Communications regulator Icasa is meant to have nine full-time councillors. However, since the end of last month, it has had only three — Nomvuyiso Batyi, Rubben Mohlaloga and Katharina Pillay — raising questions about the ability of the agency to function.
Unfortunately, delays in the parliamentary process to recommend names to President Jacob Zuma to fill the vacant seats means Icasa could be without additional councillors for at least several months to come.
Icasa spokesman Paseka Maleka on Friday confirmed that Icasa has only three councillors at present, but said that the Icasa Act, as amended, “provides for continued and legitimate decision making by the council, even in instances where there are fewer councillors in office at any given time”.
Lisa Thornton, who specialises in electronic communication law, confirmed that the council is still able to establish a quorum for a meeting, as a simple majority of the councillors presently serving is all that’s needed. “So, vacancies will not affect the quorum,” she explained.
The real question, she said, is whether Icasa is sufficiently staffed to get through all the work it needs to.
“Two things come to mind. First, they have a big staff that does much of the work. Second, three councillors should be able to come together and make decisions based on recommendations made by the staff, maybe even more efficiently than more councillors,” Thornton said. “There are many issues that go into making an effective regulator, not just the number of sitting councillors.”
In June, the national assembly withdrew the nomination of eight candidates for the Icasa council after allegations surfaced that one of the candidates, Thami Ntenteni, was an ex-convict. Ntenteni reportedly served time in prison for culpable homicide related to a car accident in the 1990s that left one person dead and three others injured. He was also convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol.
Democratic Alliance MP Gavin Davis said at the time that legislation prevents anyone convicted after 1993 of a schedule one offence — this includes culpable homicide — from being appointed to Icasa’s council.
Ntenteni was one of eight names shortlisted by parliament for what were then five vacant council seats at Icasa. The others were Botlenyana Mokhele, Dimakatso Qocha, Lumko Mtimde, Yengwayo Kutta, Peter Zimri, Keabetswe Modimoeng and Paris Mashile.
Since then, Icasa’s chairman, Stephen Mncube, who also served as a councillor, has left following the expiry of his term of office.
“The only update I have is that the national assembly resolved to send the Ntenteni matter back to the portfolio committee [on communications] for deliberation,” Davis said this week. “I will be pushing for this to be our first order of business when the new term starts.” — (c) 2015 NewsCentral Media