How many Vodacom and MTN warrants police get each year

Right2Know has released statistics on how many subpoenas South Africa’s mobile network operators have received under Section 205 of the Criminal Procedures Act.

R2K has expressed concerns over a loophole in South Africa’s criminal law that allows magistrates to authorise thousands of “surveillance operations” which ignore RICA procedures.

Authorities should first apply for an “interception direction” from a judge, who was designated by the Minister of Justice to grant such requests, before they can execute a surveillance operation.

Surveillance operations include getting call records and listening in on calls.

Legal experts have told MyBroadband that the RICA process is intended to protect privacy rights.

Loophole

MyBroadband reported in 2016 that private investigator Paul Scheepers used Section 205 subpoenas to circumvent RICA.

Scheepers, called “Zille’s spook” for ensuring DA phones were not bugged, faced 26 criminal charges relating to contravening RICA, and was accused of conducting illegal surveillance on lawyers and police officers.

The Daily Maverick also reported on a case, which is now back in the Western Cape High Court, over how Section 205 orders were issued.

According to the report, RICA allows for Section 205 orders to be used, but demands they only be used if other attempts to gather evidence have failed or are too dangerous.

A case docket with a witness statement or other evidence must also be opened as part of the motivation for the order.

These procedures are not being followed, however, and magistrates regularly “rubber stamp” Section 205 applications, according to reports.

It is also possible for police to write down additional phone numbers on a court order after it has been approved.

This is because there is no standard form for Section 205 orders.

Abuse of the Section 205 process is allegedly done without the knowledge of mobile operators and can be perpetrated by an individual law enforcement officer who wants to sell information to third parties.

In response to this, Right2Know filed PAIA requests with Cell C, MTN, Telkom, and Vodacom for statistics on the number of Section 205 orders they have been served.

The results are detailed below.

It must be noted that certain warrants may be served to multiple service providers, preventing the calculation of “total warrants” across all providers.

Vodacom 2015 2016 2017
Warrants received 19,614 18,594 19,580
Total phone numbers in warrants 70,315 69,731 71,731
MTN 2015 2016 2017
Warrants received 25,808 23,762 15,115
Total phone numbers in warrants Unknown Unknown Unknown
Cell C 2015 2016 2017
Warrants received 5,786 6,455 2,437
Total phone numbers in warrants Unknown Unknown Unknown
Telkom 2015 2016 2017
Warrants received 1,094 1,271 525
Total phone numbers in warrants 1,006 1,229 549

Now read: Big legal problem that let South African policeman get cellphone records from operators

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How many Vodacom and MTN warrants police get each year