Communications and Digital Technologies Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams – or “Princess Stella” according to the DA – has for the second time “decided to override the power of the National Assembly regarding appointments to the Icasa Council,” the party’s Phumzille van Damme has charged.
The party will request that Speaker Thandi Modise subject Ndabeni-Abrahams to disciplinary action following her latest decision to ignore parliament, Van Damme said in a press release.
This comes after Ndabeni-Abrahams over the weekend gave notice in the government gazette of her appointment of five councillors to the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) Council. They are Dr Keabetswe Modimoeng, Peter Zimri, Advocate Luthando Mkumatela, Yolisa Kedama and Dr Charles Lewis.
This is in contravention of two decisions of the National Assembly instructing her to appoint six councillors, Van Damme said.
“While this may seem a minor infraction, it is not. It is now the second time the Minister has decided to override the power of the National Assembly regarding appointments to the Icasa Council.
“Last month, Ndabeni-Abrahams wrote to the Speaker seeking to reject the National Assembly’s proposed list of candidates to serve on the Council. By doing so, she not only violated the ICASA Act, but the constitutional principle of the separation of powers.
“In response, the Communications and Digital Technologies committee was unanimous that it would not allow her to circumvent the law.
Van Damme said that a report adopted by the National Assembly, and parliament, very clearly stated:
- The Committee agreed that it would not accede to a request by the Communications Minister to fill only four of the six Icasa Council vacancies,
- It also agreed that it would not alter the skills set in its recommended list in line with Section 5(3)(b)(ii), and
- Would retain its initial recommendation in order of priority.
“That the Minister have now only appointed five, and not the six as per the decision of National Assembly, is a brazen middle finger at Parliament, and must be dealt with harshly,” she said.
“Ndabeni-Abrahams has not only violated the principles of the Constitution, the ICASA Act but also two additional laws governing the conduct of Ministers – the Executive Members’ Ethics Code and the Powers and Privileges Act.”
Section 2(a) of the Executive Ethics Act reads: “…Cabinet members, Deputy Ministers and MECs — (i) at all times to act in good faith and in the best interest of good governance: and (ii) (ii) to meet all the obligations imposed on them by law.
The Powers and Privileges Act says: “A person may not – (c) fail or refuse to comply with an instruction by a duly authorised staff member Parliament or a House or committee of its authority or functions.”
“A violation of the Powers and Privileges Act by a Minister, who is also an MP, is contempt of Parliament and the House has the power to institute disciplinary action. If an MP is found guilty she could be removed as an MP amongst other sanctions,” according to Van Damme’s statement.
DA Chief Whip, Natasha Mazzone, MP will be raising this matter with the Speaker to ensure that it is dealt with the seriousness it deserves, Van Damme added.
“Throughout her term Minister Ndabeni-Abrahams has on repeated occasions demonstrated that she does not believe the law applies to her by illegally interfering in the work of the SABC and Post Office board, contravening lockdown regulations and now, for the second time, ignoring a decision of parliament.
“We trust that the Speaker will deal with this matter expeditiously and the harshest sanction possible is handed down to stop ‘Princess Stella’, as she has described herself.”
(Compiled by Carina Koen)