Regard must be had to the higher standard of conduct expected from public officials, and the number of falsehoods that have been put forward by the Public Protector in the course of the litigation. This conduct included the numerous “misstatements”, like misrepresenting, under oath, her reliance on evidence of economic experts in drawing up the report, failing to provide a complete record, ordered and indexed, so that the contents thereof could be determined, failing to disclose material meetings and then obfuscating the reasons for them and the reasons why they had not been previously disclosed, and generally failing to provide the court with a frank and candid account of her conduct in preparing the report. The punitive aspect of the costs order therefore stands.
An allegation that Zikalala showed a Special Assignment programme to the Presidency prior to broadcast is especially grave, as it opens the SABC up to editorial influence in violation of the Act and its own code of editorial practice.
The FXI further argues in its complaint that the denial of the existence of a blacklist in June last year had misled the public — a violation of the Act, the SABC code of practice and Icasa’s code of conduct for broadcasters.
The complaint also points to possible violations of the freedom-of-expression clause found in the Constitution. These include an attempt to force the Mail & Guardian Online to remove a copy of the blacklisting report, and the alleged screening of the Special Assignment show to the Presidency.
Having not seen the complaint and not being an expert on Icasa (after reading the various acts governing Icasa’s work I felt like a first year law student at a Master’s seminar on Tax Law), I have no idea whether the complaint has any legal merit.
However, if even a fraction of the media reports about the shenanigans at Icasa are true, I would not hold my breath for a speedy resolution of the dispute. After all, according to his ex secretary, Paris Mashile the chair of Icasa, hardly ever did Icasa work and liked taking off his shoes and having a nap in his office.
Maybe Mr Mashile is a very hard worker and his ex-secretary was lying through her teeth about his work habits. But given the fact that Icasa is the institution that is supposed to regulate Telkom and thus is supposed to help bring down telecommunication prices, I can only say again: don’t hold your breath FXI.