Wed, July 31st, 16:01 ·

MPs diagnose ICASA with cancer

Capetonian members of parliament (MPs) have accused the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) of being unfair to poor citizens.

ICASA briefed MPs on the labour and public enterprises select committee yesterday (Wednesday) about the high rates of internet and mobile calls.

Liyhuhani Mabija, ANC MP, asked if the authority was ill as “a lot of problems” have been experienced, the South African Press Association (SAPA) reported.

“According to my personal understanding, analysis, and diagnosis… there is a very dangerous cancer… that is eating ICASA,” she said.

She continued: “Before a thorough examination is done, and there is a diagnosis and medication to heal it, our masses are going to be suffering. The poorest of the poor are going to suffer. Something needs to be done.”

Christian Mhlanga, senior marketing manager at ICASA, said the authority was addressing the cost which is “too high” in comparison to prices in other African countries.

HumanIPO reported last month on the authority’s plans to investigate cost reduction.

Emphasising her disappointment, Majiba explained ICASA failed to fulfil their role.

“Heads must start rolling,” she said.

Themba Phiri, deputy director general of the communications department, said the telecommunications sector is “plagued with high prices”.

He pointed to statistics, listing South Africa in 30 position for expensive pre-paid mobile rates out of 46 African countries.

Revenue growth from ZAR7 billion (US$701 million) in 1992 to ZAR100 billion (US$10.1billion_ in 2009 came from high retail wholesale prices and misrepresentation of billing information, leading to confused customer choices.

Priscilla Themba, chairperson of the committee, told ICASA chairperson Stephen Mncube the presentation failed to meet expectations.

Mbuyiselo Jacobs, ANC MP, asked ICASA when “the rot had started”.

“That is why these companies are regulating themselves. That’s why they are putting such high prices, and no one is monitoring that.”

Jacobs reasoned mobile operators are “ripping off” the poor.

“What is the function of ICASA if we allow that our people should be ripped off?” he asked.

Phiri pointed to the Electronic Communications Act as not sufficiently addressing price regulation.

Phiri said existing legislation – the Electronic Communications Act – did not make provision for price.

HumanIPO reported yesterday ICASA had called on stakeholders, alerting them to the release of its market  measuring survey.

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