Right2Know has dismissed as “laughable” a report that it was spying on parliamentarians.
The State Security’s “paranoid” belief that dissent from ordinary citizens must be the work of “shadowy outside forces” is not new, the Right2Know Campaign said on Sunday.
This was the organisation’s response to a report published in the Sunday Times in which intelligence officers in a series of meetings reportedly told parliamentary staff that certain NGOs, specifically Right2Know, were “known to be agents working for foreign governments”.
According to the article, Parliament has launched a campaign to clamp down on officials in a bid to “root out spies and whistle-blowers”.
This allegedly involves the State Security Agency and was initiated by Parliament’s secretary Gengezi Mgidlana.
In a statement, R2K spokesperson Murray Hunter said he “wholeheartedly condemns this latest sign of the securitisation of Parliament”.
R2K, he said, is a movement comprising ordinary citizens “who are in service to the constitutionally protected rights to freedom of expression and access to information”.
“We are outraged, but not surprised, by the paranoia and utter disdain that the securocrats show for ordinary people and their organisations.
“For the curious and the paranoid, R2K’s audited financial statements are published on our website, as are our funders and all key organisational documents, which is more than can be said for the SSA.”
Murray recalled that R2K was in 2011 called the “proxies” of “foreign spies” in a speech to Parliament by the Minister of State Security.
“We’ve seen similar accusations levelled at unions like Numsa and Amcu, people’s movements like Abahlali baseMjondolo and the Treatment Action Campaign, and corruption-busting institutions like the public protector.
“The same was done to the Anti Privatisation Forum, the Anti Eviction Campaign, the Landless People’s Movement and others from the late 1990s onwards. These accusations are dangerous and irresponsible, but sadly not new.”
The accusation that the group might be in the service of the US government is “particularly laughable”, Murray said, “given the US government’s sustained war on whistle-blowers and its mass surveillance, which are in complete contradiction to our principles and our activism”.
“Organisations that demand openness and accountability are only a threat to the legitimacy of the corrupt, the insecure and the authoritarian,” he said.
“We will not be deterred or intimidated. We will continue our campaign, openly and without fear, and invite others to join us.”