Communications minister Faith Muthambi allegedly attempted to unduly influence Icasa councillor Nomvuyiso Batyi by offering her the position of chairwoman of the communications regulator in return for her giving a television broadcasting licence to a Gupta-owned broadcasting company.
That’s according to a report in the Sunday Times, which said that Batyi spurned Muthambi’s alleged offer. Citing insiders with knowledge of the situation, Muthambi then allegedly withdrew her offer to appoint her as Icasa’s new chair.
According to the newspaper, Batyi is now taking legal action against Muthambi for failing to appoint her, even though she was given a letter of appointment.
A former investigator for the Competition Commission, Batyi moved to Icasa as a manager for competition and was named acting senior manager for policy analysis and development before being appointed as a councillor.
Icasa has not had a full-time chair since the departure last year of Stephen Mncube.
On 15 December 2015, TechCentral reported that Batyi was set to be appointed as the new chair of the telecommunications and broadcasting regulator’s council. The publication had established at the time from two separate sources that she was to be appointed.
However, at the time that article was published, her appointment had not been formalised as it still had to be confirmed by way of a notice in the Government Gazette, to be published by Muthambi.
Batyi, who has LLB and B Proc degrees from the University of Fort Hare, was to replace Mncube, who stepped down at the end of June 2015 after serving a full term as chairman.
According to the Sunday Times, the Guptas have denied the latest allegations, while Muthambi’s office has refused to be “drawn into such spurious allegations”.
In March this year, Icasa rejected all five applications, including the Gupta-controlled Infinity Media Networks, that were seeking new free-to-air television broadcasting licences in South Africa.
The licences, if they had not been rejected, would have led to the first new competition in free-to-air television since the launch of e.tv in 1998.
Icasa acting chairman Rubben Mohlaloga said at the time the applications were rejected that it was “regrettable” that the authority was forced to dismiss all five applicants for failing to meet the requirements set down in the invitation to apply and in applicable legislation.
The applications were rejected on a number of grounds, including foreign shareholding, ownership by historically disadvantaged individuals, corporate status and finances.
Infinity Media had sought to launch the ANN7 24-hour news channel nationally on a terrestrial signal. ANN7 is currently only available on MultiChoice’s DStv platform. — © 2016 NewsCentral Media