Proposed Regulations Pose Threat to .CO.ZA Domain - South African Regulator Takes Firm Stand

Jan Vermeulen | 1 June 2022


In a move that has sent shock waves through South Africa's online landscape, the .ZA Domain Name Authority (ZADNA), the regulator responsible for overseeing the .za domain namespace, has set forth a series of contentious new regulations. These proposed rules, which come under scrutiny, seek to reshape the digital terrain by impacting the country's most popular second-level domain space, Amidst a flurry of discussions and debates, ZADNA remains steadfast in its commitment to enforcing these changes, raising concerns and sparking both fervent support and vocal opposition.

The Current Domain Landscape

At present, South Africa's digital frontier is home to a diverse array of second-level domains (SLDs) under the .ZA country code top-level domain (ccTLD). These domains, including,,, and, cater to various online entities and purposes, driving the nation's digital identity. However, the proposed regulations have cast a shadow of uncertainty over this dynamic ecosystem.

The Dominance of .CO.ZA

Among these SLDs, stands as the undisputed behemoth, boasting a staggering 1.3 million registered domains. This overwhelming popularity cements its status as South Africa's premier digital destination. Yet, as ZADNA charts its course toward a revamped digital landscape, the fate of hangs in the balance.

Unveiling the Proposed Regulations

Embracing Change: ZADNA's Bold Move

The draft regulations, released on April 22nd, have set forth a series of ambitious changes aimed at redefining the .ZA domain space. These changes, if implemented, would usher in a new era of accountability, transparency, and regulatory oversight.

An Identity Quest: Gathering Registrant Information

At the heart of these regulations lies the requirement for registrars, the gatekeepers of digital domains, to collect and verify identity documents from registrants. This move, while contentious, aims to curb abusive registrations and fraudulent activities, thereby safeguarding the digital realm from malicious actors.

The Key Role of Registrars

Registrars, also known as hosting providers, would be tasked with granting ZADNA access to their environments for audit purposes upon request. This collaborative effort seeks to foster an atmosphere of compliance and accountability.

Industry Uproar and Regulatory Defense

The announcement of these regulations has ignited a fierce debate within the digital sphere, pitting proponents of increased oversight against staunch defenders of online freedom. Amidst this heated discourse, ZADNA has taken a resolute stance, defending its proposed changes and the rationale behind them.

Addressing Legislative Gaps

ZADNA, in a press statement, underscores the regulatory imperative of bridging gaps in existing legislation. The draft .za Registry and Registrar Licensing Regulations, it asserts, aim to create a comprehensive framework that delineates the administration and management of the .za namespace.

Strengthening Enforcement: The Core Objective

The proposed regulations, ZADNA contends, will bolster the enforcement mechanisms currently in place. By mandating licensing for registries and registrars, monitoring their operations, and facilitating investigations in cases of non-compliance, these changes aim to fortify the integrity of the digital landscape.

CEO Insights: Unmasking the Identity Drive

Molehe Wesi, CEO of ZADNA, sheds light on the rationale behind the identity document requirements. According to Wesi, the drive to gather registrant identity information stems from the need to effectively track and address online abuses. Instances of fraudulent activities exploiting .za domains, both domestically and internationally, underscore the urgency of this pursuit.

Industry Concerns: Navigating the Controversy

As the industry grapples with the ramifications of these proposed changes, several concerns have emerged, painting a nuanced picture of the potential consequences.

A Balancing Act: Weighing Compliance and Competition

Critics argue that the stringent requirements imposed by the proposed regulations may lead registrars to cease offering .ZA domains. The allure of less demanding alternatives, among the 1,500 top-level domains available, could divert registrants' attention and funds away from .ZA.

Identity Versus Accessibility

Amidst a sea of domain options, the prospect of identity-free registration might prove enticing to registrants seeking a frictionless experience. This raises questions about the compatibility of robust identity checks with the ease of domain acquisition.

Fraud on the Fringes

Skeptics warn that determined fraudsters might resort to falsified identity documents to secure domains, circumventing the intended safeguards. This highlights the delicate balance between regulatory measures and the adaptability of malicious actors.

ZADNA's Response: Defending the Directive

In the face of mounting criticisms, ZADNA remains resolute, defending the rationale and impact of its proposed regulations.

Embracing Change: A Necessity

ZADNA underscores the vital importance of embracing change, emphasizing that the proposed regulations reflect a strategic response to the evolving digital landscape. The pursuit of a comprehensive regulatory framework, it argues, is essential for ensuring the long-term viability of the .ZA domain space.

Bridging the Gap: From Aspiration to Implementation

In defense of the proposed changes, ZADNA acknowledges the gap between its ambitions and the practical implications. The transition from visionary goals to tangible outcomes requires a concerted effort, and ZADNA pledges to consolidate and review industry feedback to bridge this divide.

Path Forward: A Collaborative Journey

As the deadline for submission approaches, ZADNA extends an invitation for further engagement and written submissions from stakeholders. This collaborative process, slated to unfold in the coming months, aims to crystallize the details of the licensing fee, taking into account industry perspectives and real-world impact.


The proposed regulations, a testament to ZADNA's commitment to a secure and accountable digital landscape, have ignited a fierce debate among stakeholders. While concerns and criticisms abound, the regulator's steadfastness in defending its directives remains unwavering. As South Africa's digital realm navigates uncharted waters, the fate of .ZA domains hangs in the balance, awaiting a resolution that strikes a delicate equilibrium between regulatory rigor and online accessibility. In a landscape defined by constant evolution, ZADNA's journey to redefine the digital domain continues, leaving a lasting impact on the nation's online identity.

Proposed New Rules Threaten South Africa's .ZA Domain Space

Rual de Vries Published: June 4, 2022


In a bold move that could reshape the digital landscape of South Africa, the .ZA Domain Name Authority (ZADNA) has unveiled a set of proposed regulations for the .ZA namespace. While ZADNA aims to enhance security and streamline operations, a storm of concerns from South African registrars is casting a shadow over the future of the .ZA domain space. These regulations, if implemented, could significantly impact how individuals and businesses navigate the online realm.

A Deafening Silence: Registrars' Fears

Despite ZADNA's apparent efforts to engage stakeholders, murmurs of discontent echo within the ranks of South African registrars. These companies, instrumental in facilitating the acquisition and management of Internet domains, fear that their feedback on the proposed regulations is being ignored, potentially leading to a domain landscape unrecognizable to those who navigate it.

Unraveling the Controversial Proposals

Collecting ID Documents: A New Norm?

One of the most contentious proposals put forth by ZADNA is the requirement for registrars to collect identification documents of individuals seeking to register .ZA domains. While the intention may be to bolster accountability, questions abound regarding the practicality and privacy implications of such a mandate.

The Licensing Conundrum

Another lightning rod issue is the call for registrars to obtain licenses and pay associated fees. This raises eyebrows among industry players who question the necessity of additional financial burdens and the potential impact on accessibility.

Gateways to Environments: Auditing and Access

ZADNA has also stirred the pot by suggesting that registrars grant the authority access to their environments for audit purposes. The concept of transparency is commendable, but critics argue that this move could inadvertently compromise sensitive data and give rise to unforeseen consequences.

Registrars Speak Out: Voices of Dissent

A Quest for Answers

Jade Benson, Managing Director of Absolute Hosting, has been a vocal critic of ZADNA's approach. During a series of online meetings, Benson grilled ZADNA representatives on issues ranging from license fees to registry access. Unfortunately, her queries seemed to fall on deaf ears, leaving registrars concerned about the fate of their industry.

A Trip Down Memory Lane

Mauritz Koekemoer, CEO of Register Domain SA, draws a stark parallel between the proposed regulations and a time when the domain registration process was cumbersome. He warns that the burden of collecting personal identification documents could trigger an administrative nightmare for registrars, potentially reverting the industry to a bygone era.

Balancing Act: Growth vs. Regulation

Wayne Diamond, Managing Director of, voices a sentiment echoed by many in the industry. He asserts that in a domain space brimming with options, the focus should be on simplifying registration, not introducing complexities that may hinder growth. With more than 1,500 top-level domains to choose from, Diamond questions the wisdom of introducing regulations that could stifle innovation.

Unintended Consequences: Impact on Pricing

Diamond goes on to emphasize that ZADNA's proposals could have unintended financial repercussions. The introduction of manual tasks mandated by the new regulations might lead to an increase in domain prices. Without clear benefits for registrars or registrants, the motives behind these changes raise eyebrows.

The Regulator's Perspective: A Clash of Visions

A Different Viewpoint

ZADNA, however, stands firm in its conviction that the proposed regulations hold promise for the .ZA domain name ecosystem. The regulator envisions a unified and centralized system that enhances licensing and compliance processes. Additionally, ZADNA claims these changes will contribute to a more secure online environment, safeguarding users against potential threats.

A Public Defense

Amid the uproar, ZADNA has taken to the stage to defend its stance. The regulator released a press statement and a Q&A section addressing concerns and explaining the rationale behind the proposed regulations. This move signals ZADNA's determination to stand by its vision, even in the face of skepticism.

Uncertain Horizons: A Glimpse into the Future

A Looming Threat

Jade Benson's apprehensions intensify as she envisions a future where ZADNA's proposals come to fruition. The potential consequences are dire: a decline in the .ZA namespace, diminished growth prospects, and an exodus of registrars and registrants seeking refuge in alternate namespaces. The once-thriving .ZA brand could be at the brink of irreparable damage.

Privacy Predicament

Benson raises a crucial issue—the invasion of privacy. Granting ZADNA access to registrar environments may inadvertently expose sensitive data, raising concerns about unauthorized access and jurisdictional boundaries. The delicate balance between regulation and privacy remains a focal point of contention.

A Call for Pragmatism

As the dust settles, industry players grapple with the realization that change is inevitable. While concerns persist, there is a glimmer of hope that collaborative efforts between ZADNA and registrars could lead to a middle ground—a regulatory framework that ensures security without stifling growth.


1. Will ZADNA address registrar concerns?

ZADNA's response to registrar feedback has been met with skepticism, as industry voices question the extent to which their concerns will be taken into account.

2. How could the proposed regulations impact domain pricing?

The introduction of manual tasks for registrars could potentially drive up domain prices, leaving registrants to bear the financial burden.

3. What is the alternative to the .ZA domain?

Many industry players are considering migrating to .africa domain names as a viable alternative, seeking to escape the potential pitfalls of the proposed regulations.

4. Could privacy concerns impact customer trust?

The requirement for registrars to grant ZADNA access to their environments raises red flags about data security and the preservation of customer privacy.

5. How does ZADNA envision the future of .ZA?

ZADNA sees its proposed regulations as a means to enhance security and centralize processes, ultimately benefiting all stakeholders within the .ZA domain ecosystem.

6. What role does transparency play in the debate?

The demand for transparency has sparked a clash of visions, with registrars advocating for security while raising concerns about the unintended consequences of excessive access.


The landscape of South Africa's .ZA domain space hangs in the balance, as ZADNA and registrars engage in a battle of perspectives. While the road ahead is uncertain, one thing remains clear: the fate of the .ZA domain space is a testament to the delicate equilibrium between regulation, innovation, and the quest for a secure online environment. As stakeholders navigate these uncharted waters, the future of the .ZA domain space will be shaped by a collective commitment to shaping an online world that reflects the diverse needs and aspirations of the South African digital community.