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ICASA has appointed Montseng Mopeli as acting CEO in place of Karabo Motlane, until the communications regulator can find a person to fill the position on a permanent basis.

Motlane, who was appointed CEO five years ago, had planned to leave the position when his contract expired, and his last day was 31 August.

ICASA spokesperson Paseka Maleka says Mopeli, who is general manager for human resources, was asked to take up the role for the time being.

“We don't know how long it will take to appoint a person permanently in this position,” he says.

Before becoming ICASA's CEO, Motlane was head of regulatory affairs at mobile network operator Cell C. He has now joined a construction firm.

While the position of ICASA CEO is head of the bureaucracy of the authority, the incumbent also sits in on council meetings, but is not a member of the council that is tasked with making the final regulatory decisions. The chairman of the council is head of the council, but not necessarily of the entire organisation, as the council does not currently have executive powers.

The anomaly has caused some friction in the past, as confusion had arisen as to just who was the accounting officer in terms of the Public Finance Management Act.

The ICASA Amendment Act that Parliament's communications committee is due to consider later this year seeks to change the title of CEO to chief operating officer, in order to make the council chairperson head of the authority.

Motlane says ICASA's view was that it wanted to keep the role and title of CEO. “However, the whole issue is over the question of 'how ICASA works' and this has been a burning question for at least 10 years.

“Until the powers that be decide what they want out of ICASA, then they will sort out if they want an executive council or not,” adds Motlane.

Motlane and former ICASA chairman Paris Mashile, who left in July, worked closely together and were often seen attending various industry conferences, events and Parliament together.

However, the relationship soured last year during the infamous about-turn by ICASA over the need for Vodacom to get approval to list on the JSE. The authority, as directed by Mashile, said Vodacom did not need its approval and then, with 48 hours to go before the listing debut, the authority changed its mind, resulting in a weekend-long court battle that ICASA lost.

In the subsequent Parliamentary enquiry, Motlane said he had only been informed of the council's change of heart at the last minute and had not approved the legal action that had happened.

“Paris [Mashile] felt betrayed by the council and Motlane over the issue, as a decision had been reached and he had to take a lot of heat over the action,” says a source within ICASA.

Motlane refused to comment directly on his relationship with Mashile, apart from saying it was at times “challenging”. However, he did point out that Mashile never did anything out of malice.

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