Johannesburg – “Phantsi nge secrecy, phantsi!” they chanted.
“Stop spying on us!” their posters read.
Behind the yellow police- barricade tape blocking them from the very institution they were picketing against, a Right2Know (R2K) group remained resolute in their mission.
The group of R2K Gauteng members protested on Wednesday outside the Office of the Interception Centres (OIC), a facility falling under the State Security Agency, calling for urgent reforms to Regulation of Interception of Communications and Communication-Related Act (Rica) and the end of what they alleged was surveillance abuse.
This action comes on the heels of a UN Human Rights Committee report released last month, which condemned South Africa’s surveillance capabilities, and the law meant to regulate them – Rica.
The committee recommended the government should stop engaging in mass surveillance of private communications without a judge’s authorisation, and consider revoking or limiting the requirement for mandatory retention of data.
R2K said South Africa’s communications surveillance capabilities were not transparent, open to abuse and a major threat to human rights.
Reading out their memorandum to an OIC representative flanked by several police officers, R2K’s Dale McKinley stated: “Evidence has emerged that investigative journalists from at least two media organisations, Mzilikazi wa Afrika and Stephan Hofstatter, from the Sunday Times, and Sam Sole, from the amaBhungane Centre for Investigative Journalism, have had their phones bugged.”
In their memorandum they also stated that the fear of surveillance had become an increasing feature of many activist struggles.
R2K presented six reforms it demanded from OIC, including dropping SIM card registrations.