President Jacob Zuma must establish an independent commission of inquiry into allegations that state security agencies hacked people’s phones, Democratic Alliance leader Helen Zille said on Sunday.
“Government agents are abusing their power to spy on individuals without permission from a judge as required by law,” said Zille, adding that this had been confirmed by an article in the Mail & Guardian on Friday.
According to the report, state intelligence agency employees could easily intercept cellphone conversations, text messages and e-mails without a judge or inspecting authority ever knowing they had done so. “This is a threat to the constitutional rights of every South African,” said Zille. “We have long believed that cadres deployed to state intelligence agencies are abusing their power to wage external and internal political battles.”
Zille said she met with then intelligence minister Ronnie Kasrils in 2008 when it became clear that her phone had been illegally tapped. “Kasrils memorably told me that, although there had been no formal instruction to intercept my communications, he could not guarantee that it was not taking place informally.”
She said a police officer later contact her and handed over tapes of conversations of hers which had been analysed.
Another example was the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) dropping corruption charges against Jacob Zuma in 2009.
This was as a result of leaked recordings of telephone conversations between the former Scorpions boss head Leonard McCarthy and NPA head Bulelani Ngcuka.
Just over two weeks ago, the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration found that the so-called “Zuma tapes” were illegally obtained, said Zille. “These are clearly not isolated incidents.”
She said she had written to Zuma requesting an inquiry headed by a retired judge.
It should focus on, among other things, whether there were insufficient checks and balances to protect people’s privacy, why inspecting authorities were failing to detect illegal interceptions and whether private investigators were accessing communications through contacts in the state intelligence agencies.
She said Zuma had a conflict of interest in the matter as he was helped to power by illegal phone hacking and the abuse of state intelligence agencies.
“Suspicion is rife that such abuse will escalate in the run-up to the ANC’s Mangaung conference next year,” said Zille. “That is why he should, all the more, show good faith by appointing an independent commission of inquiry, with full powers, to get to the bottom of this matter,” she said. — Sapa
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