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New watchdog boss bites rivals

World Brief

JOHANNESBURG — The new head of the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa is purging the watchdog of staffers who backed a rival for his position.

Paris Mashile, whose appointment was announced July 7 by President Thabo Mbeki, has suspended two senior staff and served notice of suspension on 12 others.

Mashile, who has been an Icasa council member for the past year, succeeds Mandla Langa.

His appointment is thought to be a compromise to bypass tensions between longer-serving council members and avoid policy differences between other candidates and the government.

Langa and communications minister Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri clashed over several issues.

Mashile was an active antiapartheid fighter who fled into exile in 1977. He returned to South Africa in 1994.

Since then he has worked for industries ranging from the military (Reutech Technological Systems as a senior marketing engineer), water utilities (Rand Water as chief electronics engineer), telecommunications (Siemens LTD as a project manager) to local government.

Mashile will face tough challenges during his five-year term, including steering the regulator through new legislation to remove the boundaries between fixed and mobile telecoms, broadcasting and other media by allowing cross-licensing and ownership.

Pols are also mulling curbing Icasa’s independence by handing over the responsibility for appointing councilors from parliament directly to the minister of communications as well as giving the ministry power to override or bypass Icasa decisions.

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