Minister of State Security David Mahlobo must give evidence or stop making bogus claims of a ‘regime change’ plot! Yesterday the Minister repeated his paranoid claims that South Africa’s democratic mobilisation is the result of a foreign plot for regime change. He has accused unnamed civil society and community organisations, media organisations and “opposition activities” as being part of this plot.
This is now a regular claim of the Minister. To this day no evidence for the claims has been presented. No persons have been arrested. Therefore, we believe these claims seek to cast suspicion on people across the country who are mobilising against corrupt government leaders and a failure to deliver on people’s basic needs. Instead of addressing the needs of the people, there is an increasing tendency to frame such people as a ‘threat’.
The emerging pattern of paranoia and suspicion in South African politics and public life makes it equally impossible to take the Minister’s claims at face value.
Too many times have legitimate movements, organisations and causes been labelled as ‘threats’, and activities of some ‘third force’. It is an old formula for suppression.
In recent years the allegation has been levelled against militant workers’ structures, most notably the National Union of Metal Workers of South Africa (NUMSA) and the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU), against popular social movements and campaigns from Abahlali baseMjondolo to the Treatment Action Campaign, and against the student movements falling under #FeesMustFall. The Right2Know Campaign itself has faced this allegation several times, including by a State Security official briefing Parliamentary workers on supposed ‘threats’ facing the people’s Parliament. Legal NGOs who use court action to force government to comply with its own constitution and commitment to human rights, also come under such suspicion. Opposition politicians and the former Public Protector has, similarly, been accused of being a CIA spy.
This kind of paranoid and accusatory language has become an increasing feature of South Africa’s public life.
Defending the space to organise and dissent
This language has been accompanied by other forms of suppression that try to reframe dissenting voices as ‘threats’ to ‘stability’.
There is growing evidence that intelligence structures monitor and harass activist movements and other civil society formations, as well as investigative journalists. We have also seen the anonymous leaking of bogus ‘intelligence reports’ to advantage or disadvantage certain political causes and figures, speaking to a sorry history of factionalism in the intelligence agencies, who have abused their powers unconstitutionally to get involved in democratic politics.
There is a risk that these repeated claims are laying the groundwork of a process to clamp down more fully on the right to organise, by seeking to restrict the activities of pro-democratic organisations, political parties, and individuals.
It is in this context that R2K and other organisations have filed a series of complaints to the Office of Inspector General of Intelligence in recent years to protect ourselves against such harassment. This is why fears of state surveillance have become a profound feature of many struggles for human rights across South Africa.
Minister Mahlobo has refused repeatedly to add any evidence to his claims. He must provide evidence or refrain from making such irresponsible statements.
The intelligence services are badly needed to fight corruption, illicit capital flows, human trafficking and various forms of organised crime. Under Mahlobo this department continues to protect the political elite from democratic accountability and remain non-responsive to the needs of the public. It is time for this minister to answer to the public.
R2K will write to the chair of Parliament’s intelligence committee, Hon Charles Nqakula, to request that Parliament holds open hearings on these claims.
Mahlobo correctly states that “majority of our people are still suffering from poverty, inequality and unemployment,” hence it is the duty and responsibility of all the people of South Africa citizens to continue to hold our government to account. We urge our comrades to continue to do so without fear or intimidation.