on Mr Ntenteni, including whether he has any previous criminal convictions;
2. If so, whether it emerged that Mr Ntenteni has a criminal record; and
3. Whether, in the event that Mr Ntenteni has a criminal record, (a) which crimes he has been convicted of, and (b) if he was convicted to a prison term of one year or more without the option of a fine.
Ms. Moloi-Moropa confirmed receipt of the letter, but has not yet responded despite repeated follow-up phone calls and text messages.
In the meantime, President Zuma appointed Mr Ntenteni to the Board of the MDDA on Friday, following the National Assembly’s recommendation on 3 June. It is not clear whether the President was made aware of Mr Ntenteni’s alleged criminal record when he appointed him to the MDDA Board. I have therefore written to the Presidency to request a full explanation for the circumstances surrounding the appointment.
The National Assembly will consider Mr Ntenteni’s appointment to the ICASA Council this Tuesday 23 June. Parliament needs to be fully apprised of Mr Ntenteni’s history before it recommends his appointment as an ICASA Councillor to Minister Faith Muthambi. I have therefore written another letter to Ms. Moloi-Moropa to request that this urgent matter be discussed at the Portfolio Committee this Tuesday.
It would be wrong to pre-judge Mr Ntenteni’s eligibility for the MDDA Board and the ICASA Council without all the information. But, in the light of reports in the public domain, we cannot allow this appointment to go unchallenged until we know for sure it is legally valid.
Statement issued by Gavin Davis MP, DA Shadow Minister Communications, June 21 2015