ZA Domain Space Crisis

Do you even know who owns your domain name?

  • Can you verify it independently? (Answer: No)
  • Can you check your own domain name at the central registry yourself? (Answer: No)
  • Can you pay anyone to independently verify your domain registration? (Answer: No)
  • But, there are laws about that though? (Answer: No)
  • Okay, but at the very least the Minister has issued regulations to protect domain registrants, right? (Answer: No)


South African citizens will pay the price for the long term failures of the SA Government as it relates to the Internet and the erosion of South African development in the 4th Industrial revolution.

Recently the ZACR or Uniforum, redacted the public WHOIS website ( ). This was ostensibly done to “follow” the lead of the EU and the GDPR, where the .com whois became redacted and privatised.

But, there are major differences in the operation, regulations and control of the .com namespace and the .za namespace and the redaction of the .com public whois does not threaten the rights of domain registrants or the control of domains and domain registrations.

In South Africa there exists a company which is supposed to oversee, regulate, control and manage the .za namespace.

This company is not doing that, instead the company has a primary focus of “growing the namespace” as well as “cyber crime and cyber security” and the company is apparently in talks with other Government Departments, like the Company and Intellectual Property (CIPC) to also register domain names with company names. The Company is also doing “training” and various other initiatives. The problem is that the company is not actively developing legislation or modernising the rules and regulations to match the trends, more specifically the trend of following the GDPR. We have no legislation regarding Domain Name Security and the use of encrypted keys (DNSSEC) we have no rules and regulations to protect business owners, domain registrants from exploitation by predatory practises of domain registrars and their resellers, in fact, we have no new regulation for many years and nothing even in the pipeline…

Some of the current practices and certain decisions and events by players in the space are not in the best interests of South Africa and the South African society.

One example (and there are many others) are:

Many South African domains are registered in the name and control of the web designer that made a website of the real domain registrant. Without the domain registrant having a clue how all of this works.

Later, when the domain registrant wants to update their website, by a different web designer, the terrible practise in the industry has become to “move” the domain registration and website hosting, to that of the new web designer. This leads to commercial exploitation of the domain registrant, whom has to pay a “ransom” to “gain control over their website domain” – only for the same domain name to now be registered in the control of the new web designer… And the cycle repeats. The solution for some of the domain Registrars, were to use the pre-redacted public whois, to teach and educate the domain registrant to look for themselves who the registrant of a domain name is. (In the past anyone was able to see the name of the domain registrant, it was public information)

PAIA is a joke where domain names are involved as anyone can see if a company is registered and obtain details of a company and business, but when you look at your own domain name registration, where you are the domain registrant, you have no way of knowing whether your web designer owns your own domain name. In fact, there has been many examples where South Africans have filed criminal complaints, where a web designer has actually “invoiced” them for a “domain registration” and the consumer paid for a domain registration, only to find that they are not the actual registrants and the registrar itself simply says that the domain registrant is the web designer.

Now that private citizens who control and run the ZACR has decided to redact the public WHOIS – There is no recourse to the ZADNA as the board and the SA Government is too concerned with “making it easier to register a domain name” and to grow the namespace beyond the 1 300 000 domain name registrations.

Something you can do practically: Visit  type in your own domain name. Contact the domain registrar and try to find out who is the domain registrant. Some domain registrars will maybe tell you, others will hang up the phone in your ear, there are no rules, there are limited regulations.

In 2019, we are in the wild west in South Africa. And the ZADNA is out there “making domain registrations easier” and marketing the namespace because: “There are 50+ million people in South Africa” and only 1,3+ million domain names” So we need to grow and grow and grow the domain space…” And, you may ask yourself, why the focus on “” – is the milking cow of the .za namespace.

Others, (not the ZADNA), has been marketing “” for decades and the 1,3 million domain names brings in R67 million Rands every year, forever, where the costs to actually provide the service is probably a few million and much of the R67 million is all extra money (minus VAT)…. Most of the “directors” everywhere are receiving HUGE salaries, for doing basically nothing.

In 2016, the ZADNA board, took a decision to increase their “share” of the proceeds paid by South African Citizens, by 71% overnight as they “needed more money”

There are no regulations or laws on how domain name prices are increased or decreased.

In fact, there are so many issues and neglects in operating the .za namespace that it is something that anyone involved should feel completely embarrassed about. Yet, they do not. Nobody is at fault.  It is not the responsibility of the Minister of Communications, it is not the fault of the ZADNA, it is not the fault of the ZACR, just nobody.

Not only should the board of the ZADNA be earning no pay – It is in the Company Memorandum of Incorporation (It is common practise for joint Internet tasks for individual people to contribute their time and skills for free and for betterment of society, in fact, the Internet is build on free sweat and free work. The writer himself serves and contributes to many Internationally used Internet services, for free)

The joke is that the board of the ZADNA earns $$$ and are also clearly ignorant of the scope and purpose of their company. None of the board members are a domainer, or a domain registrar or anyone that actually has had any practical experience of operating a TLD. The Chairpersons annual report contains buzz words, like cyber crime and 4th Industrial revolution, but that is all, it is completely devoid of any content except to indicate ignorance, wastefulness and scope creep. The ZADNA has nothing to do with Cyber Crime, and with the single exception of actually regulating DNSSEC, should not even be talking about it. It is already so very easy to register a domain name. In fact, you can click click on numerous South African websites and register a domain name in 10 seconds or less. There are hundreds of existing domain registrars with thousands of domain resellers and anyone can become a domain reseller for a registrar with a few clicks. So, these are not challenges or problems that the ZADNA should be concerned about. In fact, the CIPC is already itself creeping into the scope of private commerce by performing many of the services commercial companies, lawyers, accountants and consultants were doing before, The CIPC is already causing job losses and unemployment as fewer people are being employed in the private sector. To register domains, the CIPC will have to use EPP, unless the rumours are true that the ZADNA is thinking about discarding EPP completely or providing the CIPC ‘special’ access to the Zone or appointing the CIPC as an additional “Registry”. Who knows, as all this is shrouded in secrecy and the public or the members of the ZADNA may not know this information or specifics of meetings with the CIPC. Questions about this at the recent AGM, from C Browne, a member of the ZADNA, were not answered.

The TLD has no whois server ENTRY (SERVICE or DATA) but it is controlled and operated by the ZA Domain Name Authority (ZADNA) Although the ZADNA is a non profit company, the board of directors at the non profit ZADNA company are appointed by the Minister of Communications. Which effectively makes it a State Owned Entity, or at best a State Controlled Entity.

Extracted from the ZADNA latest Annual financial statements:

” 1. Purpose of the Company

The ZA Domain Name Authority (NPO) was incorporated in South Africa. The company is engaged in the Business of Domain regulation and furtherance of the Z Adomain name space. The company operates principally in South Africa”

Just read the first few lines of the website:

At the recent AGM, one or more of the members alleged in the meeting that the company has acted in breach of the companies act. The company has also not accepted any amendments or additions to the AGM and has allegedly failed to act legally in that regard. The company has also refused to disclose the true nature and details of the outright firing of the previous CEO, as it is “an employer and employee” issue, even though the company is responsible to it’s members as per South African law.

If you look at the most recent ZADNA Financial Statements, it is easy to see where the money is spent.

Apart from the governance issues, the breach of South Africa legislation and the companies act and everything above:

Failures at the ZADNA and at the South Africa Government will affect the country and citizens directly.

The ZADNA (and the Minister of Communications?) looks like they want to join with the CIPC and try to take over the Internet, as they want to appoint resellers and do all sorts of political agenda type stuff with a complete disregard for how the Internet actually works. They want to do something, because they think it is their agenda and it is “right” but they do not understand what their actions and agenda will result in. In the meantime they are destabilising the domain name space and creating good reasons to register a .com – or like President Ramaphosa, use a .online ( ) or .top or .xyz or any one of the other thousands and thousands of TLD’s. Maybe like Just Property Real estate agents, heck, even I registered a nice .me domain name for myself recently…

Of course, I have not yet even discussed the future and how the lack of vision as it relates to changes in DNS technology, will impact South Africa (and Africa in general) I have not even mentioned the objectives of the International big 5 multinational tech companies as it relates to domain names and we have not talked about walled gardens and all the other immoral, non ethical and disgusting predatory practices coming and already arrived in and to the DNS space….

Because we have no functional Government or control and we are at the mercy of private people and their own ethics. As well as their own beliefs, agendas and direction.

In my opinion the domain space will remain at around 1,3 million, or maybe even decline slightly. I also think that the wholesale price of R45 per domain name will probably double in the next few years and I know that we, the South African public, will not receive double the service delivery for that double rise in pricing. As we are already receiving nothing much for the present R45 we are paying yearly, every year and forever…

*Artcle edited for spelling

Update: It is possible to file a PAIA request and the ZACR has released this form and format required for such a request.