SA Government Surveillance of South Africans

An article in the M & G states that compared to South Africans, Americans have nothing to worry about regarding communications surveillance.  In South Africa, the RICA system is designed specifically to intrude into the communications between South Africans and anyone else in the world,  indeed, between South Africans in South Africa.  Big Brother is Watching Us.

A Direct Democracy Forum administration will severely limit the ability of South African security services to access communications between South Africans and other persons without due cause and due process.  The due process will involve the state convincing the judiciary that there is cause to intercept and interrogate specific communications and any such communications obtained without that due process and without the issuing of a specific warrant will be inadmissible in court and in itself will constitute a criminal act.  Security services will be expected to respect the law in the conduct of their intelligence gathering and if not could well find themselves on the other side of the law, facing charges and possible imprisonment.

This is just another facet of the DDF‘s comprehensive policies on the Judiciary and Security.  This does not mean that the DDF administration will be weak on security, merely that a DDF administration will be tough on the rule of law and support for the constitution and for the protections afforded South Africans by South Africa’s constitution.  The message will always be, do it right or don’t do it at all.

The buck stops at the ballot box.

Politicians and the Public Protector

The current spat over the jurisdiction of the Public Protector and Parliament’s influence over the Public Protector raises some difficult questions with no easy answers.

The problems can probably be summarised by asking the question, “who watches the watch dogs?”.  In a constitutional context, the short answer is, everybody watches them.

South Africa has a constitution that makes specific provision for various institutions to promote and further the cause of democracy under the protection of the Constitution.  The Direct Democracy Forum feel that the Constitutional Court should fall under those provisions, viz, the Constitutional Court should be a chapter 9 institution, tasked with protecting the Constitution, Democracy and the Rule of Law.  It should be the senior constitutional body in the land and particularly it should watch over Parliament, which, if some of the legislation Parliament produces is anything to go by, would dearly like to subvert the constitution and democracy.  

The Constitutional Court protects the constitution from the machinations of parliament quite effectively.  It also watches over government and its tendencies to subvert or ignore constitutional demands and does that quite well, too. But the DDF feel there would be a clearer line of accountability if the Constitutional Court were only subject to the dictates of the constitution and were protected from political influence in the same manner as chapter 9 institutions.  In a DDF wish-list, that sort of accountability is just about tops, followed closely by all other chapter 9 institutions being responsible to the constitution, through the offices of the Constitutional Court.  So the Public Protector would not be directly accountable to Parliament, which could then only be able to interfere with the Public Protector’s actions and investigations and modus operandi by means of a constitutional amendment with all the high profile effort and political support needed to achieve that.  It would not be easy for parliamentarians or members of government to interfere in the affairs of any section 9 institution, and that would be the aim.

For anyone interested, the Judiciary would continue to be accountable to the Constitutional Court.  Lower, but not much lower on the wish list, would be the removal of the president or any other political person or institution from the process of appointments of any judicial officer, from the highest to the lowest appointment.  We need a better system than we have at present, a system which makes the constitution, the Constitutional Court, all chapter 9 institutions and all lower courts practically invulnerable to the whims of the body politic.

The DDF think that is a good thing to wish for and any DDF administration would do all in its power to achieve those ends.

As a caveat, the DDF believe that the Public Protector must investigate where and how it feels it should, without interference from parliament.

The buck stops at the ballot box.

General Intelligence Laws Amendment Bill

If passed into law, this bill will enable South African intelligence agencies almost unrestricted and unaccountable access to the private communications of South African citizens, under the guise that communications (most of them) are foreign in nature because they are routed through foreign servers.  So, if you use Skype or G-mail or almost any other electronic media system, your most private thoughts, all your most critical opinions (of your family, Government, the Public Service, the local Boy Scouts) are suddenly the property of South African security services.  Comforting.  Not so?  Big brother is indeed watching you.  This is not only the Direct Democracy Forum‘s opinion. See here and here.

Our whinging and moaning and groaning is not going to change this any, so we will simply wait until a DDF administration is in government.  When that happens there will be no communications surveillance without specific judicial oversight.  See DDF policy on Security.  So the spooks won’t like it but they too are servants of the people and subject to the constitutional requirements of the Republic of South Africa and they will simply have to bite the bullet and become more ethical and professional in the way they conduct their business.

The buck stops at the ballot box.