UPDATE: Shortly before 5pm on Thursday the Legal Resources Centre received a letter from the Chairperson of Parliament’s intelligence committee stating that the committee had reversed its decision and that candidates’ CVs would be published on Parliament’s website. The CVs are online here.
The Committee and Chairperson have made the right decision. This sets an important precedent to ensure the spy watchdog is appointed openly.
Candidates for the Inspector General of Intelligence will be interviewed in open meetings in Parliament on Tuesday 8 November and Wednesday 9 November. The watchdog role has been vacant since March 2015.
The decision by Parliament’s intelligence committee to withhold the CVs of the candidates for Inspector General of Intelligence is a big step backwards.
In a letter to R2K’s attorneys, JSCI chairperson Charles Nqakula writes that “Curriculum vitaes are of such a nature that their confidential treatment, especially in this process, is reasonable and justifiable in an open and democratic society”. (Chairperson’s letter here.)
This is not right. The recent Public Protector appointment process showed how important it is for candidates’ CVs to be public and open to scrutiny. Several of the candidates in that process were members of the intelligence structures, and their CVs were published without any harm. The recent nomination of candidates for the South African Human Rights Commission also met this basic level of transparency.
The formula of holding meetings that are ‘open’ (i.e. the public is allowed to enter the room) is meaningless if they are denied access to the basic information that is being discussed in that meeting. This is not an open meeting. It also means that the public does not have the information it needs to assess and comment on the candidates for the job. We have been down this path before, with three unsuccessful attempts since March 2015 to appoint an Inspector General without the necessary transparency.
We repeat: the Inspector General is a public watchdog. Whoever is appointed will oversee a wide range of important public functions: from overseeing the rules on internet surveillance to keeping spies out of domestic politics or monitoring of journalists and activists. As a civilian structure, accountable to parliament, the inspector general on intelligence is the person that stands between the public and serious abuse of power of the state-security structures.
Without access to the CVs, the public is being locked out of this crucial appointment.
On behalf of the Right2Know, the Legal Resources Centre has urged Chairperson Charles Nqakula to make the candidates’ CVs available (see letter here). We demand an open process!
- Right2Know Campaign
- Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution (CASAC)
- Open Democracy Advice Centre (ODAC)
- Parliamentary Monitoring Group (PMG)
- Democracy, Governance and Service Delivery Programme at the Human Sciences Research Council
- Women and Democracy Initiative, Dullah Omar Institute
- amaBhungane Centre for Investigative Journalism
- Corruption Watch