• Advocacy Group to Re-apply for Registration

    Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana (LEGABIBO) advocacy group states that it will re-apply to register as an organisation.
    LEGABIBO will make a fresh application to the country’s registrar of societies, after winning a case in which it challenged government’s refusal to register the organisation.
    During an interview, LEGABIBO coordinator, Caine Youngman, declares that, "We are working with our legal team to finalise our registration papers before submission tomorrow."
    To read the article titled, “Botswana: Gays, lesbians re-apply for registration,” click here.

    News 24
  • Judgment Reserved on Porn Channels

    The Western Cape High Court has reserved judgment on whether the decision to licence three porn pay channels should be reviewed.

    The Justice Alliance of South Africa (JASA), Cause for Justice, and Doctors for Life argue on why the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) erred in licencing the channels.

    Digital Media (operating as Top TV and later StarSat) was granted three licences in April to broadcast Playboy TV, Desire TV, and Brazzers, subject to conditions.

    To read an article titled, “Judgment reserved on porn channels,” click here.

    IOL News
  • ICASA Reviews Proposed New Call Termination Rates

    The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) says it has started the process of reviewing its proposed new call termination rates.
    ICASA spokesperson, Paseka Malekathe, says in order to do the process in a transparent and fair manner, questionnaires will be sent to every licensee to seek information for the review.
    ICASA, which was given six months by the court to amend its regulations, has given the licensees are required to submit responses to ICASA by 13 June 2014.
    To read the article titled, “ICASA reviews proposed new call termination rates,” click here.

    SABC News
  • USAASA Calls for Cheaper Data Costs

    The Universal Services and Access Agency of South Africa (USAASA) says mobile services are meaningless if they are not affordable.

    USAASA spokesperson, Khulekani Ntshangase, points out that, "To attain the goals of universal access and service to ICT [information and communication technology], the country needs to ensure that prices should be affordable."

    Ntshangase’s comment follows the ruling by the outh Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg that the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa's proposed new call termination rates were invalid and unlawful.

    To read the article titled, “Call for cheaper data costs,” click here.

    Fin 24
  • ICASA’s Possible U-turn on Call Rates

    South Africa's telecoms regulator, the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) says it may reconsider planned cuts for 2015 and 2016 in the amount mobile operators charge each other to use their networks.

    ICASA spokesperson, Paseka Maleka, points out that, "In this case, we may review 2015 and 2016 mainly in trying to avert a very lengthy legal challenge.”

    Maleka’s comments come after mobile operators MTN and Vodacom have asked the South Gauteng High Court to halt plans by ICASA to halve the fees operators charge competitors to carry calls on their networks.

    To read the article titled, “ICASA may make U-turn on call rates,” click here.

    Fin 24
  • Zambian Govt Blamed Over NGO Registration

    The Zambia Council for Social Development (ZSCD) has charged that government is wasting time by once again extending the registration for non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in the country.

    Government has again extended the registration period for NGOs by sixty days effective 4th February to 5 May 2014.

    ZCSD executive secretary, Lewis Mwape, points out that mainstream NGOs in the country will never register under the NGO Act and that government’s extension of the deadline is a sheer waste of time.

    To read the article titled, “Government wasting time extending the registration for NGOs-ZSCD,” click here

    Lusaka Times
  • Zambia Speaks Out on NGO Act

    The Zambian Ministry of Community Development Mother and Child Health says it is still awaiting correspondence from the Ministry of Justice on the implementation of the Non-Governmental Organisation Act of 2009.

    The ministry’s deputy Minister, Jean Kapata, says the response from the Ministry of Justice would determine the fate of all non-governmental organisations (NGOs) that have rejected to register under the Act.

    Kapata says the registration has since closed, adding that the NGOs that are not yet registered will have themselves to blame if deregistered.

    To read the article titled, “Response from Ministry of Justice would determine fate of all NGOs that have refused to register-Kapata,” click here.

    Lusaka Times
  • Ban on NGOs in Zim Lifted

    A ban on aid bodies in Zimbabwe’s Masvingo province has been lifted, and government is appealing to non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to resume operations there.

    Former provincial governor, Titus Maluleke, ordered the discontinuation of 29 NGOs, which provided food to desperate families in Masvingo, accusing them of engaging in political activity.

    However, Minister of Provincial Affairs, Kudakwashe Bhasikiti, has announced the cancellation of the ban, arguing that the government cannot feed all the starving people in the province on its own.

    To read the article titled, “Masvingo welcomes back NGOs,” click here.

    Mail and Guardian
  • ICASA Plans to Cut Call Rates

    The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) proposed a cut of up to 75 percent over the next three years in the fees mobile phone companies can charge competitors to use their network.

    ICASA has released its draft call termination regulations, significantly reducing the cellphone rates of some networks.

    In addition, ICASA introduced an asymmetric rates system for smaller operators with a market share of less than 20 percent, which is aimed at promoting investment, encouraging competition and fostering small, medium and micro enterprises.

    To read the article titled ‘Icasa proposes slashing call rates’, click here.

    Fin 24
  • SA Electricity Industry and the UK, NZ, Chile and Brazil

    The challenge for all electricity sectors is to ensure an adequate supply of electricity at an affordable price. All countries have their own challenges, degrees of private sector involvement and of political intervention, but nowhere in the world is the system as archaic as in South Africa (SA).

    In this country we have Eskom, a government-owned, vertically integrated monopoly still in control of the whole process of producing and distributing electricity, except for the 50 percent or so of distribution carried out by local authorities. We do not know the real price of our electricity because the real price could only become apparent if our electricity were traded, like any other commodity, in a market where prices are determined by supply and demand.

    In the United Kingdom (UK), privatisation of the electricity sector proved hugely profitable for government. Profitable, not only from the sales revenue, higher taxes on industry profits and dividend income but also because the government was relieved of the financial responsibility of trying to prop up a failing electricity sector. Governments elsewhere, and particularly in SA, seem strangely reluctant to exploit such revenue-raising opportunities.

    In a snapshot of the UK electricity sector, the following is evident. While the sector has been completely privatised, it is heavily regulated and subject to political interference, interference from green pressure groups, and the European Union bureaucracy. There are numerous taxes, green levies, renewable energy subsidies, and the bizarre wind farm constraint payments. Wind farms, subsidised to generate electricity, are paid constraint payments, which amounted to £30 million last year, to shut down in stormy weather for fear of destabilising the grid.

    The National Grid desperately needs to upgrade and modernise to allow for the levels of renewable energy committed to by the UK government, but it cannot afford to do so because its profit margins are tightly regulated by the Office of Gas and Electricity Markets (OFGEM).

    Consumer prices in the UK are not transparent. Although there is a bilateral trading market, confidential bilateral contracts remain the dominant market mechanism. Competition in generation and retail has increased substantially, but there is still a large degree of vertical integration with the ‘big six’ energy companies in the UK owning three quarters of generation capacity. Initially, the liberalisation of the energy sector was very successful and there were significant price decreases, but the sector now faces enormous challenges due to political intervention and excessive government control.

    In New Zealand, the electricity sector is not completely privatised but consists of a combination of State and private entities competing with each other. Regulation in the industry is light-handed and flexible. There are minimal barriers to entry for small businesses, and market participants and all consumers have a large degree of choice. There is free trade in electricity and participants can choose to either purchase on the spot market, or use bilateral contracts and all prices, contracts and investment costs are transparent. Companies are carrying the cost of upgrading. The cost of modernising, as can be seen in the rollout of smart meters, is being absorbed by the distribution companies. Effective retail competition exists with up to nine suppliers to choose from in some areas, and the switching process takes a mere 24 hours. Other incentives are also offered to consumers who use electricity efficiently.

    To effectively coordinate outages in transmission and generation, the government uses sophisticated methods such as procuring ancillary services through contracts with electricity generators, retailers and distributors. Government participation and facilitation, rather than intervention and regulation is evident.

    In Chile, despite difficult odds, endeavours to create competition in the electricity sector, particularly in generation, have been largely successful. There is a vast grid relative to a low population density. Chile has very little natural energy resources which makes it heavily reliant on the importation of fossil fuels. Disruptive and damaging earthquakes also pose a problem to the viability of investing in nuclear energy production.

    Although the sector is completely privatised, it is heavily controlled by the government. Two markets exist alongside one another, a free market for large industrial consumers and a regulated market for households and commercial operators. There is no retail market so captive household consumers lack choice and while free customers and distributors may purchase electricity on a spot market, spot prices are capped.

    The Chilean government, however, has been proactive in addressing security of electricity supply. It has identified the need to move away from reliance on hydropower and is exploring new sources of fossil fuels to support thermal electricity production. An important element of the success of the electricity reform has been the institutional bias to protect the property rights of original owners of capital in the electricity sector yet limit their ability to exploit market power by encouraging competition. For most developing countries the opposite bias prevails where the tendencies to renege on regulatory contracts with initial private property holders have led to failed reforms.

    Chile’s neighbour, Brazil, faces somewhat greater challenges due to its institutional design. The sector there faces rapidly growing demand as it is estimated that an additional 3 000 - 5 000MW of generation capacity is needed annually.

    Most of the distribution networks are privatised, but there is no retail competition and distributors compete with each other for concessions. Household consumers have no choice. The sector is heavily regulated and controlled by government.

    In normal rainfall years, hydro, which is government owned, meets 100 percent of demand. Under drought conditions, Brazil faces huge supply issues. There is an institutional preference to dispatch hydro first, and Petrobas, a government controlled entity, regulates the supply and price of gas. This puts thermal production at a disadvantage and makes it uncompetitive to operate at present. Government controls the electricity supply by imposing rationing and rolling blackouts. The tax component of the consumer bill, slightly reduced recently because of upcoming elections, at the start of the year, accounted for 45 percent. Electricity theft through illegal hook-ups is as much as 20 percent in some areas.

    A free market for large industrial consumers exists and there is private participation and competition in new generation capacity. The free market, which accounts for 30 percent of consumption, is growing fast and it is estimated that it will account for 50 percent in the very near future.

    Where electricity sectors have been liberalised and competition introduced, prices have declined significantly. It is only where governments interfere for political reasons, and impose excessive regulation and taxes, that this trend reverses.

    - Lisa Harraway is a researcher with the Free Market Foundation. This article first appeared on the Free Market Foundation website.
    Lisa Harraway
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