Communications Minister in stand-off with Parliament over ICASA appointments

Communications Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams is facing an unprecedented stand-off with Parliament over the appointment of new Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) councillors.

According to a report by City Press, Parliament’s portfolio committee on communications had provided a ranked list of candidates for the positions, and the National Assembly approved 10 names from this list on the day Ndabeni-Abrahams returned to work.

Ndabeni-Abrahams was placed on special leave for two months due to violating lockdown regulations, one month of which was unpaid.

This followed the minister coming under fire for visiting a friend for lunch during the first stage of the national lockdown.

While the minister was on special leave, Minister in The Presidency Jackson Mthembu acted in her position.

According to sources who spoke to City Press, Ndabeni-Abrahams is now required to select six names from the list approved by the National Assembly for appointment to councillor positions at ICASA, and the ranking of this list is seen by her associates as an attempt to force her to align her choice with the views of the parliamentary committee.

“The law does give the minister some leverage to choose from the total number of suitable candidates recommended by Parliament, and this is what makes the committee uncomfortable,” the sources said.

The minister said she has full confidence in the rankings given by the committee and will appoint the best candidates for maintaining a successful regulator.

Minister’s apology

Following her infringement of the national lockdown regulations, Ndabeni-Abrahams issued a public apology for her actions.

The minister visited a friend for lunch when personal visits were prohibited under the lockdown rules, and a picture was posted to Instagram of Former Deputy Minister of Higher Education and Training Mduduzi Manana, Ndabeni-Abrahams, and others having a meal at Manana’s house.

This caused a backlash from South Africans who said the same rules should hold for ministers and ordinary citizens.

The President subsequently summoned the minister and expressed his disapproval at her actions, which he said undermined the requirement that all citizens stay at home and save South Africa from the spread of the coronavirus.

“The President accepted the minister’s apology for the violation, but was unmoved by mitigating factors she tendered.”

President Ramaphosa also directed Ndabeni-Abrahams to issue a public apology to the nation.

“I regret the incident and I am deeply sorry for my actions. I hope the President and South Africans will find it in their hearts to forgive me,” Ndabeni-Abrahams said.

“The President has put me on a special leave with immediate effect. I undertake to abide by the conditions of the special leave.”

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Communications Minister in stand-off with Parliament over ICASA appointments