Government has backtracked on plans to have communications regulator Icasa report to the newly created department of communications, which also houses the SABC, Brand South Africa and other entities, a highly placed source with knowledge of the development has told TechCentral.
Instead, Icasa will report to the department of telecommunications and postal services, for which former state security minister Siyabonga Cwele is the minister. It’s a move that’s likely to be widely welcomed in the telecoms industry. Analysts had expressed concern that Icasa, one of whose principal tasks is regulating the telecoms sector, had been shifted to another department.
Cwele’s spokesman, Siya Qoza, tells TechCentral: “The government is working on finalising the proclamation that will clarify the roles of all the entities that are affected by the reconfiguration of departments. We’ll communicate additional details at an appropriate moment.”
Last month, President Jacob Zuma came under fire when he created a new department of communications, which has been dubbed by critics as a department of propaganda, while keeping the telecoms function and management of the Post Office in the old department of communications, which was renamed as telecoms and postal services.
Civil society grouping, the SOS Coalition, which has been particularly critical of Zuma’s decision to split the department, asked last month whether there was “any hope for Icasa to be given the institutional independence, power and teeth it so sorely needs and is required by the constitution and legislation to truly be a regulator for the people”.
It’s not clear why government has had a change of heart about which entity Icasa should report into.
Meanwhile, speculation is mounting that other entities, including state-owned Broadband Infraco, which currently reports to the department of public enterprises, will be folded into telecoms and postal services, making it more of a department for information and communications technology. Talk is that even the State IT Agency, which currently falls under the department of public service and administration, could also in future report into Cwele’s department. — © 2014 NewsCentral Media