21 January 2018

South Africa: Icasa Response to DA Request for Multichoice Investigation Now 8 Weeks Late

press release

It has been 8 weeks since the DA submitted a request to the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) for an investigation into Multichoice's payments to ANN7 and the SABC, allegedly in exchange for influence of government policy in its favour.

The DA has written to ICASA requesting its urgent feedback on this important matter.

It is ICASA's duty, to take this matter up in the public interest, and in particular, on behalf of those South Africans who part with their hard-earned money every month for DSTV subscription fees. They deserve to know whether their money was used by Multichoice to grease the palms of the Gupta family.

Last year, the DA revealed SABC board minutes dated 6 June 2013, which suggests that Multichoice sought to pay the SABC R100 million for its 24-hour news channel in exchange for the SABC's political influence over digital migration. This also supports allegations in the media, that Multichoice had paid Gupta-owned ANN7 millions in exchange for similar influence over government's position on set-top boxes.

The meeting was attended by the then interim SABC Board, SABC executives and then Multichoice CEO, Imtiaz Patel. At the meeting, Patel stated that "[w]e would not normally pay for a news channel" but that he would be able to convince the Multichoice board members on the condition the SABC exert their influence over former Communications Minister, Faith Muthambi.

It was for this reason the DA wrote to ICASA in terms of Section 4B (1) of the ICASA Act, to request for an inquiry into these allegations, and furthermore requested that Multichoice contracts with the SABC and ANN7 be made public.

Although ICASA publicly acknowledged receiving our request, we are yet to receive any correspondence. Even with the magnitude of these allegations, ICASA has failed to act promptly and take serious action against Multichoice for these allegations of unethical conduct.

The DA has always been a proponent of companies conducting their business in a free market system, however, they have a responsibility to at all times adhere to the rules, laws and ethics that oversee business practices.

As the foremost communications regulator in South Africa, ICASA has the responsibility to probe these allegations without further delay.

Phumzile Van Damme MP

DA Shadow Minister of Communications

South Africa

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