The opposition Democratic Alliance has raised concerns about a meeting taking place this weekend in Durban between officials of the South African and Chinese governments on Internet issues.
DA MP Marian Shinn said on Thursday that she has written to deputy telecommunications & postal services minister Hlengiwe Mkhize requesting that she release both the agenda and the outcomes of the talks, which will be held behind closed doors.
Shinn said Mkhize and a South African delegation are set to meet China’s vice minister of cyberspace administration, Xiujun Wang, with the meeting following a roundtable discussion on Internet issues between the Chinese government and business representatives, as well as their South African counterparts, taking at the Hilton Hotel this Friday.
“Invitations have been sent to ICT stakeholder organisations, and the topics to be discussed include e-government, e-commerce and cybersecurity,” Shinn said.
“The DA maintains that the Chinese are an inappropriate source of counsel in terms of the Internet sphere,” she said.
“China has a dubious reputation as being one of the world’s most repressive Internet regimes, clamping down on political opponents, journalists and citizens critical of the government. Added to this, China is also known as an enthusiastic cyberwarfare practitioner.”
Shinn said her concern about the impending talks stems from telecoms minister Siyabonga Cwele’s “refusal” to name the South African and Chinese government representatives who signed an ICT co-operation past last year.
“What is suspicious is that the invitation to this week’s event reminds invitees of an agreement to work on cybersecurity,” she said.
“A copy of that agreement, secured via a Public Access to Information Act application, censored the names and signatures of the signatories. Repeated requests for the names to be revealed have been denied for ‘security’ reasons.
“This obsessive secrecy rings alarm bells about what restrictive actions our ANC-led government plans for Internet-based communication as its electoral prospects are severely diminished in the upcoming local government elections,” Shinn said. — © 2016 NewsCentral Media