It may have slipped the new Minister of Intelligence, Ayanda Dlodlo’s mind that she actually needs a Judge’s permission to bug people’s phones. A report by News24 today accuses the Minister of instructing the Head of the State Security Agency (SSA)’s domestic branch, Adv Sam Muofhe, to allegedly intercept telephone calls of a man who was thought to have been behind the flareup in xenophobic violence in Gauteng last month.
While it is paramount that our intelligence agencies perform their functions in detecting and preventing these heinous acts – one would think that obtaining a Judge’s permission would have been foremost on Minister Dlodlo’s mind. It has been just three weeks since her department’s humiliating loss in the High Court, which declared mass surveillance and the interception of foreign signals by the National Communications Centre to be “unlawful and invalid”.
The paint on her office door is barely dry and already the new Minister seems to have stumbled at the first hurdle.
Difficult questions are being asked, and the Minister must be held accountable for her actions. However, since the May 8th Elections, Parliament has been unable to hold the Minister and her department to account as the ANC is rowing backwards as fast as it can in terms of setting up the Joint Standing Committee of Intelligence, months after all other committees began work.
Where is the mandated oversight? We accept that the committee sits in a closed building, and phones and laptops are forbidden, but Members of Parliament have been hamstrung in their oblligation to look into and dig out this sort of scheming as well as hone in on those breaking the law.
Clearly Minister Dlodlo knows there is no oversight committee, and thinks she has been evading accountability. The Minister should do well to remember that she is answerable to Parliament and cannot hide her skulduggery behind the “it’s confidential” label. No matter how much she seems to want to be an operative, she must know by now that she cannot involve herself in the SSA’s operational matters.
The previous two Ministers also played this game. They pretended to be Super Spies and turned the whole department into an international joke.
The DA also warns the Minister against threatening South Africa’s increasingly professional investigative journalists, for such threats only makes her look guilty.