SABC’s Parly of­fices bur­gled

CityPress - - News - ANDISIWE MAKINANA andisiwe.makinana@city­press.co.za

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

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