Icasa’s fraudster boss ‘cared more about gravy than public interest’
Judge slams Rubben Mohlaloga for being more worried about losing his fat paycheck than the public interest
The fraudster who made an unsuccessful court bid to save his R1.9m-a-year job as chairperson of the Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa) has earned a judicial wigging.
Rubben Mohlaloga, a former deputy president of the ANC Youth League, went to the High Court in Cape Town on March 18 in search of an interdict preventing the National Assembly from removing him the following day.
Judge Ashley Binns-Ward, who dismissed the application and ordered Mohlaloga to pay the costs of the Speaker and four other parties, has now delivered the reasons for his decision. The judge: Castigated Mohlaloga for being more concerned about losing his “substantial remuneration package” than the public interest;
Pointed out that Mohlaloga’s appeals against his convictions for fraud and money laundering could easily outlast his five-year term; and
Cautioned that the courts could not be used to prevent the national assembly doing its work.
In February 2018, Mohlaloga was sentenced by the Pretoria Specialised Commercial Crime Court to 20 years’ imprisonment over a R6m Land Bank scam.
The state said then-bank CEO Philemon Mohlahlane conspired with Mohlaloga, at the time an ANC MP and chair of parliament’s portfolio committee on agriculture, and attorney Dinga Rammy Nkhwashu to unlawfully transfer R6m into the law firm’s trust account.
Two weeks after his sentencing, the parliamentary portfolio committee on communications decided to start the process of removing the suspended Mohlaloga as head of Icasa, but he waited a year before applying for an urgent interdict on the eve of the vote.
Binns-Ward said the Icasa Act made it the “exclusive functional domain” of the national assembly to remove the authority’s council members or chairperson".
He added: “A very compelling case would need to be made out for a court ... to pre-empt decisions falling within the competence of parliament.”
Mohlaloga had argued that if the vote went ahead, he could never get his job back because someone else would be appointed as Icasa chair. “It is evident that [his] primary concern was that his removal from office would result in the loss of [his] substantial remuneration package,” said the judge.
“His concern was not about being prevented from fulfilling his statutory functions, but rather about being deprived of the benefits of office.
“The only right the law gives him is to ask the court to strike down any decision the national assembly might make if he were able to show that it had acted unlawfully.”
Mohlaloga argued that parliament should not remove him pending the outcome of his appeal application. But Binns-Ward said the Icasa Act demanded the removal of anyone convicted of fraud and a range of other offences.
If Mohlaloga’s argument prevailed, “a councillor convicted of fraud could, merely by exercising his or her right of appeal, feasibly hold off his removal from office during the greater part of, or even the entire, remainder of his or her term”. Mohlaloga was granted leave to appeal against his sentence, and on March 7 applied to the Gauteng High Court for leave to appeal against his conviction.
Keabetswe Modimoeng was named as acting Icasa chair on Monday. He has been an Icasa councillor for three years.