South Africa’s Rica legislation, which governs the ability of the state to spy on the electronic communications of citizens, is unlawful, the high court in Johannesburg has ruled.
Judge Roland Sutherland found that the legislation — known formally as the Regulation of Interception of Communications and Provision of Communication-Related Information Act — is inconsistent with the constitution and fails to provide appropriate safeguards.
Sutherland ruled that the validity of the judgment be suspended for two years to allow parliament to rework the legislation.
The case was brought by investigative journalism unit amaBhungane after it learnt that one of its journalists, Sam Sole, had been targeted by state surveillance operatives while investigating the National Prosecuting Authority’s decision to drop corruption charges against former President Jacob Zuma.
Respondents in the case were the ministers of justice & correctional services, state security and communications.
Specifically, the court has ordered that, pending the reworking of the legislation by parliament, Rica will “be deemed to include” an additional section, which provides that when an order is sought from a Rica judge against a subject who is a journalist or legal practitioner:
- The application for the order concerned must be disclosed and must draw to the designated judge’s attention that the subject is a journalist or lawyer.
- The judge will only grant the order sought if satisfied that it is necessary and appropriate, notwithstanding the fact that the subject is a journalist or legal practitioner. The judge may still grant the order, but may include further limitations or conditions if he or she considers necessary in view of the fact that the subject is a journalist or lawyer.
Significantly, Sutherland also ruled that the state’s bulk surveillance activities, including the interception of foreign signals by the National Communications Centre, are unlawful and invalid. — © 2019 NewsCentral Media
- Read the full judgment (PDF)