‘Big Brother’ spying in South Africa exposed

The Right2Know Campaign has launched its Big Brother Exposed report, which details how activists and community leaders have been “monitored and harassed” by South Africa’s intelligence agencies.

According to Right2Know, the issue of “Big Brother” monitoring citizens was brought to the fore when Numsa announced it would lay a complaint with the Inspector General of Intelligence after intelligence officials approached several Numsa members and United Front activists to get information on their activities.

This type of monitoring has been a concern to South African activists for years, though, the report states.

“This report draws on interviews with 16 people who have encountered some form of harassment from one of South Africa’s intelligence structures or people who are suspected of being intelligence agents,” said Right2Know.

One of the interviewed civil servants, “Themba”, said he received a call from the State Security Agency agent towards the end of 2014.

Themba was told the agency needed to speak to him about a conversation he had with the director of the Alternative Information Development Centre, Brain Ashley.

Two men in suits then showed up at Themba’s office, and proceeded to ask him questions about phone conversations between him and Ashley regarding possible strike action. Conversations they had recorded.

When asked why State Security was interested in Ashely, an agent said he is “an activist who wants regime change”.

Right2Know raised the following concerns on the incident:

  • How did the State Security Agency come to view a particular political activist as a threat to national security?
  • Why is the SSA investigating lawful political action at all?
  • What does this mean for the Constitutional rights of privacy, freedom of expression and freedom of association?
  • On what grounds could the SSA have intercepted a phone call?

Another incident cited was one between Right2Know activist “Miriam” and alleged members of the “intelligence structures”.

In January 2015 Miriam reported being approached during an anti-crime march by three men in a white sedan.

“They asked what the protest was about and who I am, and am I the convenor of this march,” said. Miriam.

“My name is Miriam,” she answered. He said, “Oh, you’re the Miriam?” He turned to the guy in the passenger seat and said, as if they already knew about her, “This is Miriam, have a good look
at her.”

She later discovered her house was under surveillance by the men, and was subsequently approached on two more occasions by the suspected intelligence agents.

The full report is available on Right2Know’s website, as linked in the beginning of the article, and contains more alleged encounters between activists and civil servants, and the country’s intelligence structures.

Right2Know said it wanted to equip people with the knowledge they needed to “fight back” against this type of monitoring.

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‘Big Brother’ spying in South Africa exposed