Communications minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams has appointed five new councillors to communications regulator Icasa, returning the respected former acting chairman, Keabetswe Modimoeng, for a fresh term.
Modimoeng has been appointed as chairman, this time in a permanent capacity.
The appointments fill five of six vacancies on the council and come at a critical time for Icasa, which has several big projects on the table, including a planned 4G and 5G spectrum auction slated to take place before the end of December 2020.
The five councillors appointed by the minister are:
- Keabetswe Modimoeng: The former acting Icasa chairman served as a councillor from April 2016 to June 2020. He has served as a board member of the South African Weather Service and is a former member of the University of Johannesburg’s advisory board. He has a PhD in management sciences specialising in business administration and research. He has also completed the executive development programme at the Wharton School of University of Pennsylvania, according to his profile on LinkedIn.
- Peter Zimri: Zimri served as a councillor from April 2016 to June 2020. He was previously a senior manager and technical regulatory specialist at Neotel (now Liquid Telecom South Africa) and has served as a director of the Number Portability Company. He has extensive experience working with the International Telecommunication Union.
- Luthando Mkumatela: Mkumatela is a former councillor at the Independent Broadcasting Authority (which was later merged with the South African Telecommunications Regulatory Authority to create Icasa).
- Yolisa Kedama: Kedama is a specialist in ICT policy and regulation.
- Charley Lewis: Lewis is an independent analyst, researcher and trainer with skills in ICT policy and regulation. He is a former senior lecturer at the Link Centre at Wits University. He was head of IT for Cosatu from 1994 to 2001.
The appointment process has not been without its problems.
On 21 June, the Sowetan newspaper reported that there appeared to be tension between the minister and Boyce Maneli, the chair of parliament’s portfolio committee on communications, over who should chair the Icasa council.
The report cited sources “close to the situation” who alleged that Maneli insisted on ranking the recommendations to the minister as he wanted former Post Office board member Kgosie Matthews appointed as Icasa chair, a charge that Maneli denied, saying the minister, not parliament, was responsible for appointing the chairman.
Various reports have suggested Ndabeni-Abrahams took umbrage at the committee’s decision to rank the short-listed candidates sent to her as she saw this as an attempt to force her hand in the appointments.
Last month, the minister threw a spanner in the works over the appointment of six new councillors. She asked parliament for permission to fill only four — for now — prompting severe criticism from some members of the portfolio committee. She wrote a letter to national assembly speaker Thandi Modise raising questions about the suitability of the candidates drawn up by the committee. She specifically questioned the skills mix they’d bring to the regulator.
According to a report in City Press on 17 June, which cited people close to the process, the decision to rank candidates suggested that MPs wanted to “confine the minister to their top candidates and direct the choice of the new Icasa chair”.
Democratic Alliance MP and the party’s shadow communications minister, Phumzile Van Damme, said at the time that although the committee created an order of preference of candidates, which is “not something we ordinarily do”, it is “neither here nor there because the minister can choose whoever she deems suitable”. — © 2020 NewsCentral Media