Media attending the State of the Nation address (SONA) at Parliament in Cape Town on 12 February 2015 have reported that cellular phone signals (including mobile data) in the National Assembly have been jammed.
“Shocking: Parliament has scrambled all 3G and cell reception in the House,” tweeted Report editor Waldimar Pelser.
“Please help us Sanef, FXI, Right2Know. There’s a jamming device in the parly chamber next to media bay. We can’t work at SONA 2015,” Associate Editor at the Daily Maverick Ranjeni Munusamy posted to Twitter.
Responses to the tweets were mixed with some expressing indignation while others stated disbelief as using a signal jammer is illegal in South Africa.
In 2012 the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) stated unequivocally that signal jamming was illegal.
“No organisation is allowed to jam cellular signals, and any device which is used to jam signals is illegal,” Icasa spokesman Paseka Maleka said at the time.
However, according to journalists at Parliament on Thursday, the presence of a jammer was certain.
“Technical staff at Parliament have confirmed that there’s a signal jammer in the roof, blocking signal in the National Assembly,” Beeld news editor Pieter du Toit said on Twitter.
The Parliamentary spokesperson was reportedly not aware of the jammer.
“Parliament spokesperson Luzuko Jacobs just told Waldimar Pelser he wasn’t aware of cellphone scrambling and was investigating,” Beeld editor Adriaan Basson said on Twitter.
The South African National Editors Forum (SANEF) lashed out at the decision to block cellular signals in Parliament in a series of scathing tweets.
It indicated that it did not know whose decision it was to jam mobile communications, but said it was “disgusted” by it.
“We call on Parliamentary officials and the Presidency to urgently review the decision to cut off cell phone signal in the chamber,” Sanef said.
Bring back the signal
ENCA has reported that the signals are being jammed at Parliament in an attempt to prevent negative press, particularly around the disruptions to SONA expected from the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF).
According to ENCA, the Parliamentary news service has already cut scenes depicting negative activity from its live video feeds.
Originally the EFF had threatened to show up naked and disrupt the State of the Nation address to demand answers about the state’s expenditure on Zuma’s Nkandla homestead.
Recent reports have suggested that a kind of “peace deal” had been brokered between the ANC and the EFF.
Reports also quoted EFF leader Julius Malema as saying he would not disrupt Zuma’s speech, but merely ask that questions about Nkandla be fielded first.
Members of Parliament from opposition parties were chanting “Bring back the signal” inside Parliament following reports that a jammer was blocking cellular service in the area.