Communications minister Mondli Gungubele has hit back at media reports and a statement from the Democratic Alliance (DA) stating that the ANC government is blocking the launch of SpaceX’s Starlink in South Africa.
This comes after Gungubele responded to a Parliamentary question from the DA about the Elon Musk-owned satellite broadband company offering services in South Africa.
According to the DA, Gungubele confirmed that Starlink could not launch without a network licence from industry regulator Icasa, which requires that company be partially owned by historically disadvantaged groups.
“For Starlink to operate in South Africa, they require… individual IECS/IECNS applicants or licensees to have a minimum 30% equity ownership held by persons from historically disadvantaged groups,” Gungubele stated.
IECS is short for Individual Electronic Communications Service, and IECNS is an Individual Electronic Communications Network Service.
Gungubele has taken issue with the DA concluding from this statement that the ANC government is blocking Starlink’s launch in South Africa.
On behalf of the minister, the Department of Telecommunications and Digital Technologies said the licences Starlink needs are readily obtainable from the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa).
“The Minister wishes to state categorically that the custodian of the licensing process is the Authority, Icasa.”
The Department reiterated Gungubele’s statement that Starlink would need the relevant IECS or IECNS licences, adding that it would also need a radio frequency spectrum license in conjunction with these network licences.
“The Authority has advised the Minister that such applications have not been received from Starlink to date,” it said.
“It is therefore not true that government is blocking the operation of Starlink in South Africa.”
“Any interested party wishing to apply for a license, including Starlink, may through appropriate channels, approach the Authority with its application and comply with the prevailing legislation in the country.”
This statement from Gungubele and his department is a lie by omission.
Although technically accurate that Icasa is responsible for licensing operators like Starlink, it conveniently ignores that ANC National Policy Conferences were the ultimate source of Icasa’s equity regulations.
Icasa’s regulations that set ownership requirements for telecom operators are merely an implementation of ministerial policy directives informed by ANC policy.