The Democratic Alliance (DA) welcomes the announcement by Communications Minister Ms Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams that withdraws the controversial Electronic Communications Amendment Bill that for three years pitted the Information Communications Technology (ICT) sector against the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services (DTPS).
The Minister made the announcement in today’s meeting of the parliamentary portfolio on Telecommunications and Postal Services, thanks to DA pressure.
We welcome her emphasis on the proposed minimal role that government will play as it realises that the private sector is best able to drive telecommunications advances to the benefit of the entire nation. She said government will focus on regulatory and policy matters.
The Bill, that was crammed onto the parliamentary programme at the end of last year, was priority legislation that the government wanted passed before the 5th Parliament rises in May. The portfolio committee declined to rush it through Parliament and was due to recommend at its meeting today that the Bill be withdrawn.
The DA, in committee, questioned the constitutionality of the Bill, its tagging in the parliamentary process, and was concerned about the vast chasm caused by DTPS’ attempts at “radically’ transforming the sector through emasculation of the Chapter Nine independence of the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA), the centralisation of regulation and power over the sector in the Minister and department, the legal establishment of an ostensible private sector consortium Wireless Open Access Network (WOAN) that would be handed prize high-demand spectrum, and the infringement on local governments’ operations in granting infrastructure build permissions.
The withdrawal of the Bill is a defeat for former department officials who played a key role in crafting the ICT Policy White paper, starting in 2013, and its subsequent conversion into the Bill and who lobbied the portfolio committee during the public hearings for its acceptance.
The DA looks forward to a more dynamic, investor friendly regulatory environment that promotes innovation and competition in both wholesale and retail ICT sectors to support the economic and social development needs of South Africa.