Cape Town – Opposition parties want Communications and Digital Technologies Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams axed from the Cabinet for wanting to interfere in the appointment of Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) councillors.
The call was made by the DA and EFF on Thursday when the National Assembly considered the appointment of six councillors for the Icasa council.
The call for Ndabeni-Abrahams’s axing arose from her request to reconsider some of the councillors despite being provided with names in the order of priority by the portfolio committee on communications and digital technologies in June.
Committee chairperson Boyce Maneli said the National Assembly Speaker received a letter from Ndabeni-Abrahams requesting permission to appoint councillors for only four of the six vacant positions and cited, without mentioning names, that other candidates did not meet the skills required at Icasa.
He said the minister had asked that the committee embark on a new appointment process to fill two vacancies that would remain if her request was agreed to.
The committee had on its list Keabetswe Modimoeng, Yolisa Kedama, Zolani Matthews, Peter Zimri, Luthando Mkutumela, Charl Lewis, Amanda Cuba and Sandisiwe Ncemane among the top six.
Maneli said in another letter Ndabeni-Abrahams identified Modimoeng, Zimri, Mkumatela and Kedama as the people she wanted to appoint.
In a third letter, Maneli said, she gave the name of Charl Lewis and Dikeledi Mushi as additional members if her request was not agreed to.
But, Maneli said the committee wanted all six be appointed and rejected the request to fill only four vacancies
He insisted the committee had complied with procedural steps to fill the current vacancies.
Maneli also said the minister had exercised her discretion to consider the 10 names and recommended six.
“The committee differs with the minister on one candidate only. The committee supports the minister’s choice of candidates one to five,” he said.
He said the committee was of the view that the recommendation to appoint Mushi would result in provisions of the Icasa Act not being met.
“The committee is of the view that the crucial skill of postal services experience is lacking. The committee is further of the view that only ZK Matthews possesses postal services experience which it deems necessary for the effective functioning of the council.”
He said Matthews should instead be on the council than Mushi.
DA MP Phumzile van Damme said the actions of the Ndabeni-Abrahams were nothing short of embarrassing.
“How can a minister not understand the simple concept of separation of powers?” she asked.
Van Damme said the minister sought to circumvent the work and decision of Parliament on the appointment of Icasa councillors.
She said nowhere in the Act was the minister allowed to reject the list duly approved by Parliament as she did.
“It is quite frightening that the minister in charge of an important sector does not understand laws. If she does not understand laws, she must be fired,” Van Damme said.
“If the government wants to reap the benefits of the digital economy, in a sector that could raise in GDP 12 million dollars, you can’t have this minister in charge of the sector … Stella must go,” she said.
EFF MP Mbuyiseni Ndlozi condemned the minister’s “unprecedented” conduct in appointment of the Icasa council.
“That conduct must result in her removal from Cabinet,” Ndlozi said.
He said Icasa as a Chapter Nine institution was an independent authority and its councillors were not “mere appointments”.
Ndlozi said if a minister showed preference in who should be appointed or not, it was a significant indicator of interference.
“If the president really cares about lawfulness in this country, he should remove the minister from Cabinet altogether, not just as a minister,” he added.
IFP MP Zandile Majozi said Ndabeni-Abrahams seemed to misunderstand the role of the portfolio committee and the National Assembly.
ANC MP Lesiba Molala said they welcomed the report of the committee and stated that the committee had complied with procedure processes to fill the vacancies.
“In the interest of the public, the appointment must be urgently completed. We support Modimoeng, Zimri, Mkumatela, Kedama, Lewis and recommend the sixth be Matthews,” Molala said, adding they supported the adoption of the report.