Surveillance of South Africans a wake up call, says party

The reported surveillance of South African and Turkish delegations during the G20 summit in Britain should serve as a wake up call to government, the Christian Democratic Party said on Wednesday.

Party leader Theunis Botha said in a statement the “eavesdropping” which reportedly took place in 2009 should make government aware of its foreign policy.

“South Africa cannot expect to have friendly relations with some of the world’s strongest countries while at the same time maintaining close relations with their enemies,” he said.

“The CDP does not say that this alleged eavesdropping was a good thing, but at the same time we are not surprised that it took place, as according to WikiLeaks, this appears to have become a widely accepted practise even in South Africa allegedly.”

Botha said the party hoped these actions did not sour South Africa’s relations with western countries.

On Monday, international relations department spokesman Clayson Monyela said government had noted with concern the reports published by the United Kingdom Guardian.

According to the report, the UK Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) allegedly hacked into foreign diplomats’ phones and e-mails.

In 2009, it set up internet cafes for delegates to the G20 summit to use, with an e-mail interception programme and key-logging spyware and monitored communication on BlackBerries.

According to one article in the Guardian, in 2005 it was decided to intensify spying on South African officials to “gain access to South African MFA [ministry of foreign affairs] network”, “collect intelligence from target machines”, and “find more access points to increase reliability”.

It wanted information on the negotiating position of the government of former president Thabo Mbeki, “an independently minded swing vote on issues of global economics and finance”, the report said.

The phone lines used by the country’s high commission in London were “investigated”. Online accounts of South African diplomats were hacked, according to the report.

The allegations were reportedly contained in top secret documents uncovered by whistleblower Edward Snowden, who worked for a company contracted to the United States government’s National Security Agency (NSA).

Monyela said on Monday: “We do not yet have the full benefit of details reported on, but in principle we would condemn the abuse of privacy and basic human rights, particularly if it emanates from those who claim to be democrats.”

The department called on the UK government to investigate and take action against any perpetrators.

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Surveillance of South Africans a wake up call, says party