28 March 2013

R2K press release:R2K statement on the final draft of the 'Spy Bill'

The Right2Know Campaign has noted that the Spy Bill has been finalised by the National Assembly committtee and is ready for adoption, see press release below: 


*For immediate release*

27 March 2013


The Right2Know Campaign notes that the 'General Intelligence Laws Amendment Bill' (the 'Spy Bill') has been finalised in the National Assembly committee and is all but ready for adoption.

Despite concerns at the rushed nature of public hearings which did not allow for sufficient public debate and deliberation on the Bill, we welcome the genuine attempt made by parliamentarians to engage with a number of the key civil society concerns.
In particular we welcome the narrowing of the securocratic mandate, which had effectively required state-security operatives to intrude into democratic spaces and monitor lawful political activity.  The has led to growing concerns that South Africa is dealing with an increasingly powerful, politicised and unaccountable state-security sector.

However, we note that the committee has stopped short of addressing our concerns around 'foreign signals intelligence', where a lack of regulation has led to fears of unfettered surveillance and monitoring of surveillance. The right to privacy is at the heart of our democratic freedom, enabling ordinary people - both citizens and foreign nationals - to hold political views and to organise political programs without fear. We therefore remain concerned that monitoring of 'foreign signals', including electronic communication passing through a foreign server (such as emails, Facebook and Skype) is not clearly regulated.


This represents a massive opportunity missed. There is much work to be done to ensure that the state-security structures remain accountable to the people of South Africa, and cannot be captured by a securocratic elite.




For further comment, please contact:

  • R2K National Spokesperson: Murray Hunter (072 672 5468)
  • R2K Gauteng spokesperson: Dale McKinley (072 429 4086)
  • R2K KZN spokesperson: Desmond D'Sa (083 982 6939)
  • R2K W. Cape spokesperson: Nkwame Cedile (060 478 7563)
  • R2K E. Cape spokesperson: Thembani Zion Onceya (078 843 7489)


For other queries contact R2K National Coordinator Mark Weinberg (084 993 0591)

The African Commission has adopted the long-awaited Model Law on Access to Information for Africa, see press release below: 

We raised concerns about the extraordinarily broad mandate of the state-security department essentially made it the watchdog of every aspect of our political, social and economic life, and created a framework to intrude on legitimate political activity (which has led in the past to interference in the work of social movements such as Abahlali baseMjondolo, and alleged monitoring of environmental justice activists in the lead-up to COP17).  

The mandate is still somewhat broad but tighter nonetheless, with amendments to remove lawful political activity and advocacy, or acts of 'dissent', from the mandate of the state-security sector.

We raised concern that the Bill fails to address gaping loopholes in the regulation of monitoring of communications, which has contributed towards the illegal monitoring identified by the 2006 Matthews Commission on Intelligence. We called for these loopholes to be tightened - all forms of monitoring must be subject to a judge's permission and must have rigorous oversight and reporting to prevent the abuse of 'national security' as a means of intruding on individuals' right to privacy.

Instead of introducing these regulations, Parliament has missed a major opportunity to clamp down on unlawful monitoring of communications. Instead, this debate has been delayed for a future policy review (scheduled for 2013/14) and the current lack of regulation will prevail, potentially leaving this opportunity for abuse untouched.