June 8, 2005

It is common knowledge that the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa lacks the capacity -- in both its human and economic resources -- to function properly in terms of its legislated mandate.

ICASA is known to be a "weak" and under-funded regulator.  This is one of the reasons why South Africa could not attract the kind of international investment it wanted for the Second National Operator and competition in the telecommunications industry has been critically delayed while Telkom tarrifs and profits have soared. 

Cabinet are today, we have been told, discussing a Bill to amend the ICASA Act precisely to attempt to rectify this problem.  The ICT industry is recognised as a fundamental national economic driver and has been acknowledged as such by President Mbeki in his State of the Nation addresses.

It is therefore astounding and extremely disappointing that, today of all days, the ANC majority in the Portfolio Committee on Communications in the National Assembly decided, in the opinion of the IFP, to ignore the law and propose to Parliament and the President that a person unqualified for the position be appointed as a Councillor of ICASA.

The ANC chose, yet again, to flex its majority muscle, call for a vote, and totally ignore opposition pleas for skills to take precedence over the ANC's repeated quest to provide jobs-for-pals.

In terms of the law, the ICASA Council, "when viewed collectively" must be comprised of persons who possess a various range of skills.

Today the ANC proposed Mr Mthobeli Mthunzi Zokwe, a former ANC and COSAW organiser and coordinator, to fill the vacancy on ICASA created by the departure of its chairman, Mr Mandla Langa.  The requirement of the law has not been met. 

Mr Zokwe, for less than two years (1997-1999), worked for the Department of Defence and, according to his CV, directed related aspects of audio-visual production, shows and exhibitions for the Department and dealt with matters relating to transformation and communication strategies.

He then went on (1999) to manage safety and security (under contract) for the athlete's village in Alexandra Township for the games held there that year.

More recently Mr Zokwe (2000 - 2001) led an unsuccessful BEE mobile satellite telecommunications  venture and set up a company which unsuccessfully attempted to bid for a stake in the "BEE set aside" of the Second National Operator.

The IFP regrets to have to so publicly discuss Mr Zokwe but believes Parliament and the Portfolio Committee on Communications cannot continue to pack the ICASA Council (and the SABC Board) with, for the most part, party political favourites while rejecting the kind of critical skills available (and required by law). 

A crippled ICASA is going to be disastrous for the South African economy and consumers in general. 

Experience has shown us that many excellent and highly skilled candidates are short listed for the sake of form but are continually thrust aside and never seriously considered due to  their obvious lack of "political legitimacy" or in many cases simply because they are white and not black.

This cannot go on.

We appeal to President Mbeki to refer this selection process back to the Committee and to have it re-opened and re-advertised.

For further information contact:
Suzanne Vos
083 303 0451