R2K is highly dismayed by the Speaker of Parliament’s blatant bias displayed in a letter she wrote to Members of Parliament on Monday regarding the appointment of the Inspector General of Intelligence.
In the letter, the Speaker, “appeals to all the members to ensure, in the interest of the country, that this process is finalised”. While, we welcome the announcement that the National Assembly will finally vote on the appointment of the Inspector General of Intelligence after 9 months of delays and evasion, the Speaker is effectively urging MPs to vote for Cecil Burgess, even though he is a divisive candidate who would have been voted down months ago if the matter had not been delayed.
Parliament announced that the vote will take place on Wednesday afternoon. We count this scheduled vote as a small but vital gain — bringing us one step closer to having oversight of SA’s shadowy intelligence structures. The sad fact is that this vote was called only after R2K threatened court action with the help of the Legal Resources Centre, after many other tireless efforts to engage Parliament to vote (see the history of our efforts to get Parliament to exercise its duty and appoint a watchdog as Inspector General of Intelligence: www.r2k.org.za/tag/inspector-general)
This key surveillance watchdog role has been vacant for a year now, and the reason for the delay appears to be that the ANC did not get enough votes for its preferred candidate.
The main candidate is still Burgess – and it remains to be seen if he can get the support of two-thirds of the house to be appointed. If he is defeated in the vote, we go back to square one. If he is successful in his vote, we will begin to hold him to the task of acting as a watchdog.
R2K strongly opposes Burgess’s appointment because of his past history as the chairperson of the Joint Standing Committee on Intelligence. Mr Burgess failed to table the committee’s annual reports to Parliament’s for 3 years running, which is required by intelligence services oversight act. Not only did he neglect his duties but he also faced very serious allegation of improper interference by Anti-Corruption Task Team members in the investigation of former Lieutenant General Richard Mdluli.
Mr Burgess is also the champion of the Secrecy Bill that threatens our right to know. The bill, which we campaigned fiercely against is currently in the President’s desk awaiting his signature. If passed, this bill will destroy our hard-fought for democracy.
R2K reiterates its call for an independent and impartial candidate for this role. We demand an Inspector General who will protect citizens from abuses of the spies. We demand someone who is fearless, independent and transparent. We will accept no less. Complaints of illegal surveillance have been stacking up, the IGI appointment process must be finalised urgently. We can longer afford to be without an inspector-general.
NO MORE DELAYS!
WE DEMAND AN INDEPENDENT WATCHDOG!