The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa has made a
midnight confession that it blundered spectacularly in trying to block
the R88.4-billion Vodacom listing — and the mistake could cost
taxpayers up to R5-million, writes Buddy Naidu in Business Times.

The broadcasting and telecommunications regulator made the frank admission during a presentation to parliament’s portfolio committee on communications on Thursday night, in a meeting that finished minutes before midnight.

The meeting was scheduled to reveal Icasa’s strategic plan and budget for the next financial year but ended up being an inquiry into the disputed listing — revealing all the drama and intrigue behind efforts to stop it at the 11th hour.

It also emerged that greater parliamentary oversight will now be exercised over the oft-criticised regulator.

The listing followed Telkom’s sale of 15% of Vodacom to UK telecommunications giant Vodafone for R22.5-billion.

Icasa shocked the market when it went back on an earlier decision to approve the deal late on Friday, May 15.

The rand weakened by 3% immediately after the announcement. The listing, scheduled for the Monday, was the biggest stock exchange listing thus far this year.

During the initial, open hearing, Icasa chairman Paris Mashile said he and his 25- strong team present “got it wrong”.

He said they were “filled with contrition, remorse and regret” over joining Cosatu’s application to stop the listing.

He said the decision was “problematic” and “not properly handled”, adding: “We fell off our horses. Next time around we would not have done it the same way.”

Mashile said he had been “approached by other people” about going to court.

Later, a closed session was convened to discuss the events of that weekend, when a high court judgment was made against Icasa and Cosatu on the Sunday night, with the former being ordered to foot the bill for the urgent interdict.

Click here to read the full report, posted on Business Times's website.