Minister scratches back

The previous posting in this blog celebrated the court victory of Altech against ICASA and the Department of Communications (DoC). The ruling was viewed as the closest thing to a big bang liberalisation of the telecommunications industry in South Africa, especially since ICASA had announced that the ruling would not be appealed. Today, however, the DoC announced that the minister intends to lodge an appeal against the ruling and to issue a directive to ICASA (where the I used to stand for "independent") in this regard. The purported justification for this peevish obstructivism is that if it implemented,
"government’s managed liberalisation policy will be seriously undermined to the detriment of the Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) industry."
Now, since when is the DoC supposed to act in the interest of the ICT industry?!

The idea is preposterous but not new: it is called regulatory capture and happens when a government agency starts acting in the interest of the commercial groups that it had been expected to regulate. If you have difficulty distinguishing between regulatory capture and corruption, just remember that the one is legal and enduring whereas the other is illegal but usually done quite quickly. The South African innovation is that the DoC is no longer pretendingto be doing anything else.

Earlier this year, the prestigious Rutgers University in the USA conferred on DoC Minister Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri an honorary doctorate in law (she had done her doctorate in sociology there in the 1980s), so perhaps she knows better than I what she is doing. According to the DoC website, she is "one of the most successful, visible, and accomplished women in Africa", after all.

  1. Communications Minister to appeal court ruling http://mybroadband.co.za/news/Telecoms/5293.html
  2. Minister to Appeal the Altech Judgment http://www.doc.gov.za/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=280&Itemid=457
  3. Rutgers University honors Minister of Communications http://www.doc.gov.za/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=230&Itemid=457

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Update: it was reported today, 2008-09-25, that Minister Matsepe-Casaburri had been appointed acting president, effective from midnight until the swearing in of a new president - expected to be later today.