All pass the buck over Icasa fraudster Rubben Mohlaloga - minister refuses to pull the trigger

Icasa chairman Rubben Mohlaloga.
Icasa chairman Rubben Mohlaloga.

Convicted fraudster Rubben Mohlaloga is staying put at the helm of Independent Communications Authority of SA despite his 20-year sentence.

Yesterday, parliament's portfolio committee on communications and minister of communications Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams both said the decision on Mohlaloga's fate was out of their hands.

Chairperson of the portfolio committee on communications Professor Hlengiwe Mkhize said the committee took a position that he should resign after he was convicted.

"The committee's position has not changed . I suggest you call the minister to ask what steps will she be taking."

Mohlaloga has been sentenced to 20 years in prison for fraud and money laundering, alongside former Land Bank CEO Philemon Mohlahlane and attorney Dinga Rammy Nkhwashu.

The Pretoria Specialised Commercial Crimes Court found that Mohlahlane conspired with Mohlaloga - who was at the time an ANC MP and chairperson of parliament's portfolio committee on agriculture - and Nkhwashu to unlawfully transfer R6m into a trust account from the Land Bank in 2008.

The money was transferred from Agri-BEE, a broad-based BEE framework intended to support blacks to participate in the agricultural sector, to Dingwako Farming Projects.

The court heard that Mohlahlane had instructed the fund manager at Agri-BEE to authorise payment without supporting documents.

The money was spent on car payments and the purchase of two BMWs for Mohlaloga, among other things. Mohlahlane was sentenced to seven years in prison for his role in the scam. Nkhwashu received a 24-year sentence while his law firm was fined R50,000.

The three have successfully applied for leave to appeal.

Mohlaloga became Icasa chairperson on December 1 2017. Despite the conviction in January last year, Mohlaloga has kept his position at Icasa.

Ndabeni-Abrahams said the powers to remove Mohlaloga rested with parliament and not with her.

"The removal process of a disqualified councillor, however, entails a National Assembly process and therefore falls outside of the minister's ambit. The minister is only enabled to suspend a councillor after the commencement of such proceedings which are initiated in terms of Section 8 (2) of the Icasa Act," she said.

Corruption Watch executive director David Lewis said: "He should step down as chairperson. The minister, the portfolio committee and fellow councillors at Icasa should be demanding that he steps down."

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