Simnikiwe Hlatshaneni
Premium Journalist
2 minute read
4 Feb 2021
12:57 pm

ConCourt confirms unconstitutionality of Rica surveillance

Simnikiwe Hlatshaneni

AmaBhungane's co-founder Sam Sole took on government in 2017 after he found out he had been under government surveillance.

Sanef has told Saps to stop bugging journalists. Picture: iStock

The Constitutional Court (ConCourt) has ruled that government’s surveillance activities conducted under the Regulation of Interception of Communications and Provision of Communication-related Information Act, also known as Rica, are unlawful.

The argument by AmaBhungane Centre for Investigative Journalism that government’s interception and surveillance activities were unconstitutional was upheld by the court. This was following a drawn-out legal battle for the privacy rights of ordinary South Africans.

ALSO READ: Right 2 Know joins challenge to SA’s surveillance law 

AmaBhungane’s co-founder Sam Sole took on government in 2017 after he found out he had been under government surveillance. In 2019, the Pretoria High Court declared that bulk surveillance activities and foreign signal interception undertaken by the National Communications Centre (NCC) was unlawful and invalid.

Last year, the organisation asked the ConCourt to confirm the unlawfulness of surveillance activities by government agencies

AmaBhungane also challenged the constitutionality of several provisions of the Rica. It argued that bulk surveillance practices of the NCC intruded on privacy rights protected by Section 14 of the Constitution.

Amabhungane’s head of advocacy Cherise Thakur said the organisation felt vindicated by the ruling.

” For years Amabhungane has argued that the impugned provisions of Rica and the practices of surveillance and interception were in violation of the privacy of those who were subjected to it. The law did not provide a sufficient safe-guard to protect against abuse and it imperils the work of practising attorneys and journalists in that it does not protect the confidentiality of attorney-client communication and the confidentiality of sources for journalists,” she said.

” We are very pleased that the court has vindicated us and the extent of this ruling is that bulk surveillance is no longer permissible with immediate effect.”

Respondents in the matter included the ministries of defence, police and telecommunications, as well as the State Security Agency and the joint standing committee on intelligence.

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