• 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
  • Towards a New NPO Act

    The fifth draft of the Draft NPO Policy Framework on the Amendments of the Nonprofit Organisations Act 71 of 1997 was issued to nonprofit organisations (NPOs) ahead of a consultative meeting in Johannesburg at the end of March 2014. The Nonprofit Organisations Directorate has clearly taken pains to address the concerns of civil society with this version of the framework, which recognises the valuable contribution and role of NPOs in building South Africa’s economy.

    The Framework proposes an NPO Directorate as a specialised direct public service that is ‘a focussed and fully ring-fenced entity’ but still reports to the responsible Minister (in this case, the Minister for Social Development). Amendments to the Act will aspire ‘to promote transparency and accountability within the NPO sector without placing onerous requirements on organisations’. The business case for changes to the structure of the Directorate will be developed through a feasibility study, although it is not clear whether the study will be by internal or independent researchers.

    Recognition ValueThis fifth version of the framework is more inclusive than previous versions, recognising the important role of civil society in the development of the country. It explicitly makes the point that NPOs are not only delivering social services but contributing to economic growth and stability. The framework says: “It is not the aim of government to simply write unreasonably stringent measures that will hamper the growth of the NPO sector.”

    One of the striking things about the framework is the acknowledgement of how little is known about the real size, employment conditions, salaries and income levels of the NPO sector in South Africa. While the Directorate is able to cite a growth in registrations of more than 11 percent per annum, it acknowledges that the majority of registered organisations are still non-compliant and that some 80 percent of registered organisations are voluntary associations.

    One of the proposals in the framework is for the Directorate to conduct research on the ‘income levels and contribution to the South African economy’ of NPOs and make this available to the public. This should be welcomed and encouraged – the more we understand about the South African NPO sector, the better we will be able to lobby for, and jointly create, enabling policies and practices.

    Reducing the BurdenA key component of the framework is the recognition of the burden of multiple registrations and compliance mechanisms on NPOs and, particularly, that smaller organisations are often unable to meet the minimum requirements. GreaterGood welcomes the proposal to simplify the registration processes and the assertion that Trusts, Voluntary Associations and Nonprofit Companies should be subjected to the same registration and compliance requirements.

    We also welcome the move towards electronic registration and faster turnaround times, working with a network of partners offering registration services in areas where Internet penetration is not as good. However, we would like to urge the Directorate to investigate the use of cellphone and USSD solutions which have been very successful at connecting isolated communities with services in similar economies like Kenya and Nigeria.

    Size Is Not EverythingAnother proposal to be welcomed is the ‘risk-based approach for monitoring compliance’ and the recognition that, because of the diversity of the sector, the current ‘one size fits all’ approach is not appropriate. However, we would caution against the assumption that the size of an organisation is the key factor in the assessment of risk. According to the framework, “The larger the size and the higher the income levels of the organisation… the more vulnerable and at risk the organisations can be.” Over the last 10 years that GreaterGood and GreaterCapital has assessed organisations and conducted project risk ratings, we have found that size and income levels are not necessarily associated with greater risk. There are many factors at play and a solid, evidence-based risk assessment tool should be developed to address this.

    Self-RegulationThe proposals in this version of the framework cover the concept of self-regulation by the sector in some detail. This is a long way from the first few versions which created anxiety in the sector in terms of enforcement. The fifth version explicitly states: “the intention is not to create a body that will continually interfere in the affairs of organisations.” While we welcome the softer approach, GreaterGood does have concerns about what evidence there is of the efficacy of self-regulation. There are a number of good governance initiatives in existence already and disagreement within the sector about which is the most appropriate. We believe there is a need for an independent, unified compliance framework based on accurate information about size, income and expenditure practices and salary benchmarks in the NPO sector.

    While self-regulation is given recognition in the framework, an NPO Tribunal and appeal mechanism is still proposed to provide a dispute resolution process outside of the costly and time consuming court process. While this could be of great benefit to the sector, our concern is the make-up of the tribunal and the perception of its impartiality. Furthermore, we are not sure that the ‘blacklisting’ of organisations (which is still proposed) is useful. While we of course acknowledge that fraud and mismanagement must be exposed, the potential for hasty, unfair and prejudicial ‘blacklistings’ – outside of a judicial process – means that the process would have to be very carefully detailed and followed.

    GreaterGood and GreaterCapital welcomes the open and consultative nature of the process for developing this framework and believes that, by working collectively, the resultant changes to the NPO Act will be able to meet the needs of our growing and changing sector.

    - Sophie Hobbs is the head of strategic communication at GreaterGood and GreaterCapital. This article first appeared in the Greater Impact, 8 April 2014.  
  • ICASA to Implement Termination Rate Cuts

    The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) is expected to implement cuts to termination charges, the rates that cellphone users pay for calls between different networks from 1 April 2014.

    The reduced rates follow a ruling by the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg that ICASA could go ahead with its new regulations for six months, but must amend them in that time. 

    Meanwhile, Telkom Mobile's Pieter Grootes says: "The effect of the judgement is that the cost to terminate a call on a mobile network will be reduced to 20 cents.”

    To read the article titled, “ICASA’s mobile rates cuts take effect Tuesday,” click here.

    SABC News
  • ICASA Challenged Over Call Rates

    Cellphone network operators, MTN and Vodacom, will continue to challenge the introduction of new asymmetrical call termination rates in the Johannesburg High Court.

    However, Kate Hofmeyer, for Cell C, believed that if MTN and Vodacom were granted interim relief through the court suspending the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa’s (ICASA) 2014 regulations, this would result in the market being unregulated.

    Call termination rates are rates that mobile operators have to pay one another for calls to other networks.

    To read the article titled, “Unregulated cell environment dangerous – ICASA,” click here

    Fin 24
  • Zambian NGOs Refuse to Register

    Four hundred and sixty Zambian non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have resolved not to register under the NGO Act until all the necessary amendments on the proposed unconstitutional Act of 2009 are resolved.

    Non Governmental Organisation Coordinating Council (NGOCC) chairperson, Beatrice Grillo, says the Act of 2009 is retrogressive and that it is not in the best interest of some civil society organisations (CSOs).

    Grillo maintains that no genuine NGO is prepared to register under the Act in its current form.

    To read the article titled, “NGOs refuse to register under the ‘unconstitutional’ NGO Act,” click here.

    Lusaka Times
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