The Democratic Alliance has accused communications minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams of thumbing her nose at parliament after failing to fill six council vacancies at communications regulator Icasa.
TechCentral first reported on Saturday that Ndabeni-Abrahams had appointed five new councillors to Icasa. She was meant to pick six names from a short-list of 10 sent to her by parliament’s portfolio committee on communications & digital technologies.
The five councillors appointed by the minister are Keabetswe Modimoeng (who will also serve as chair); Peter Zimri; Luthando Mkumatela; Yolisa Kedama; and Charley Lewis.
In a statement on Monday, DA MP Phumzile Van Damme said she will ask the speaker of parliament, Thandi Modise, to subject the minister to disciplinary action “following her latest decision to ignore parliament”.
Van Damme said Ndabeni-Abrahams’ decision to appoint only five councillors “is in contravention of two decisions of the national assembly instructing her to appoint six councillors”.
“While this may seem a minor infraction, it is not. It is now the second time the minister has decided to override the power of the national assembly regarding appointments to the Icasa council,” she said.
‘Brazen middle finger’
Last month, Ndabeni-Abrahams wrote to Modise seeking to reject the national assembly’s proposed list of candidates to serve on the council. “By doing so, she not only violated the Icasa Act, but the constitutional principle of the separation of powers.”
The communication committee rejected this, agreeing in a report that “it would not accede to a request by the communications minister to fill only four of the six Icasa council vacancies. It also agreed that it would not alter the skills set in its recommended list … and would retain its initial recommendation in order of priority.
“That the minister has now only appointed five, and not the six as per the decision of national assembly, is a brazen middle finger aimed at parliament, and must be dealt with harshly,” Van Damme said.
“Ndabeni-Abrahams has not only violated the principles of the constitution and the Icasa Act but also two additional laws governing the conduct of ministers: the Executive Members’ Ethics Code and the Powers and Privileges Act.
“A violation of the Powers and Privileges Act by a minister, who is also an MP, is contempt of parliament and the house has the power to institute disciplinary action. If an MP is found guilty, she could be removed as an MP, among other sanctions.”
Meanwhile, the five new councillors appointed by the minister were sworn in on Monday afternoon at Icasa’s head office in Pretoria for four-year terms (five years for the chairman). The councillors were sworn in by a judge.
“We are indeed pleased to welcome the new councillors as we are faced with a mammoth task of developing evidence-based regulations to level the playing field within the ICT industry. The incoming councillors possess vast experiences in their own right and we intend to tap into their intelligence as we continue to regulate in the public interest,” said acting Icasa chair Palesa Kadi in a statement. — (c) 2020 NewsCentral Media