Parliament stalls on ICASA chairperson's dismissal

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Rubben Mohlaloga and his co-accused still await sentencing. [Photo source: ICASA via Twitter]
Rubben Mohlaloga and his co-accused still await sentencing. [Photo source: ICASA via Twitter]

The National Assembly has resolved to put the axing of Rubben Mohlaloga, chairperson of the Independent Communications Authority of SA (ICASA) council, on ice.

This after the Portfolio Committee on Communications recommended Mohlaloga be removed from the position in the wake of his fraud and money laundering conviction.

Mohlaloga's dismissal process from the position of chairperson of the ICASA council was instituted in February as directed by the communications minister. After seeking legal expertise on the matter, the communications committee came to the decision that he must be removed and subsequently made the recommendation to the National Assembly.

The ICASA chairperson was officially appointed on 1 December 2017. However, in January, he was found guilty of fraud and money laundering by a specialised commercial crimes court in Pretoria.

According to the Hawks, Mohlaloga, together with former Land Bank CEO Philemon Mohlahlane and other accomplices, conspired and transferred R6 million from the Land Bank into Masepule Dinga Attorneys' trust account. After the R6 million was received, say the Hawks, the funds were distributed and a farm was bought for R2 million, as well as an X5 BMW and a BMW 118i for Mohlaloga, who was a member of Parliament and chairperson of the Portfolio Committee of Agriculture at the time.

As the appointing authority, the final decision to remove the fraud-convicted chairperson from his post lies with the National Assembly. While a final decision on this matter was expected, the house resolved to put the committee's recommendation on hold.

In a statement, the communications committee welcomed the assembly's resolution.

"The matter will be referred back to the committee for further processing as well as allowing further consultations between Mr Mohlaloga's legal representatives, Office of the Speaker and the committee."

Chequered appointment

ICASA defines its council as its highest decision-making body. It consists of eight members and the chairperson. Anyone convicted of fraud is disqualified from serving on the council.

Those appointed to serve on the authority's council are hired based on quality, integrity, accountability and in the public interest.

Mohlaloga was appointed as an ICASA councillor in July 2013 even though he was already facing fraud allegations. During this time, he served as both councillor and acting chairperson at the regulator.

After his stint as councillor, he was appointed as acting chairperson on 22 June 2016, pending the appointment of a permanent chairperson. Between July 2015 and November 2017, the position of chairperson of the ICASA council was rotated.

Mohlaloga made a comeback last December when he was appointed as chairperson of the ICASA council.

ICASA has explained that the portfolio committee's recommendation is one of the steps in the removal process of the chairperson, therefore the state of his employment remains.

"In terms of the ICASA Act of 2000, the status of the chairperson of ICASA remains unchanged until such time that the National Assembly adopts a resolution calling for the removal of the chairperson from office and the subsequent removal thereof by the minister of communications."

The National Prosecuting Authority previously told ITWeb that sentence will be passed on Mohlaloga on 15 May.

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