The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) today in a statement condemned the ongoing acts of violence, looting and arson currently transpiring in the country.
The looting began last week as South Africans unleashed their grievances in the wake of ex-president Jacob Zuma’s arrest and jailing. Since then, the tension has escalated into the worst violence the country has seen in years.
The civil unrest has subsequently resulted in widespread disruption of communication services, vandalism of network facilities, as well as the closure of various community radio stations.
The radio stations which reportedly had their equipment damaged and looted include Alex FM, Ntokozo FM, Mams FM and Westside FM, to name a few.
According to the statement, the Authority also received additional reports of vandalism of communications infrastructure, including an additional 113 network towers in parts of the country.
The report revealed that such wanton destruction of broadcasting infrastructure is a direct attack on the constitutional right of individuals and communities to have access to information. Now more than ever, it is important for society to have access to information that is accurate, unbiased, and up-to-date about the current situation.
ICASA strongly condemned the destructive behaviour. “We call on the communities to assist in guarding and protecting this critical infrastructure, and to exercise the highest levels of patriotism in this regard. Any disruption of communication services could prove disastrous and result in increased mortality as emergency calls may be directly impacted,” said ICASA Chairperson, Dr Keabetswe Modimoeng.
Dr Modimoeng further stated that ICASA has written to the National Joints Operations and Intelligence Services (NatJoints) to prioritise the safeguarding and protection of critical telecommunications infrastructure.
In the Cape Town Regional Court last year, a man charged with theft and vandalism of the telecommunications infrastructure was found guilty of 25 counts of theft and sentenced to 20 years imprisonment for each of the 25 counts, collectively amounting to 500 years of direct imprisonment. “The judgement is a clear indication that the impact of battery theft and site vandalism is of a treasonous nature,” says Dr Modimoeng.
ICASA, through its Regional Offices in all nine provinces, will continue to closely monitor the situation during this volatile period.