Cope puts Icasa on notice following leaked legal opinion of Gupta TV bid
The Congress of the People (Cope) said it “would not be surprised in the least if President Jacob Zuma had a finger” in the bid for “highly prized” free-to-air digital licence.
Dennis Bloem said Cope “and all opposition parties will keep a sharp lookout to see how the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) is going to process the responses to the tender it put out in 2014”.
The party’s statement came a day after the City Press reported on “a leaked legal opinion commissioned by Icasa” that that awarding of “the tender to Infinity Media Networks” – which is part-owned by members of the Gupta family and Zuma’s son Duduzane - would be “in contravention of the principle of legality”.
Bloem described the legal opinion was “wisely sought”.
“Infinity Media Networks‚ we learn‚ has ambitious plans to turn ANN7 into our country's primary news source. This might possibly have been the goal from the inception of ANN7 setting up operations‚” he said. “Now that South Africa has witnessed how calamitous it is for the state or a state institution to argue lamely that it was an error of the law for failing to act correctly‚ Icasa must be warned to proceed within the very strictest confines of the law.”
“An error of law” is a reference to the defence used by counsel for Zuma and others in the Constitutional Court proceedings against them over the public protector’s report on spending on Nkandla.
If Icasa “acts in defiance of the law‚ seriously consequences will follow. Any deviation or illegality will be vigorously challenged”‚ Bloem vowed. “While Icasa is still considering all submissions and no decision has been taken‚ it should understand that the matter is now made public and all eyes are on Icasa. It is under the spotlight.”
“The fact that this licence will allow the licensee to reach as many as 12-million viewers will give it the same reach as the South African Broadcasting Corporation and eTV. As such‚ the decision that Icasa takes must be rational and well thought out. It must pass legal muster.”
City Press reported that the legal opinion held that Infinity contravenes the foreign ownership clause in the Electronic Communications Act because it is 37.1% foreign-owned.