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.
- Alternative Information Development Centre (AIDC)
- AmaBhungane Centre for Investigative Journalism
- Awesome SA
- Centre for Civil Society, University of KwaZulu-Natal
- Centre for Environmental Rights
- Corruption Watch
- Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution (CASAC)
- Democracy Works Foundation
- Diakonia Council of Churches
- Environmental Monitoring Group
- Equal Education
- Equal Education Law Centre
- Fossil Free South Africa
- Freedom of Expression Institute
- groundWork (Friends of the Earth South Africa)
- Institute for Justice and Reconciliation (IJR)
- Media for Justice
- Media Policy & Democracy Project (MPDP)
- Media Workers Association of South Africa
- Ndifuna Ukwazi
- Operation Khanyisa Movement
- OWASP Cape Town
- People Opposing Women Abuse
- RAM Network Security Services Pty Ltd
- Right2Know Campaign
- Social Justice Coalition
- Sonke Gender Justice
- South African Communications Association (SACOMM)
- STEPS (Social Transformation & Empowerment Projects)
- Students for Law and Social Justice
- Sustaining the Wild Coast (SWC)
- The Governance, Crime and Justice Division of the Institute for Security Studies
- The Green Connection
- World Wide Web Foundation
- United Front