‘Bug­ging of phones is law­ful if there is a rea­son’

CityPress - - News - SE­TUMO STONE and HLENGIWE NHLA­BATHI news@city­press.co.za

State Se­cu­rity Min­is­ter David Mahlobo says the in­ter­cep­tion of cit­i­zens’ phone calls is law­ful and South Africa’s in­tel­li­gence ser­vices can only bug peo­ple when there is good rea­son to do so.

Mahlobo re­cently met with SA Com­mu­nist Party (SACP) gen­eral sec­re­tary and Higher Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Blade Nz­i­mande to dis­cuss con­cerns that un­known peo­ple were il­le­gally lis­ten­ing in on his phone calls.

Mahlobo told City Press on the side­lines of an ANC event in Rusten­burg this week: “It is sim­ple. In­ter­cep­tion [as I un­der­stand it] is gov­erned by law and we will not bug any per­son with­out a rea­son.

“If an in­ter­cep­tion is to hap­pen, we will go to the judge and out­line the rea­sons. In this case, we will in­ves­ti­gate and give him the out­come of our in­ves­ti­ga­tion,” he said.

Ru­mours in the SACP were that Nz­i­mande’s col­leagues cor­nered Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma at the Cosatu na­tional con­gress in Septem­ber to warn him about the il­le­gal tap­ping of the SACP leader’s phone, which sub­se­quently saw Nz­i­mande se­cur­ing a meet­ing with Mahlobo af­ter weeks of try­ing.

Mahlobo promised that the in­spec­tor-gen­eral would in­ves­ti­gate the com­plaint. It was not clear how this would hap­pen, as the po­si­tion is cur­rently va­cant.

The bug­ging claims within the ANC al­liance, made as the bat­tle to suc­ceed Zuma in 2017 heats up, echo those made in the run-up to the Polok­wane con­fer­ence.

Dur­ing late SACP leader Joe Slovo’s com­mem­o­ra­tion rally in Soweto this week, Nz­i­mande said that it ap­peared com­mu­nist lead­ers were al­ways tar­geted dur­ing the ANC’s suc­ces­sion races.

Mahlobo said it was not the first time that peo­ple claimed their phones were be­ing bugged.

“You will have some­thing like a noise – you hear noise on your phone – [and] you as­sume your phone is bugged. If a phone is bugged, [you] will not al­low noise be­cause you are not go­ing to hear the con­ver­sa­tion,” he said.

How­ever, he said: “One of the things we are deal­ing with is in­ter­cep­tions that are ac­tu­ally done by other pri­vate in­di­vid­u­als, whether se­cu­rity com­pa­nies or for­eign agen­cies.

“But when the in­ves­ti­ga­tion hap­pens, we will then be in a po­si­tion to know who au­tho­rised that par­tic­u­lar in­ter­cep­tion.”

Mean­while, Mahlobo would not be drawn on re­ported se­cu­rity threats that al­legedly led to Zuma can­celling a trip to Marikana in North West. Marikana is said to be a no-go area for the ANC since the Au­gust 2012 mas­sacre of mine work­ers by po­lice.

Mahlobo said the se­cu­rity-threat re­ports were mere spec­u­la­tion, de­spite claims that he called off the visit af­ter an on-the-ground as­sess­ment.

Mahlobo vis­ited Marikana three times this week in the build-up to yes­ter­day’s main cel­e­bra­tion at the Royal Bafo­keng Sta­dium. He was among ANC lead­ers who went to face Marikana res­i­dents and hand over houses af­ter Zuma can­celled his trip.

Asked whether Zuma would ever feel safe enough to travel to Marikana, Mahlobo said no part of the coun­try was a no-go zone for the pres­i­dent.

Mahlobo said the com­mu­nity of Marikana was un­der­go­ing a process of heal­ing and rec­on­cil­i­a­tion, and even­tu­ally peo­ple would again warm to the ANC.

When the time was right, gov­ern­ment would make a de­ter­mi­na­tion on when Zuma could visit the area.

Mahlobo also spoke about con­cerns about an in­tel­li­gence min­is­ter be­ing as vis­i­ble as he was.

“Why not? I’m a politi­cian; I’m a pub­lic rep­re­sen­ta­tive. Am I an op­er­a­tive? Must I hide?

“If peo­ple are con­cerned that there are ter­ror­ists here, who must say they are safe? Who must as­sure you this place is safe?”

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