ICASA Council vacancies: Sub-committee short-listing of candidates

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Communications

11 February 2020
Chairperson: Mr B Maneli (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Sub-committee of the Portfolio Committee on Communications met to perform the short-listing of 20 candidates for five vacancies on the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) Council, and to consider and adopt its first term draft programme. The meeting followed requests received from the Minister of Communications and the Acting Speaker of the National Assembly in letters dated 6 August 2019 and 7 August 2019.

One vacancy had arisen as a result of the removal of Mr Rubben Mahlaloga as a councillor and chairperson of ICASA. The remaining four vacancies would arise in April 2020 as a result of the end of term of Mr Paris Mashile, Ms Botlenyana Mokhele, Mr Peter Zimri and Dr Keabetswe Modimoeng.  The Committee had proceeded with the advertising of the vacancies, resulting in the 75 nominations which were up for consideration for short-listing.

The Sub-committee was very clear that it was important for the criteria and prerequisite skills to be well understood by Members in order for the short-listing process to be professional and credible. It heard that of the 75 nominations, one applicant had failed to provide copies of their qualifications and therefore would not be included, one applicant had not been verified by the verification agency, and nine applicants were still awaiting verification. The Sub-committee agreed to consider all nominations, despite delays in verification, in order to be inclusive and avoid prejudice. All verifications would be completed before the Sub-committee proceeded with interviews. It was agreed that in future, only short-listed candidates should be verified in order to ensure the timely execution of appointments.

The demographic profiles and skills possessed by candidates were discussed extensively. The Sub-committee agreed that this was crucial to ensure there was continuity within the Council, and that newly acquired skills sets complemented those currently held by existing councillors. Additionally, this would ensure that the Council was a reflection South Africa’s demographic profile.

Following deliberations, Members presented lists of nominees selected by each political party, which were further consolidated to arrive at a final list of 20 short-listed candidates to be presented for consideration by the Portfolio Committee.

Meeting report

The Chairperson welcomed the Sub-committee to the meeting. He acknowledged the thirtieth anniversary of the release of former President Nelson Mandela, and urged the Sub-committee to conduct the meeting in a manner that reflected this. He noted apologies from Ms Z Majozi (IFP) and Mr C Mackenzie (DA), and declared the meeting officially opened.
 
The Sub-committee agreed on the adoption of the first term draft programme.

The Sub-committee submitted the verification of 75 candidates, one of which had not provided copies of their qualifications. One candidate could not be verified by the verification agency. The Sub-committee was still awaiting the verification results of nine candidates, of which three required international verification, and six had qualifications from Wits University and the University of Johannesburg, which the Sub-committee was experiencing delays with.  The remaining candidates had been successfully verified.

It was acknowledged that the Committee was guided by the Constitution and section 5 of the ICASA Act 2000 in determining the prerequisites of short-listed and appointed candidates.  It was crucial that Members had a clear understanding of the pre-existing skills that needed to be complemented in order to ensure continuity in delivering the mandate of ICASA.  The onus to identify these skills lay with the Sub-committee.  It was highlighted that the previous council lacked skills around postal policy, and that there was very little emphasis on consumer protection, competition and economics issues. Members also needed to consider the nomination of outgoing council members in the application process.

Discussion

Ms A Mthembu (ANC) asked how long the verification of the remaining nine would take to be completed.

Ms P van Damme (DA) raised concern over proceeding with the short-listing process while nine candidates were still awaiting verification. She mentioned the possibility of the remaining nine candidates taking Parliament to court if they were not considered by the Sub-committee. In future, it would be advisable that only short-listed candidates be verified, as opposed to requiring the verification of all applicants. 

Ms N Kubheka (ANC) asked for clarity on what was causing the delay of verifying candidates from Wits University and the University of Johannesburg. She said the Sub-committee needed to consider individuals who had already been on the ICASA council, as they were qualified, and this would also aid in ensuring continuity.

Mr L Molala (ANC) said the Sub-committee had a good understanding of the minimum qualification requirements for candidates. What needed to be considered was the issue of demographics. It was important that the ICASA appointees were a reflection of the demographic make-up of the South African population. It would be unfair to exclude previous ICASA members from consideration, as they had already undergone the same short-listing process before their appointment.  He recommended that the Sub-committee include those with outstanding verifications in the short-listing process, as this was not an appointment. He agreed with Ms Van Damme that ideally the Sub-committee should have waited for short-listing before verification. Only two candidates would be excluded -- the first who failed to provide their qualifications, and the second who could not be verified.

Dr M Ndlozi (EFF) suggested that the Chairperson adjourn the meeting, and that Members meet when all candidates had been verified. He agreed with Mr Molala that having demographic information such as race and gender was important, as the Committee had a constitutional duty to address the injustices of the past in the way in which they short-listed and appointed Council members. He congratulated the Committee administration team, and said he was happy with the standard of the brief that was given to Members.

Mr Molala agreed with Dr Ndlozi, but urged the Sub-committee to consider the timeline of the programme, as this could negatively impact on the operation of ICASA.  There was no harm in proceeding with short-listing candidates based on the qualifications they had provided. Challenges would arise only if appointments were made without adequate verification of qualifications. Postponing the meeting would further delay the short-listing process which was meant to have been completed in the previous year. Due process still needed to be followed whereby candidates were approved by the Minister and the National Assembly.

Ms Van Damme asked for confirmation that the nine candidates awaiting verification had been included in the complete list of 75 applicants, although the Sub-committee was not aware of their identity. Given this, she suggested Members continue with the short-listing, with a commitment from the Secretariat that all verifications would be completed by the following Tuesday, 18 February. If it happened that any of the short-listed candidates had not been verified, the Committee would then halt proceedings until this had been achieved.

Ms Mthembu echoed Ms Van Damme, saying it was important for the process to be inclusive, credible and professional. She suggested that the Sub-committee proceed with short-listing and for verification to be confirmed before interviews, which were scheduled for 29 February.

The Chairperson confirmed that the nine candidates awaiting verification had been included in the total list of 75 candidates. He said that the Sub-committee was not privy to who these individuals were, which was important, as they did not want this to be later viewed as prejudice.  However, it would be ambitious of the Sub-committee to assume that all verifications would be completed within a week, as this process was meant to have been completed last year. The Sub-committee would proceed with short-listing and await verifications before proceeding with interviews.  He was happy with the understanding and agreement on the criteria used to identify and justify how Members were going to select the 20 short-listed candidates. He confirmed that Members had received the list of 75 candidates and shortened versions of their curriculum vitae.

Ms Kubheka requested a five-minute caucus on behalf of the ANC Members.

Ms Van Damme asked that Members discuss the issues together before caucusing by party.

The Chairperson allowed Members to caucus for 10 minutes, and asked each party to present its own short-list.

Members from the three parties -- ANC, DA and EFF -- presented lists of 20 proposed candidates. Following this, the Sub-committee tallied and presented the names of eight candidates which all parties agreed on. Of this number, three were currently serving as council members on the ICASA board.

Dr Ndlozi asked to present the names of candidates that were commonalities between the EFF and the ANC, and between the EFF and DA.

The Chairperson asked the Sub-committee secretariat to present a list of three categories of agreements. The ANC agreed with the EFF on one candidate, the DA and EFF agreed on two candidates, and the ANC and DA had four candidates in common.  

Mr Molala said that the Sub-committee needed to consolidate around 15 candidates, and proposed that the remaining five candidates be determined by the biggest party.

The Chairperson said that the Sub-committee had reached common ground.

Dr Ndlozi said it should not be easy to use electoral democracy, and that a vote should be the very last resort. The Sub-committee was in agreement on eight candidates and still needed to fill 12 slots. He requested that the Committee produce a quick demographic profile of the agreed candidates in order to produce a balanced list. Thereafter, Members would deliberate further and return in 15 minutes.

Ms Van Damme echoed Dr M Ndlozi’s proposal to do a demographic profile. Additionally, she recommended that all candidates which were commonalities be included in the list, as nominations still had to be debated in the National Assembly.

The Chairperson suggested that the Sub-committee take a break, as they had a strong basis for further discussion. He clarified that Mr Molala’s comment had been light-hearted, and that the point was to try to reach common ground as much as possible.

Following the break, the Chairperson summarised that the Sub-committee was in agreement on 14 candidates’ names, and still needed to short-list an additional six. He invited the Committee Secretariat to present a demographic and career qualification profile of the agreed candidates.

Summary of Demographic and Qualification Profiles of agreed 14 candidates

  • African Male: Legal
  • African Female: Masters in ICT Policy and Regulation
  • African Female: Masters in Engineering Management
  • Indian Male: Masters in ICT Policy and Regulation
  • Coloured Male: ICT Policy and Regulation, Spectrum Management emphasis
  • Africa Male: Business Administration
  • African Female: Public Policy
  • African Male: Law
  • African Male: Public Administration
  • African Female: PhD Business Administration
  • African Female: Economic Policy
  • African Male: Development Economics
  • White Male: PhD Information Systems
  • African Female: ICT Policy and Regulation


Ms Van Damme asked which skills were lacking from the list.

The current ICASA council had a particular emphasis in broadcasting skills. Skills were lacking in the areas of postal policy, consumer protection and spectrum management.

The Chairperson invited the Sub-committee to break and further discuss the filling of the six remaining candidates.

Ms Van Damme said it was important to have an accurate list of the current skills that were lacking in order to make appropriate nominations. It was important to have postal policy included, to complement the current skills set.

The Sub-committee broke for 10 minutes of deliberations. Following which, a list of the remaining six agreed candidates was shared.

The Chairperson concluded the short-listing of 20 candidates for the filling of the ICASA vacancies. The report would be tabled to the Committee at the following meeting.

The meeting was adjourned.

 

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