SA Spy Files link deepens to the tune of R3.6m

Privacy International has questioned government grants totalling just under R3.6-million given to VASTech, an SA-based mass surveillance equipment maker

By - November 19, 2013
Privacy

Privacy International (PI), a UK-based privacy rights group, recently wrote a letter to Minister of Trade and Industry, Rob Davies, regarding grants to the tune of R3.6-million provided to VASTech.

VASTech is one of the South African companies linked to to the so-called mass surveillance industry by WikiLeaks, which said VASTech’s Zebra system was used in Libya by Muammar Gaddafi’s regime.

According to VASTech, its system “allows for massive amounts of data to be stored and conveniently and intelligently retrieved”.

In their letter to Davies, Privacy International’s head of research, Eric King said that the South African Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) had given financial assistance to VASTech through the Support Programme for Industrial Innovation (SPII).

VASTech Zebra in cabinet

VASTech Zebra in cabinet

Details on the grants are contained in the 2008 and 2010 annual reports of the SPII, King said, with VASTech reportedly receiving R870,822.45 in 2008 and another R2,692,684 in 2010.

King told Davies that they have received word from the National Conventional Arms Control [Committee] Inspectorate that it would undertake an investigation into VASTech’s alleged contraventions of the South African arms control regime.

After explaining all this, King questioned Davies on the DTI’s foreknowledge of the capabilities of the Zebra system, and whether due process was followed in the award of the grants to VASTech.

Speaking to MyBroadband after WikiLeaks mentioned them in the Spy Files for a second time, VASTech chairman Willem Barnard provided MyBroadband with the following statement:

I am now even more convinced that our systems are put to good use by legal governments to do law enforcement and defend and protect their citizens against violence and aggression. I therefore briefly repeat our position:

  1. We compete internationally and openly against several suppliers of similar systems.
  2. We only supply legal governments which are not subjected to international sanctions. Should their status change in this regard, we hold the right to withdraw our supplies and support unilaterally.
  3. We do not disclose any information on our clients or on the nature and substance of our contracts. These are normal conditions when contracting with governments.

A copy of King’s letter to Davies has been uploaded to the MyBroadband forum.

The Department of Trade & Industry did not immediately respond to our request for comment.

Hat-tip to Htxt.Africa for its find of, and report on, Privacy International’s letter to Minister Rob Davies.

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