We are dismayed at Parliament’s failure to nominate someone to fill the vacant role of Inspector General of Intelligence.
The Office of Inspector General of Intelligence is a crucial watchdog against surveillance and abuse of power in the intelligence structures, provided for by the Constitution. For the past eight months, there has been no Inspector General of Intelligence.
Parliament has the responsibility of nominating a new candidate. By law, this person must be independent and credible and must be nominated by at least two thirds of the National Assembly.
After eight months, Parliament has yet to put this matter to a vote. Today’s Business Day reports that the matter is, once again, delayed.
This may be because the preferred candidate, former MP Cecil Burgess, does not have enough support to be voted through. If one candidate does not have the necessary support, another candidate must be put forward – but this matter cannot continue to be buried at the bottom of Parliament’s programme.
While Parliament fails to act, complaints of illegal surveillance submitted to the Office of the Inspector General of Intelligence are not receiving action.
- In July 2015, Right2Know submitted two complaints, following the release of Big Brother Exposed which detailed evidence of possible surveillance against South African activists and unionists. (The report is available at bigbrother.r2k.org.za)
- In June 2015, the M&G Centre for Investigation Journalism (amaBhungane) lodged a second complaint of illegal surveillance, after the President’s attorney tabled transcripts of a telephone conversation between Sam Sole and a source before the court in the “Spy Tapes” matter. AmaBhungane has a previous complaint which is also still unresolved, dating back to January 2014, after it was reported that the State Security Agency would investigate leaks to the Mail & Guardian regarding Nkandla.
- In February 2015, Tom Nkosi, publisher of Ziwaphi investigative newspaper in Mpumalanga, lodged a complaint after Mpumalanga Premier David Mabuza alleged that the State Security Agency was providing intelligence briefings to him on the movement and activities of journalists in the province.
Several complainants have reported that staff at the IG’s office feel that without an Inspector General in place, there is nobody with the authority to sign off on investigations.
R2K has written to several office bearers in Parliament to draw attention to the urgent need for action – in each instance we are told that the matter is receiving attention.
Parliament and the Office of the Inspector General of Intelligence are meant to function as watchdogs of the intelligence services to guard against illegal surveillance and abuse of power. There is mounting evidence that these oversight systems are just not working.
We need an independent watchdog as Inspector General and we need one now!