Minister of Telecommunications and Postal Services Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams. Picture: Motshwari Mofokeng/ African News Agency(ANA)
Johannesburg - The DA has threatened to lodge a complaint with Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane against Communications Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams over her alleged meddling in the affairs of the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa).

This comes after weekend reports that Icasa’s acting chairperson, Dr Keabetswe Modimoeng, gave Ndabeni-Abrahams until 11am on Monday to pay the first of the four tranches of the institution’s R450million allocation or face legal action.

The legal threat comes amid reports that Icasa has accused the minister of meddling in the independent authority’s work and withholding funding by refusing to approve its annual performance plan (APP).

An email from an Icasa staffer said Ndabeni-Abrahams instructed that Icasa remove all references to the 5G in the APP document as it had not been approved, apparently to save the announcement of both 5G cellular networks in the local market and the sale of new spectrum for mobile operations for her own election promises.

According to the report, although Ndabeni-Abrahams had in correspondence to Modimoeng denied the communication about 5G came directly from her office, Icasa warned that the Communications Department “is not empowered in law to withhold quarterly tranches” and that “it is not within the minister’s powers to approve the APP”.

Yesterday DA shadow communications minister Phumzile van Damme said Ndabeni-Abrahams’ alleged “hijack” of the announcement of the 5G cellular network and the sale of new spectrum for local mobile operations for her own election promises was a violation of her executive authority.

Van Damme said it was also a clear breach of the constitutionally enshrined precept which separated party and state, where state apparatus was now being used to pursue narrow party political interests.

“The case before the public protector is clear, minister Abrahams must be held accountable for breaching the law and acting in a manner that is not consistent with upholding the independence of a Chapter 9 institution.”

Van Damme said Ndabeni- Abrahams could not be allowed to hold South Africa’s communications sector to ransom through deliberate political actions that were not in the public interest, but sought to salvage the political fortunes of the ANC.

“It’s patently clear that executive overreach, which was used extensively during the Zuma administration to facilitate state capture, is still entrenched in President Cyril Ramaphosa’s purported ‘New Dawn’.”

Political Bureau