South Africa: Icasa's Role and Independence Must Be Clarified

Regulation & Policy

The Democratic Alliance calls on President Jacob Zuma to categorically state that the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa is a Chapter Nine institution charged with regulating the electronic communications sector and that its independence of government is guaranteed.

At the Joint committee meeting of Parliament's portfolio committees on Communications and Telecommunications and Postal Services on Friday, Communications Minister Faith Muthambi dismissed ICT industry speculation that ICASA would be moved to the telecommunications department following the recent split of the Department of Communications.

When I asked her to state categorically where ICASA would be placed she said that the Chapter Nine institution would remain with the Department of Communications and that its role would be in line with the Constitution.

When the Constitution was adopted in 1996 the convergence of the electronic communications technolgies had not happened. The wording of clause 192 under Chapter Nine of the Constitution says: National legislation must establish an independent authority to regulate broadcasting in the public interest, and to ensure fairness and a diversity of views representing South African society.

Since then electronic communications technologies supporting voice, data and video have converged and ICASA was formed to regulate and manage the sector.

If the regulatory authority is now to comply with the original intention of the 1996 Constitution the recently amended ICASA Act scrapped and two regulatory bodies - one for broadcasting and one for all other forms of electronic communications - would have to be formed.

This is a ludicrous position as broadcasting (as in radio and TV), voice, data and video can be transmitted can now be carried on a variety of electromagnetic media.

Also, at Friday's meeting ICASA's chairperson Dr S Mncube said he would be happy to serve both ministers.

The Democratic Alliance believes ICASA's status as a Chapter Nine institution must not be compromised. ICASA should be adequately resourced and managed so it can effectively regulate and monitor the entire ICT sector. It must be answerable to Parliament through the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services.

Source: Democratic Alliance (Cape Town) 7 July 2014