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Blow for former USAASA board as court application fails

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Pretoria High Court dismissed former USAASA board members' application to prevent the implementation of the public protector's report.
Pretoria High Court dismissed former USAASA board members' application to prevent the implementation of the public protector's report.

The former board of the Universal Service and Access Agency of SA (USAASA) says a damning report by the public protector, including hard-hitting remedial action, will have far-reaching implications to their careers and livelihoods.

This comes after yesterday's ruling by the High Court in Pretoria "to dismiss with costs an application by some former USAASA board members to stay the implementation of the public protector report, due to lack of urgency, and struck it off the roll".

The ex-chairman of the state-owned entity, Mawethu Cawe, together with other board members, took legal action against minister of telecommunications and postal services Siyabonga Cwele and public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane over their dismissal.

Mkhwebane issued the damning report against USAASA's board of directors following a complaint related to governance, abuse of power and malpractice. The report says the board violated the law by prohibiting the public protector to conduct investigations based on complaints lodged by suspended CEO Lumko Mtimde.

The public protector further recommended Mtimde be reinstated as CEO in seven days. The board was also ordered to extend an apology to Mtimde within 15 days for the "irrational and inappropriate manner" in which he was handled.

Based on the public protector's report, Cwele moved to dismiss the USAASA board of directors chaired by Cawe. His decision, however, was not met lying down, as the fired board members launched an urgent application to set aside the minister's decision and stay the implementation of the public protector's report.

The board previously stated "it has stood firm in its resolve to fight corruption, maladministration and financial mismanagement at USAASA".

Responding to ITWeb, Cawe says the former USAASA board members respect the Pretoria High Court's decision.

"The stay of implementation of the remedial actions imposed by public protector applications was essential and urgent. The public protector report, which is subject of a court review process, needed to be put in abeyance until the outcome of such a review.

"Ex board members are highly qualified individuals, operate in different boards and are recognised by professional bodies by virtue of their credentials, including ethical standards. The damning public protector report, including hard-hitting remedial action, has far-reaching implications to their careers and livelihoods," Cawe explains.

"It's on that basis the ex-board applied for the stay of implementation. In the interim, the ex-board members will explore expediting necessary court processes to extensively delve into the merits of the public protector report and resultant unceremonious removal of board members."

In a statement, Mtimde expressed relief at the outcomes of the court ruling, and says the outcome effectively reinforces the implementation of the public protector's remedial action.

"I now wish to focus my attention and energies on serving our people in pursuance of USAASA's mandate through rollout of ICTs in underserviced areas," he says.

Mtimde concluded by saying he will not comment any further on the matter.

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