Stand against surveillance: Fix Africa now!

This is a joint statement of civil society organisations committed to upholding human rights and seeking social justice in South Africa.

On 30 March 2016, the United Nations Human Rights Committee issued a strong condemnation of South Africa’s surveillance capabilities, and the law that is meant to regulate them — the Regulation of Interception of Communications and Communication-Related Information Act (RICA).

We agree with the Human Rights Committee: South Africa’s communications surveillance capabilities are untransparent, open to abuse, and a major threat to human rights in South Africa.

Evidence is mounting that these surveillance capabilities have been used to target investigative journalists, political activists, unionists, and interfere in South Africa’s politics and public life.

Many of these abuses are possible because RICA lacks transparency or adequate safeguards, and because the most powerful mass surveillance capabilities are not regulated by RICA at all.

These capabilities potentially affect everyone. By forcing every user in South Africa to link their identity to a particular SIM card, and by forcing all telecommunications providers to store every user’s metadata for three to five years, RICA effectively puts every communications user in South Africa under mass, untargeted surveillance.

The right to privacy is a constitutionally-protected right in itself, contained in Section 14 of the Bill of Rights, but it is also central to other rights, including freedom of expression, freedom of association, media freedom and the right to dignity. In a contested constitutional democracy such as South Africa, the right to privacy is crucial to achieving and defending many other rights.

We therefore demand that the Department of Justice & Constitutional Development fix RICA now, through an open and public process.

Endorsed by:

  1. Alternative Information Development Centre (AIDC)
  2. AmaBhungane Centre for Investigative Journalism
  3. Awesome SA
  4. Centre for Civil Society, University of KwaZulu-Natal
  5. Centre for Environmental Rights
  6. Corruption Watch
  7. Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution (CASAC)
  8. Democracy Works Foundation
  9. Diakonia Council of Churches
  10. Environmental Monitoring Group
  11. Equal Education
  12. Equal Education Law Centre
  13. Fossil Free South Africa
  14. Freedom of Expression Institute
  15. groundWork (Friends of the Earth South Africa)
  16. Institute for Justice and Reconciliation (IJR)
  17. Media for Justice
  18. Media Policy & Democracy Project (MPDP)
  19. Media Workers Association of South Africa
  20. Ndifuna Ukwazi
  21. OpenSecretsZA
  22. Operation Khanyisa Movement
  23. OWASP Cape Town
  24. People Opposing Women Abuse
  25. PSAM
  26. RAM Network Security Services Pty Ltd
  27. Right2Know Campaign
  28. Section27
  29. Social Justice Coalition
  30. Sonke Gender Justice
  31. South African Communications Association (SACOMM)
  32. STEPS (Social Transformation & Empowerment Projects)
  33. Students for Law and Social Justice
  34. Sustaining the Wild Coast (SWC)
  35. The Governance, Crime and Justice Division of the Institute for Security Studies
  36. The Green Connection
  37. World Wide Web Foundation
  38. United Front