Warning to political parties about spam calls in South Africa

The Information Regulator has cautioned campaigning political parties of their responsibility to lawfully process personal information as prescribed in the Protection of Personal Information Act (POPIA).

“The Regulator is mandated to ensure the protection of personal information by monitoring and ensuring compliance of responsible parties,” it said in a statement.

“Political parties and independent candidates are responsible parties and must comply with the provisions of POPIA.”

In response to a complaint on Twitter asking if political parties are exempt from POPIA when they use robocalling, the Information Regulator confirmed that political parties are not exempt.

It stated that political parties must apply the eight conditions for lawful processing of personal information, which include:

  • Accountability: a political party must take overall responsibility to ensure that it processes personal information lawfully.
  • Process limitation: a political party may only process information that it reasonably needs upon obtaining consent directly from a voter. This also means that political parties may not get personal data from brokers or applications that automatically generate personal information, including contact numbers.
  • Purpose specification: a political party can only process personal information for purposes directly related to the objective and purpose of that political party’s mandate.
  • Openness: voters must be notified that a political party is processing their personal information.

The Information Regulator also advised the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) and the campaigning political parties to protect personal information against loss, damage, and misuse.

Pansy Tlakula, Information Regulator chair

“To ensure that we protect the constitutional rights of the citizens of South Africa, all political parties and candidates must uphold the law and comply with the requirements in POPIA,” said Pansy Tlakula, chairperson of the Regulator.

“The Regulator continues to provide guidance and educate responsible parties in applying this law and protecting the rights of citizens.”

As is the case with many laws, POPIA is subject to exceptions.

Section 26 forbids the processing of special personal information, which includes the persuasion of voters.

However, a political party can process information related to the political persuasion of voters for the purposes of forming a political party, participating in its events, engaging in recruiting activities, and campaigning for a political cause.

A political party must still comply with the conditions for the lawful processing of personal information when processing information related to the political persuasion of a voter.

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Minister for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, confirmed the date for the 2021 municipal elections to be 1 November.

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Warning to political parties about spam calls in South Africa