Departing councillors at communications regulator Icasa, asked to step aside before completing a customary 45 working day handover period, may be mulling legal action against communications minister Faith Muthambi, according to a newspaper report on Monday.
Business Day says it has e-mail correspondence dated 7 October in which two of the fired councillors — the newspaper doesn’t name them — reject Muthambi’s interpretation of the clause in the Icasa Act providing for the 45-day extension.
“The minister’s interpretation of section 7(4) of the Icasa Act does not appear to be correct,” one of them wrote in an e-mail, which was reportedly copied to Icasa CEO Pakamile Pongwana and others.
Another reportedly replied: “Indeed. Shame. More embarrassment for her when she either has to back down, or face a court challenge.”
However, TechCentral understands that although some of the councillors are fuming about Muthambi’s decision, it is unlikely this will turn into legal action against the minister.
Last week, TechCentral reported that Muthambi had ordered that the four councillors, whose terms are ending, do not stay on for the 45-day extension period, despite the fact that parliament has not begun the process of replacing them.
Democratic Alliance MP Gavin Davis warned last week that Muthambi may have acted unlawfully.
Davis said he is in possession of the letters sent to the four councillors. In them, he said, Muthambi wrote: “Section 7(4) of the Icasa Act as amended makes provision for councillors whose term of office has come to an end to remain in office for an extended period not exceeding 45 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.”
Davis said that there is “nothing in the legislation that gives the minister the right to revoke this 45 working day extension”.
“The extension is automatic if no replacements have been appointed,” he said. “The fact is that no progress has been made to replace the four councillors.”
The four-year terms of Lebooa and Currie finished at the end of September; those of Stucke and Ndhlovu will finish at the end of October.
Icasa chairman Stephen Mncube moved to downplay the impact of Muthambi’s decision to ask four councillors to leave before they have served the customary handover period.
“The Icasa Act, as amended, provides for the continued and legitimate decision making by the council of Icasa, even in instances where there are fewer councillors in office at any given time, as has been the case previously,” Mncube said in a statement.
“There have, in the past, been periods when there was less than the full complement of councillors in office and this did not impede decision making or bring into question the legitimacy of decisions,” he said. — © 2014 NewsCentral Media