The SOS Campaign has raised serious concerns that proposed changes to the Icasa Act would undermine the independence of the regulator, and effectively make it an operational body within the department of communications.
The campaign, which is made up of unions, nongovernment organisations and academics, says the proposed changes to the law would fall foul of the country’s constitution.
Last month, cabinet approved several controversial changes to the act. These include the creation of a tariff advisory council to “advise the minister on retail rates”.
The SOS Campaign says many other amendments are problematic. The changes will result in the CEO, whose title will be changed to chief operating officer, losing the ability to approach parliament directly. Instead, he or she will have to speak through communications minister Siphiwe Nyanda.
The campaign is also worried the bill forces Icasa to follow policy directives without question, and the department will ultimately determine roles of councillors.
SOS coordinator Kate Skinner says SA has a long history of independent regulation free of political control.
“Having government play a central role in regulation is problematic, especially if the regulator needs to rule against government in the interests of the country,” she says.
Skinner says the proposed changes undermine Icasa’s mandate and effectively make it a division of the communications department. “Icasa cannot be beholden to any individual group, be it government or the broadcasters and operators.”
SOS has also requested Nyanda extend the deadline for comments on the proposed amendments to the end of August, because, it says, many stakeholders have not had enough time to consider the proposed changes.
Chairman of the parliamentary portfolio committee on communications Ismail Vadi says parliament will only look at the changes in two weeks.
He says the bill will be discussed in parliament before the end of the year. — Candice Jones, TechCentral