Below, please find issue 20 of ENSafrica's tax in brief, a snapshot of the latest tax developments in South Africa.


  • Public Hearings in respect of the Draft Digital Sound Broadcasting Regulations
    • On 13 November 2020, The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa ("ICASA") published the Draft Digital Sound Broadcasting Services Regulations, 2020.
    • Public hearings in respect of the Draft Digital Sound Broadcasting Regulations were held on 20 and 21 January.
    • The Draft Digital Sound Broadcasting Regulations follow the outcome of an inquiry into the use of Digital Sound Broadcasting services in South Africa which commenced in March 2018 and concluded in March 2020. The inquiry revealed that there is a need for DSB services in South Africa, and these findings inform the content of the Draft Digital Sound Broadcasting Regulations.

In the news

  • Implementation of new child line helpline service postponed
    • ICASA has advised that the termination date of the current Child Helpline Service Hotline (0800 05 55 55) has been postponed until 15 March 2021.
    • It is intended that after the termination of the current Child Helpline Service Hotline, it will be replaced with the new service code, 116.
    • As a result of the postponement, ICASA notifies all licensees that they are required to continue routing traffic to the existing number in the interim.
    • ICASA has explained that the decision to postpone is based on the lack of public awareness regarding the change to the Child Helpline service code, which was necessarily impacted by the recent spike in COVID-19 infections.
    • ICASA has stated that it will publish a formal notice regarding the postponement in due course.
  • ICASA provides an update on the spectrum auction and further debunks 5G myths
    • In December 2020, Telkom filed papers in the Pretoria High Court in terms of which is sought to interdict ICASA from proceeding with the high demand radio frequency spectrum auction. Telkom has expressed concerns that the current formulation of the invitations to apply and the planned wholesale open-access network (WOAN) will result in entrenching MTN's and Vodacom's dominance.
    • ICASA has stated that the spectrum auction will proceed as Telkom has withdrawn a portion of its application aimed at halting the process.
    • ICASA's Chairperson, Keabetswe Modimoeng has said in this regard that, "Our efforts are geared towards licensing the high demand spectrum through an auction by no later than end of March 2021. We have adequately consulted relevant stakeholders and the public throughout this process and cannot do so to a point of regulatory paralysis."
    • ICASA has also made a media statement noting the ongoing media reports suggesting a link between 5G technologies and infrastructure and COVID-19. This is not the first time ICASA has needed to make a statement in this regard, however after certain 5G towers were burnt and destroyed following an uptake in the false information, ICASA has reiterated "we all need to rely on scientifically-based evidence and refrain from these baseless theories. Some of the frequencies earmarked and trialled for 5G deployment by industry players were previously assigned to various operators in South Africa – way before the outbreak of the novel coronavirus in 2020. Such fake theories can only cause despair and unnecessary technophobia among South Africans and must be strongly condemned."
  • MTN challenges parts of the spectrum auction process
    • MTN has launched an urgent application to the Gauteng High Court to have two parts of the auction process be declared unlawful.
    • MTN is challenging ICASA's decision to classify operators into two groups, being Tier 1 and Tier 2. MTN's challenge in this regard is the manner in which ICASA has classified operators into Tier 1 and Tier 2. MTN has been classified into Tier 1 and also objects to the rule that Tier 1 operators are not allowed to participate in the initial "opt-in" round of the auction, which MTN says will include the highly sought-after 3500 MHz band, which is optimal for 5G use.
  • Rationalisation drive and the merger of the regulators
    • In line with state-owned enterprises ("SOEs") rationalisation plan (following President Ramaphosa's announcement in last year's State of the Nation Address), the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies has embarked on a process to merge some of its entities. The state signal distributor SENTECH will be merged with Broadband Infraco to form one state broadband infrastructure company.
    • From a regulatory perspective, the domain name authority,Zanda; the Film and Publications Board and ICASA will merge to form one regulator. In addition, the Universal Service and Access Agency of South Africa will be repurposed to establish a state-owned digital fund company.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.