11 February 2013

South Africa: Communications Committee Must Probe Intimidation of Icasa Councillor

press release

I have written to the chairperson of the parliamentary portfolio committee on communications, Eric Kholwane, requesting him to convene an urgent presentation by the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) into the reported hijacking of councillor Joseph Lebooa and threats apparently made against him and his family.

Last week the Mail & Guardian reported that Mr Lebooa, who is responsible for oversight and enforcement of spectrum and licensing applications and fees, was apparently hijacked, beaten and threatened by hooded men claiming to be acting on behalf of a company he is investigating for illegal use of communication links and non-payment of application and usage fees amounting to millions of rands.

Today, it was reported that the company in question has laid a charge of crimen injuria against Mr Lebooa, and that unknown intruders had dug under the fence surrounding his home and cut the water mains in what appears to be an act of intimidation.

ICASA is a Chapter Nine institution whose independence in telecommunications regulatory affairs is constitutionally protected. Any threat made to its representatives or against its integrity must be promptly and robustly examined and dealt with.

I understand Mr Lebooa has lodged a case about his hijacking and assault with the Hawks, but his enquiries about progress on the case have been rebuffed.

I believe it is important to hear from ICASA about what it is doing to ensure that Mr Lebooa receives the necessary support and protection, as well as any progress it is making on determining who owes it money, how much and what steps are being taken to recover outstanding payments.

ICASA has repeatedly been subject to adverse Auditor General findings because of its inability to accurately determine who owes it money and how much is outstanding in licence fees. Its appeals to National Treasury for additional funding to fulfil its mandate have fallen on deaf ears because of the inadequacy of its financial and operational systems.

ICASA therefore needs to appear before the Communications portfolio committee in Parliament as a matter of urgency to explain what it is doing to turn the situation around.

Marian Shinn, Shadow Minister of Communications

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