R2K will be picketing today against the State Security Agency’s (SSA) in Cape Town, Durban and Tshwane . Our action is in direct response to the outrageous claims – as reported by the SundayTimes – of SSA officers who told parliamentary staff that the Right2Know Campaign is an agent working for a foreign government and involved in espionage for a foreign country (the USA was specifically mentioned). The article alleges that Parliament has launched a campaign to clamp down on officials in a bid to “root out spies and whistle-blowers”, with the help of the State Security Agency (SSA).
We are appalled but not surprised by these absurd accusations. The Right2Know Campaign is a movement of hard working activists and ordinary people whose main objectives are to promote transparency and accountability within both the public and the private sectors as part of a collective struggle in service to the constitutionally protected rights to freedom of expression and access to information. The insinuation that R2K is involved in any manner of spying as a blatant lie. While we dismiss these claims as laughable we are deeply concerned that this reflects the growing unfounded paranoia amongst the country’s security agencies. R2K is further outraged by statements by the Minister of State Security yesterday, which called legitimate on-going student protests, a possible threat to national security in the upcoming local government elections in 2016.
State Security Agency & Security Agencies
In Pretoria, today at 11am R2K activists will be picketing outside the State Security Agency who have made false accusations of spying against R2K and other civil society organizations. R2K activists in Durban will be picketing outside the head office of the South African Police whose crime intelligence unit continues to be linked to allegations of corruption and the abuse of power. We demand that the SSA publicly disassociate itself from these accusations against R2K and other organisations. Not only are they completely baseless, they are also irresponsible and dangerous. The Right2Know Campaign poses no threat to ‘national security’. The only threat we pose is to those who are corrupt, insecure and authoritarian.
In Cape Town R2K activists will be picketing outside Parliament from 12h00 today and handed over a letter to the Secretary to Parliament Mr. Gengezi Mgidlana who news reports suggest initiated the clampdown by the State Security Agency on whistleblowers in Parliament. Parliament has a crucial role to play in providing oversight over the activities of the Executive, including the SSA. Yet Parliament has given the intelligence structures free rein by delaying in taking a vote to appoint the watchdog for the spies.
The Office of the Inspector-General of Intelligence is meant to hold the spooks to account, but has been without a head for 7 months, leaving the spies to run amok. R2K will be calling on the Speaker of Parliament to urgently act on this matter. Officers of Parliament have a responsibility to protect Parliamentary staff from intrusive conduct by the SSA and in tandem publicly protect civil society from such spurious accusations.
R2K calls on the Secretary to Parliament to take immediate action to restore faith in his office and the institution of Parliament through the following:
- Convene an investigation into the claims made in the Sunday Times article against the Right2Know Campaign and respond to R2K within two weeks (06 November) of today concerning the outcome.
- The Secretary of Parliament to urgently intervene to ensure that the Executive, through State Security, stops spreading vexatious rumours about civil society organizations amongst Parliamentary staff. R2K respectfully demands that Parliament shows good faith in this matter by the following two actions within the next two weeks:
2.1 Releasing a statement affirming that all civil society organizations, without exception, are encouraged to engage in the work of Parliament, including R2K.
2.2 Sending a letter to all Parliamentary staff by the Secretary to Parliament affirming that all civil society organisations without any exception are encouraged to engage in the work of Parliament, including R2K.
R2K has requested a response from his office by no later than Friday 30 November informing us of the progress the office has made to meet our demands.
Unity is strength!
If the SSA thinks that they can intimidate and silence our Campaign, as they have tried to do in the past to other social movements and organisations of civil society, they are sorely mistaken. We are committed, now more than ever, to continue speaking truth to power, to defend our hard-won freedoms and to intensify our work and struggles. We will do so openly and without fear.
We call on all who live and work in South Africa to join us and support our efforts to protect and expand our democracy. Unity is strength.
Power to the people!
Matla ke warona!
Mag aan die mense!