The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa said on 13 February 2015 that South Africa’s State Security Cluster may, in certain instances, employ signal jammers.
Its statement follows reports that cellular phone signals were jammed inside Parliament on Thursday during President Jacob Zuma’s State of the Nation address.
Icasa said in 2012 that the use of wireless signal jammers in South Africa was illegal.
“No organisation is allowed to jam cellular signal, and any device which is used to jam signal is illegal,” Icasa said at the time.
The regulator referred to its enquiry into mobile phone telephone blocking devices in 2002, which found that there was no legitimate radio communications use for cellular jamming devices.
“Icasa has therefore decided that use of jamming devices will not be authorised,” it said. “No organisation is allowed to jam cellular signals, and any device which is used to jam signals is illegal”.
Icasa has now said that there are exceptions for the State Security Cluster.
Interestingly, journalists at the 2015 State of the Nation address suggested that State Security may have been involved in the jamming.
“I watched State Security minister David Mahlobo leave the House as we started [chanting ‘bring back the signal!’],” City Press editor Ferial Haffajee tweeted. “He came back. Signal returned.”
Following Zuma’s speech, Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe declined to confirm or deny whether cellphone signals were jammed, but did deny any knowledge of who was responsible.
Icasa summarised its position on the issue of cellphone signal jamming as follows:
- The use of jamming devices by any entity other than National Security Cluster Departments is not authorised and/or permitted.
- The National Security Cluster departments may, where supported by relevant security legislation, deploy the use of jammers in relation to, amongst others, State security functions.
“The Authority welcomes the Speaker’s pronouncement that Parliament will investigate this matter,” Icasa said.
It added that it will liaise with Parliament on the outcome of the investigation.
“Should it deem it necessary, the Authority may also institute its own investigation into the matter,” Icasa said.