R2K welcomes the conviction of former Crime Intelligence official Bongani Cele, who was found guilty of illegally spying on phone communications of two Sunday Times journalists, Mzilikazi wa Afrika and Stephan Hofstatter in 2010.
Cele was sentenced to three years in jail, suspended for four years. We believe this may be SA’s first successful prosecution for illegal bugging since RICA became law. Read more here.
Currently RICA allows law enforcement and intelligence agencies to intercept communications only with the permission of a judge. However, in this case, Cele slipped the journalists’ phone numbers next to false names in order to get a warrant from the RICA judge. The Right2Know Campaign has repeatedly documented how RICA’s systems are open to abuse. Surveillance is a major threat to human rights in South Africa.
In April last year, R2K called on the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development as well as the Parliament of the Republic of South Africa to institute urgent reforms of RICA through an open and public process. In a separate case, RICA also now faces a constitutional challenge from amaBhungane Centre for Investigative Journalism, after one of their reporters was also targeted for surveillance.
While we welcome the successful prosecution in this case, we are also concerned that:
- The senior officers who may have ordered the bugging have escaped prosecution.
- The accused was only charged with giving false information to the RICA judge in order to get a warrant. There have been no consequences for the equally serious violation, of using surveillance powers to target target journalists who investigated police corruption.
This prosecution is welcome, but evidence suggests that journalists are routinely spied on. We demand a complete overhaul of SA’s surveillance laws to prevent these abuses from happening again.
STOP SPYING ON US!