ICASA’s CEO will leave the regulator when his contract ends

The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA), which regulates the telecom industry, has just seen another high-profile resignation. One month after chairman Keabetswe Modimoeng announced her resignation, ICASA yesterday (10 August 2022) confirmed the departure of CEO Willington Ngwepe.

The South African communications, broadcasting, and postal services industries are formally regulated by the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA). They create rules for these industries, provide licenses to telecommunications and broadcasting service providers, keep track of how well the rules are being followed by licensees, plan and manage the radio frequency spectrum, and defend customers from unethical tactics and subpar services.

The auctioning of SA’s much-needed high-demand spectrum by ICASA earlier this year, which will eventually lead to lower mobile data pricing and telco expansion of next-generation technologies like 5G, was made possible in large part by the contributions of both Ngwepe and Modimoeng.

Dr. Charley Lewis has since been named the acting chair of ICASA. The organization’s longtime spokesperson Paseka Maleka also quit in May. “The council of the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa reminds its stakeholders and the public that the term of office of its long-standing chief executive officer, Mr. Willington Ngwepe, comes to an end on the 15th of October 2022,” says the regulator in a statement.

Ngwepe, however, has reportedly informed ICASA that he has opted to pursue other career options and is not available to be considered for re-appointment to serve a second term as CEO.Ngwepe served the organization well for eight exciting years, first as a Chief Operational Officer from 2014 to 2017, then as chief executive officer and chief accounting officer from 2017. His term of office covered the time between the historic 2014 cost-to-communicate call termination laws and the successful conclusion of the historic high-demand spectrum auction in 2022.

“ICASA’s council thanks Mr. Ngwepe for his stewardship and leadership over the years, and for his support to the council in the execution and delivery of its organizational mandate,”says Dr Lewis.

In particular, the council lauds Mr. Ngwepe for leading management’s efforts first to raise and then to sustain ICASA’s organizational performance level to a high level of excellence over the years of his tenure.”

According to the council, the procedure for choosing a permanent CEO with a five-year term is already well underway. Additionally, it states that the council will soon issue a formal statement regarding the temporary appointment of an acting CEO.

Pakamile Pongwana, a veteran of the ICT sector who presided over ICASA as CEO before making a contentious leave five years ago, passed last year. From November 2013 to August 2017, when the parties came to a “mutual separation agreement” following charges of misbehavior, Pongwana served as CEO of Icasa.

After leaving Icasa under a cloud in 2017, his career in the ICT sector came to an untimely end. He had been put on “precautionary suspension” before this. Icasa omitted any information regarding the reasons for the suspension and ensuing “mutual separation,” but City Press reported at the time that the regulator had obtained legal opinions stating that he should face a disciplinary hearing over, among other allegations, the alleged sexual harassment of an employee.

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