Many South Africans are not aware that the government has its own systems to intercept and monitor communications in the country.
This was highlighted in a recent interview with Vodacom CEO Shameel Joosub, who explained that the South African government’s interception and monitoring centre was established 15 years ago.
The planning for this centre started shortly after the attacks in New York on 11 September 2001 as a measure to fight terrorism in the country.
Legislation was put in place for the government to snoop on citizens, and operators were forced to install equipment which provided the government with access to their networks.
This equipment makes it possible for the interception and monitoring centre to spy on citizens without any cooperation from telecoms operators.
The legislation which governs the interception and monitoring of communications is the Regulation of Interception of Communications and Provision of Communication-Related Information Act (RICA) of 2002.
According to the Act, interception of local communications without a judge’s permission is forbidden.
To get permission to monitor a user’s communications, the state needs to prove that a serious offence has been, is being, or will probably be committed.
Another route is to show that there is an actual or potential threat to public health or safety, national security, or compelling national economic interests.
Concerns have been raised about whether these strict guidelines are followed by the government before they intercept information.