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ICASA's Rubben Mohlaloga removed from office

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Rubben Mohlaloga has been removed from his post as chairperson of the ICASA council.
Rubben Mohlaloga has been removed from his post as chairperson of the ICASA council.

Communications minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams has decided to remove Rubben Mohlaloga from his post as chairperson and councillor of the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA).

Mohlaloga, who held the position of chairperson of the ICASA council from December 2017, was last month sentenced to 20 years' imprisonment for his role in defrauding the Land Bank of approximately R6 million in 2008.

According to government communications, Ndabeni-Abrahams's decision comes on the back of Mohlaloga's suspension last Friday.

The minister decided to suspend the fraud-convicted chairperson pending the conclusion of the National Assembly process to remove him from office.

Last week, Parliament's Portfolio Committee on Communications resolved to remove Mohlaloga from his post in terms of Section 8 of the ICASA Act.

"In terms of section 6 (1) (j) of the ICASA Act, a councillor who is convicted of, amongst others, fraud is disqualified from holding office.

"The ICASA council will, as empowered by section 5 (2) (b) of the Act, elect an acting chairperson. Further, the process to appoint a new chairperson will soon commence," according to the statement.

Action at last

As the Mohlaloga saga rolled on, both ICASA and Ndabeni-Abrahams said matters relating to the qualifications and appointment of ICASA councillors (including the chairperson) fall outside of their control.

As a result, such a procedure requires a National Assembly process, indicated the minister's office.

Despite his chequered past, including fraud and money-laundering, hanging over his head, Mohlaloga was appointed as ICASA council chairperson on 1 December 2017.

He initially joined the regulator in July 2013, following his appointment as councillor.

At the time, the Department of Communications, under Dina Pule, said it was unaware Mohlaloga had the fraud charge hanging over his head when he was short-listed. He had also not disclosed the matter to the department, despite holding a senior position.

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.

In September 2017, the regulator announced Mohlaloga's departure and said he would be replaced by Paris Mashile. On 1 December 2017, Mohlaloga made a comeback and was appointed as council chairperson.

In January 2018, Mohlaloga and his co-accused were found guilty of fraud and money-laundering in the Specialised Commercial Crimes Court in Pretoria.

According to the Hawks, the chairperson, together with former Land Bank CEO Philemon Mohlahlane and other accomplices, conspired and transferred the R6 million 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 BMW 118i for Mohlaloga, who was a member of Parliament and chairperson of the Portfolio Committee of Agriculture at the time.

Mohlaloga has launched appeals contesting the guilty judgement against him and subsequent conviction.

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