SABC’s Parly offices burgled
Despite police security at all entry points in Parliament, the SABC offices were broken into and at least five computers were stolen on Friday night.
Concerns have been raised as to why journalists’ computers were targeted. Eyebrows have also been raised because there was no sign of forced entry into the newsroom.
Parliament has frequently invoked its status as a national key point to justify stringent security measures. It is therefore unclear how the SABC offices were targeted.
According to the police’s official list of national key points, only the following parliamentary sections are classified as such: the 120 Plein Street building, which houses Cabinet ministers, their deputies and staff; Tuynhuys, where the president and deputy president’s offices are located; the chambers; and Africa House, which hosts the state security quarters.
The SABC offices are in the Marks Building, which also houses the opposition parties’ offices. However, there are supposed to be police guards at the entrances of all the buildings, as well as at all parliamentary gates.
SABC journalists interviewed by City Press, who cannot be named as they are not authorised to speak to the media, confirmed the theft of five laptop computers.
The journalists said it was concerning that their computers were targeted and other portable electronic equipment in the office was left untouched.
When SABC spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago was reached for comment yesterday afternoon, he was unaware of the break-in and theft. At the time of going to print, he had not yet responded to requests for official comment.
Two parliamentary sources said in light of the recent break-in at the offices of the Chief Justice last month, the break-in was concerning.
This sentiment was echoed by the Press Gallery Association, a body representing parliamentary journalists.
The association’s Joylene van Wyk said it was unacceptable that this was happening in what was supposed to be a safe environment. “One wonders about the motive,” she said.
Murray Hunter, of lobby group the Right2Know, pointed to an emerging pattern where laptops and other devices containing sensitive information were being stolen.
“This is not the first incident. We have seen this happening at the offices of the Chief Justice and people connected to the recent case against the SA Social Security Agency (Sassa) regarding payment to grant beneficiaries. It has happened to unionists in recent years and to academics and students involved in the student movement.
“The thing that is especially spooky about crimes like this is that it leaves one uncertain about what conclusions to draw,” he said.
“There is a possibility that it is opportunistic crime, but it is very difficult to dismiss the more worrying conclusion that people are being targeted for the data in their devices.
“We know that for journalists to do the work they do, they must have documents that are sensitive, and that information has to be secured.”
Hunter said it was worrying that even if this was an opportunistic crime, it happened in Parliament at a time when it had upped its security measures and made it more difficult for members of the public and anyone else to enter.
The break-in at the SABC is not an isolated case. In July 2015, Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema’s parliamentary office was burgled.
The party’s spokesperson, Mbuyiseni Ndlozi, said documents containing Malema’s travel and security information were removed from the office.
In September, detectives were dispatched to Parliament to investigate a break-in at the offices of the National Assembly’s house chairperson, Thoko Didiza.
Didiza and her secretary informed Parliament’s security service that her office door had been locked, but it was open when she arrived for work the following day.
Spokesperson Moloto Mothapo said Parliament had not been informed officially of the theft by the SABC.
“Once it is reported, an appropriate course of action will be determined to get to the bottom of the incident,” he said.
This is not the first incident. We have seen this happening at the offices of the Chief Justice and people connected to the Sassa case