Communications Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams has questioned the suitability of ICASA council candidates sent to her by Parliament, according to a report in the Sunday Times.
The report stated that the National Assembly provided Ndabeni-Abrahams with a ranked list of 10 candidates for positions on the ICASA council on 5 June, and instructed her to appoint six people.
The minister reportedly replied to Parliament with a letter on 30 June, questioning the suitability of the candidates and rejecting several of them due to their “lack of experience”.
ICASA plays a vital role in the South African economy – and ICT sector in particular – as it is responsible for managing the allocation of spectrum to mobile network operators.
Mobile network operators, including Vodacom and MTN, have been requesting new spectrum from the government and ICASA for years, as it will allow them to offer better mobile data coverage at higher speeds and lower prices.
ICASA’s allocation of spectrum will also determine how and when mobile operators can roll out their 5G networks in South Africa.
This latest news follows a report on 14 June that Ndabeni-Abrahams was facing an unprecedented stand-off with Parliament over the appointment of new ICASA councillors.
It was stated that the ranking of the candidate list was seen by the minister’s associates as an attempt to force her to align her choice with the views of the Parliament.
Return to work
Ndabeni-Abrahams received the candidate list from Parliament following her return to work after being placed on special leave for two months.
The minister was placed on special leave for violating lockdown regulations – specifically, for visiting a friend for lunch during strict lockdown regulations in South Africa.
While the minister was on special leave, Minister in The Presidency Jackson Mthembu acted in her position.
Following her infringement of the national lockdown regulations, Ndabeni-Abrahams issued a public apology for her actions.
“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.