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Black lobby group threatens to derail ICASA hearings

Read time 4min 20sec
Leon Rolls, president of Progressive Blacks in ICT.
Leon Rolls, president of Progressive Blacks in ICT.

Lobby group, the Progressive Blacks in ICT (PBICT), has threatened to derail the Independent Communications Authority of SA's (ICASA's) planned public hearings to discuss the review and development of the authority's position on historically disadvantaged persons and broad-based black economic empowerment (BBBEE).

PBICT says it has been left out from those who are set to make presentations at the hearings set for 16 and 17 May.

ICASA is looking for comment on how it can promote BBBEE and equity ownership of historically disadvantaged groups or individuals, as required as part of the Electronic Communications Act, 2005.

According to the programme, for the two days, those expected to attend include all the major telcos, and a number of media houses and broadcasters as well as industry groups.

Those on the list to present at the hearings include: Telkom, MTN, Vodacom, Cell C, Liquid Telecom, Internet Solutions, the Wireless Access Providers' Association, the Internet Service Providers' Association, Primedia, MNet, Kagiso Media, South African Communications Forum, National Association of Broadcasters, American CC, and the Business Carrier Coalition.

Input snub

However, PBICT claims it submitted its input before the deadline and received confirmation from ICASA but it has been left out from the list of those invited to make presentations.

"We find this very odd as this is about the previously disadvantaged who we represent as an organisation of more than 1 200 previously disadvantaged members," says Leon Rolls, president of PBICT.

"We are aware that ICASA has been down this road before and gave licences to people from previously disadvantaged and these were never used. We have written to ICASA for inclusion to the list of presenters; however, they have ignored us.

"We have escalated the issues to the ICT Chamber and have started legal processes to interdict the public hearing should it continue without us. We have exhausted all our patience in getting a response from ICASA on the subject matter and are now left with no option but to escalate this accordingly."

Rolls is a former member of fellow lobby group, the Black IT Forum, before launching PBICT in March 2017. The PBICT says its mission is to ensure black people have full access to the ICT sector.

It aims to unite all the South Africans in the ICT sector, who subscribe to the radical economic transformation agenda and to create an enabling environment which gives black people a minimum of 70% of the mainstream economic opportunities in the sector.

"The ICT sector needs to transform and institutions like ICASA need to transform their mind-set and stop these gatekeeping tendencies which continue to exclude black people and women from accessing the sector fully," Rolls says.

"The PBICT, in its fight for access and ownership, will not sit on the spectators' stand and watch this continue," he adds.

'Slot us in'

In e-mail correspondence between ICASA and PBICT that ITWeb has seen, Rolls writes to the regulator: "PBICT submitted its inputs on 8 June 2017 which was confirmed by yourself as received.

"We have observed that you have left us out in the list of those who are given the opportunity to present their inputs despite our request to be invited in point 13 of our inputs. We do not understand why an organisation, the biggest organisation representing black people in the industry, has been left out of this transformation initiative about black people and priority is given to other organisations.

"We hereby request that you slot us in to present our inputs first and further request that you confirm this by close of business on 2 May 2018. We represent more than 1 200 members across all provinces. They are all black and have been closed out by government and private sector from such opportunities for way too long; now we have a voice and are willing to bring our entire membership to the presentation if the need arises. We will be sending our leadership delegation of five to attend and one will present our input."

The regulator's response was: "Kindly note that following numerous requests to the authority on 7 June 2017 for an extension of the closing date for submission the authority granted same. However, due to the timing of the requests it was logistically not possible for the authority to publish same in the Government Gazette; however, notification will be provided on the authority's Web site and a notice will be published to this effect."

ICASA had not responded to ITWeb's questions on the issue by the time of publication.

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