Opposition MPs want Stella’s head over Icasa council debacle

Communications Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams. FILE PHOTO

Often, when the executive comes under fire, ANC MPs come to the ministers’ defence. This didn’t happen on Thursday afternoon.

Opposition MPs have demanded that Communications Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams be removed from Cabinet due to her attempts to subvert Parliament’s authority in the appointment of the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa’s (Icasa) council.

Often, when the executive comes under fire, ANC MPs come to the ministers’ defence. This didn’t happen on Thursday afternoon.

The National Assembly was considering the Portfolio Committee on Communications’ report on their meeting two weeks ago where they decided not to cede their authority to Ndabeni-Abrahams.

Last month, while Ndabeni-Abrahams was still temporarily relieved of her duties as a Cabinet member after she was pictured contravening Level 5 lockdown regulations, the committee compiled a shortlist of 10 names to fill the vacancies on the Icasa council. It took the unusual step of ranking the candidates.

Ndabeni-Abrahams had to select six names from the shortlist of those who would fill the vacancies if the committee concurs that they cover the required skills.

Instead, she sent three letters to National Assembly Speaker Thandi Modise and the committee.

In the first, she said she would only appoint four members and the committee should provide another six candidates because she was unhappy with the qualifications of the candidates.

In the second letter, she provided the names of the four she wanted to appoint, which coincided with the first four names on the committee’s ranked list.

In the third letter, she said she would appoint a further two candidates if the committee did not accede to her request to provide new candidates. Of the two names she proposed, one wasn’t in the committee’s top six.

The committee decided not to cede to her request and to reject the candidate she wanted to appoint, but who wasn’t in its top six.

During Thursday’s virtual sitting, DA MP Phumzile van Damme said Ndabeni-Abrahams’ actions were nothing short of embarrassing.

“How can a minister not understand the separation of powers?” Van Damme proceeded to explain the concept, and said the executive could not take over the functions of Parliament.

“The minister tried to do exactly that,” Van Damme said.

She said she was thankful the committee chose the Constitution over party politics and that it was frightening that a minister in charge of such an important department did not understand the law.

“If she doesn’t understand the law, she must be fired.”

She said Ndabeni-Abrahams was the same minister who thought the regulation to stay at home during the lockdown didn’t apply to her. Van Damme said Ndabeni-Abrahams was also unduly interfering in the SABC’s operations.

EFF MP Mbuyiseni Ndlozi expressed his party’s “utter condemnation of the minister’s unprecedented conduct”.

“It must result in her removal,” he said.

He said her conduct was an “insult to the collective wisdom of Parliament”.

IFP MP Zandile Majozi said: “The minister seemed to misunderstand the role of the committee and Parliament.”

ACDP MP Wayne Thring didn’t have much to say about the Icasa board matter, but seemed very concerned about the “harmful effects of 5G” and called for the “immediate cessation of rolling out 5G”.

ANC MP Lesiba Molala spoke about the broadcasting sector’s history of exclusion in South Africa, and said the ANC had a mandate to transform this. He said “digital colonialism” could not be allowed in this day and age.

He said the committee complied with the necessary steps to fill the vacancies on the Icasa board. He didn’t say a word about Ndabeni-Abrahams’ conduct, or about Van Damme and Ndlozi’s calls for her to be fired.

The committee’s report was adopted without any objections.

– News24 Wire

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