National

Icasa councillor now faces charges of crimen injuria

Lisa Steyn

Icasa's Joseph Lebooa now faces a criminal charge laid by a telecoms company, after he claimed he was threatened to drop an investigation.

Icasa councillor Joseph Lebooa. (Oupa Nkosi, M&G)

An Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) councillor, who last week claimed he was hijacked and threatened with his life to drop an investigation into Wireless Business Solutions (WBS), now faces a criminal charge laid by the disgruntled telecoms company.

Recently, the Mail & Guardian reported how Joseph Lebooa, an Icasa counsellor since 2010, was hijacked, beaten and taken on a three hour hell ride. He alleged his assailants had said they were sent by WBS, a sister company of iBurst, and that he must abandon his efforts to have the company settle (possibly more than R100-million) in fees for unpaid licences and illegal radio links – communication channels used by broadcast, telecoms and cellphone networks.

When approached by M&G, WBS denied any involvement in the attack.

On Thursday last week, Lebooa was informed that a case of crimen injuria had been laid against him – an act of both intentionally and unlawfully impairing the dignity or privacy of another person.

On Monday, Captain Kym Cloete, communication official at Sandton police station confirmed the complaint had indeed been laid and that the police were waiting on a warning statement which would be issued to the councillor.

When the M&G queried this with WBS, it responded: "Please understand that WBS is not prepared to ventilate its differences with Icasa or councillor Joseph Lebooa in the press”.

Crimen injuria
On Friday morning Lebooa woke up to discover intruders had dug under the fence surrounding his residence and cut the water mains.

Lebooa has since had little sleep as he, his family and members of his congregation take shifts to guard the house throughout the night.

Francois Slabbert, counsel for Lebooa, said there are two forms of crimen injuria – one private law and the other constitutes a crime.

The former constitutes an instrument or means of settling accounts or disputes, while the latter is descriptive of criminal conduct that threatens law and order in society, again, such that it calls for uncompromising intervention on the part of the state.

Slabbert said he believed the sole purpose for which the WBS charges were laid was to intimidate Lebooa. Pursuant to a criminal investigation, he could possibly be suspended from office. He said the charge was "bogus, malicious and frivolous ... for which it is patently obvious no substantive basis of whatever nature exists".

Icasa spokesperson Jubie Matlou said the authority could also not comment. "As the matter is, it is up for criminal investigation, we cannot comment on issues around it."

However, should Lebooa require any support from the authority, he should submit his needs to an ad hoc committee.

Illegal links
‚Äč
The councillor had only recently become responsible for regional oversight and enforcement at the authority. The M&G reported that Lebooa claimed WBS could owe tens of millions of rands in licence fees for several years of non-payment and R100-million for operating in excess of 1 000 illegal links.

WBS denied its radio links were operating illegally. However, Icasa confirmed that WBS "has illegally rolled out links on a national basis".

The department of communications said: "The department has noted that Mr Joseph Lebooa has reported the matter to the police and is confident that the police will handle the case appropriately. We are happy that Icasa is dealing with matter."


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