South Africa: Statement – Stats Reveal That Cops Are Spying On 70,000+ Mobile Phones Every Year

Press Release

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Today R2K releases statistics from MTN, Vodacom, Cell C and Telkom that show that government accesses tens of thousands of people’s sensitive communications information every year using a loophole in South Africa’s surveillance policies.

These numbers show that, at a minimum, law enforcement agencies are spying on the communications of at least 70,000 phone numbers each year. As our analysis below shows, the actual number could be much higher.

Background to the requests

In May 2017, R2K asked MTN, Telkom, Vodacom and Cell C how many warrants they received in terms of section 205 of the Criminal Procedures Act, in 2015, 2016 and 2017 (statement here).

These requests aimed to understand how a legal loophole has allowed surveillance operations to take place using the Criminal Procedures Act, rather than the RICA law.

RICA is meant to be South Africa’s primary surveillance law. It requires law enforcement and intelligence agencies to get the permission of a special judge, appointed by the president, to intercept a person’s communications. In order to apply for this warrant, they need to provide strong reasons because such interceptions threaten peoples’ right to privacy so much. But policymakers have wrongly assumed that the information about the communication (such as the identity of who you have communicated with, when, and your location) is less sensitive than the content of the communication.

This has led to a ‘loophole’ in our surveillance laws: section 205 of the Criminal Procedures Act allows law enforcement officials to bypass the RICA judge to get access to get your phone records – who you have communicated with, when, and where. According to this law, any magistrate can issue a warrant that forces telecoms companies to give over a customer’s call records and metadata. Policymakers are wrong to assume this information is less sensitive or private than the contents of the communication: metadata can reveal as much, if not more, about a person’s contacts, interests and habits than what they say over the phone or in a text message. When a person’s communications information is handed over using the Criminal Procedures Act, they are never notified, even if the investigation is dropped or if they are found to be innocent.

In one recent case, former SAPS Crime Intelligence officer Paul Scheepers faces charges in the Western Cape for allegedly using this legal loophole to spy on the communications of various people who were not under legitimate investigation.

What Vodacom, MTN, Cell C and Telkom revealed

All four companies complied with R2K’s information requests. Their answers show that law enforcement get call records for a minimum of 70,960 phone numbers every year. Due to incomplete records (only Vodacom and Telkom could say how many phone numbers were contained in the warrants it received) the actual number is estimated to be much higher. Extrapolating from this data, Daily Maverick journalist Heidi Swart points out the estimated total could be as high as 194,820 phone numbers each year.

All together, these numbers tell a staggering story about surveillance practices in South Africa.

In 2016, MTN received 23,762 warrants for customers’ call records, while Vodacom got 18,594 warrants. Cell C got 6455 warrants and Telkom got 1,271. Due to the fact that in some cases, the same warrant will be sent to several service providers, it is not possible to add these numbers together to get the total number of warrants issued across all service providers, as this would result in ‘double counting’ of some warrants.

The most recent statistics from the RICA judge’s office show that in 2014/2015, the RICA judge issued 760 warrants for interception. At a minimum, in the same year magistrates issued 25,808 warrants in terms of s205 of the Criminal Procedures Act.

These statistics confirm for the first time that the vast majority of ‘authorised’ surveillance operations are happening outside of the RICA judge’s oversight, with no transparency or accountability.

R2K’s demands

It is clear that urgent reforms are needed for South Africa’s surveillance policies.

R2K has already pointed out that RICA does not do enough to protect people’s privacy — weak safeguards and a lack of transparency have enabled surveillance abuses. In fact, RICA already faces a legal challenge from investigative journalists whose phones were tapped by government agents.

Among the Right2Know Campaign’s demands for surveillance reform:

1) Call records must be given better protection

Metadata about your communication – information about who you contacted, when and where – must be given the same level of protection as the content of your communication. Interception of this information should only be authorised by a specially appointed judge with special insight on privacy protections and digital rights. The RICA judge is a specialist judge who must be specially positioned to weigh the interests of justice against the right to privacy. Magistrates and ordinary judges, on the other hand, may not be as sensitised to the privacy issues involved in deciding whether or not to release metadata records. This should not be authorized at the lower levels of our court system. The ‘section 205’ loophole should be closed immediately.

2) An end to mass storage of customers’ data

RICA requires telecommunications and internet service providers to store all users’ metadata (a detailed record of all messages and calls sent and received, all internet traffic, etc) for three to five years. This means even people who are not suspected of any crime are already being treated with suspicion.

3) An end to SIM card registration

SIM card registration violates privacy in that it limits the ability of citizens to communicate anonymously. It also facilitates the tracking and monitoring of all users by law enforcement and intelligence agencies.

4) Greater transparency

We should not have to resort to legal action to get this information. Private companies should be publishing regular, detailed transparency reports about their role in interceptions, and the RICA judge must publish a much more detailed report, and it must be tabled in open Parliament.

Users must also be notified when their data has been intercepted. This is a legal requirement of many surveillance laws across the world. The current situation is ripe for abuse, as people who are targeted for surveillance have no way of knowing that their rights have been violated. Only under exceptional circumstances should the judge have the power to delay notifying a user that their data has been intercepted.

Time to end surveillance abuses!

This is no time for half measures and cosmetic reforms. Right2Know Campaign will not relent on challenging surveillance abuses. The people of South Africa can and will take back control of their privacy!

Source : Right2know


‘Zuma should be prosecuted for corruption’

Spokesperson Zelda Holtzman says they delivered a letter to the NPA calling for the 783 charges of corruption against President Jacob Zuma to be reinstated.


Rahima Essop

CAPE TOWN – A group of activists associated with the United Democratic Front (UDM) say President Jacob Zuma should be prosecuted for corruption.

The UDF, which formed in Mitchells Plain in 1983, brought together many anti-apartheid organizations before it was dissolved.

Amid a resurgence of anti-Zuma protests, UDF veterans have also been mobilizing against corruption.

Spokesperson Zelda Holtzman says they delivered a letter to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) calling for the 783 charges of corruption against Zuma to be reinstated.

“We want the prosecution of all those involved whether they’re politicians, administrators or private citizens. All those involved in corruption should be charged and brought before a court of law.”

The NPA and Zuma are appealing a High Court ruling that he should be charged.

The hearing is scheduled for next month.

(Edited by Shimoney Regter)


Congo-Kinshasa: New Study Reveals Economic Toll of Malnutrition in Democratic Republic of Congo

The Cost of Hunger in Africa (COHA) study was undertaken by the government of DRC in collaboration with the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), the African Union Commission (AUC), the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), and the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC).

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The study shows that the losses are incurred each year through increased healthcare costs, additional burdens to the education system and reduced workforce productivity.

“I welcome this important joint initiative which will contribute significantly to the government’s efforts to minimize the loss of human and economic potential to malnutrition,” said DRC Prime Minister and Head of Government Bruno Tshibala Nzenzhe, at the launch ceremony in Kinshasa. “Malnutrition is a silent emergency, accounting for nearly half of all infant deaths. For the country to develop, we need to address this situation urgently.”

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According to the report, DRC could save up to CDF355 billion (around US$383. million) by 2025 if the prevalence of underweight children is reduced from 11 to 5 percent and if stunting (low growth for age) is reduced from 43 to 10 percent.

“These results call on all of us to act now to avoid future losses caused by hunger,” said WFP Country Director in DRC, Claude Jibidar. “I’m convinced that with the understanding we now have of the terrible economic and social impact of malnutrition on children, we and our partners can work with the government to make a real difference to this alarming situation.”

“In line with Agenda 2063 – ‘The Africa we want’ – we seek to completely eliminate hunger and food insecurity on this continent during coming decades,” said Kefilwe Moalosi, speaking on behalf of the African Union Commission and NEPAD. “Africa has the potential to reap a demographic dividend from a young, educated and skilled workforce. But this potential can only be harnessed if we continue to invest in the health and nutrition of its people, particularly its women and children, and secure the necessary economic growth”.

The Cost of Hunger in Africa study has so far been conducted in 11 countries. The economies of these countries suffer an estimated annual loss associated with child undernutrition that is equivalent to between 1.9 percent and 16.5 percent of GDP. Results of recently undertaken COHA studies are due to be released soon in Mozambique and Zimbabwe. Similar studies are being planned for Mali and Mauritania.

Source : United Nations  World Food Programme

South Africa’s deputy president slams government corruption



South Africa’s deputy president on Wednesday denounced government corruption in what was seen as a rebuke to President Jacob Zuma, who has faced calls for his resignation because of scandals and graft concerns.

“We now know, without any shred of uncertainty, that billions of rands of public resources have been diverted into the pockets of a few,” Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa said, according to local media organization News24. There are just over 13 South African rands to the U.S. dollar. Read more…..


South Africa: Do Not Open Unknown Emails

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Pretoria — South Africans have been warned not to open any unknown emails and to urgently update their security software as a global cyber ransom attack spread on Friday.

Friday’s global cyber-attack has affected more than 200 000 victims in 150 countries and regions, Europol chief Rob Wainwright said on Sunday.

Hackers reportedly used a tool known as Eternal Blue and a malicious software called WannaCry to lock users’ computers and to demand a payment for the decryption.

The global cyber-attack has so far swept across more than 100 countries including the United States, Britain, Germany and China. Cyber security experts said it could be the biggest cyber-attack of its kind ever.

“Many of those victims were businesses, including large corporations. The global reach is unprecedented,” Wainwright said in an interview with Britain’s ITV.

Wainwright said he was concerned that the numbers of those affected would continue to rise when people returned to work on Monday morning.

“We’re in the face of an escalating threat, the numbers are going up,” he said, adding that the current attack was unprecedented.

Wainwright told ITV that the world faced an escalating threat, and there was concern about the level of potential attacks on Monday morning.

Wainwright warned the healthcare sector “in many countries” was particularly vulnerable, but that all organizations should ensure they prioritise cyber security and update their systems.

The virus took control of users’ files, demanding payments.

Russia and Britain were among the worst hit countries.

Dozens of Russian public institutions including the Bank of Russia said on Saturday that they have thwarted a massive cyber-attack and prevented vital data loss.

The central bank’s security and information protection division, responsible for monitoring computer attacks in the credit and financial sphere, has registered massive spread of malicious programs, but no instances of compromise were detected, said the Bank of Russia, quoted by Sputnik, a major media outlet in Russia

The Russian Interior Ministry and Health Ministry also said earlier in the day that they have “repelled” such attacks as the virus was promptly detected and localized, according to Russian news agencies.

Britain’s official emergency committee, known as Cobra, met in London on Saturday afternoon to discuss the cyber-attack that has caused widespread disruption to the country’s National Health Service (NHS).

Around 45 NHS organisations in England and Scotland, including hospitals, family doctor surgeries, and health services, were hit in the cyber-attack which prevented doctors, nurses and staff from accessing vital patient information.

However, Wainwright said Europol was working on the basis that the cyber-attack was carried out by criminals rather than terrorists, but noted that “remarkably few” payments had been made so far.

“Most people are not paying this, so there are not a lot of money being made with this by criminal organisations so far,” he said. – Xinhua/Sputnik

Source : S.A news

South Africa: Police Minister to Address Media On Decision to Withdraw Ntlemeza Appeal

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Police Minister Fikile Mbalula is expected to address the media on Thursday on his decision to withdraw his application to appeal the ruling of the High Court in Pretoria to set aside the appointment of Hawks head Berning Ntlemeza.

In March the court found that when then police minister Nathi Nhleko appointed him head of the elite police unit he had ignored two court judgments which found that Ntlemeza lacked integrity and honesty.

The court found that the findings in both judgments constituted “direct evidence” that Ntlemeza lacked the requisite honesty, integrity and conscientiousness to hold public office.

Ntlemeza, however, continued with his application for leave to appeal the judgment.

On Wednesday afternoon, the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria dismissed his application and ordered him to vacate his office with immediate effect.

The matter was brought to the High Court by the Helen Suzman Foundation and Freedom under Law.

Source : News24wire

South Africa: Ntlemeza Ruling a Boost for Rule of Law – Helen Suzman Foundation

The court ruling against Hawks head Berning Ntlemeza supports the principle that state administration should be rational and within the confines of the law, Freedom Under Law and the Helen Suzman Foundation said on Thursday.

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“In this exceptional case, the court found that the applicant had shown that were Major-General Ntlemeza to remain in office, the public would suffer irreparable harm,” the organizations said in a joint statement.

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The High Court in Pretoria on Wednesday denied Ntlemeza leave to appeal a previous judgment declaring his appointment unlawful and invalid and setting it aside. The court ordered him to vacate his office immediately.

On March 17, the same court found that former police minister Nathi Nhleko had ignored two court judgments which found that Ntlemeza lacked “integrity and honour” when he appointed him head of the elite police unit.

Police Minister Fikile Mbalula on Wednesday said he had withdrawn the ministry’s application to appeal the March judgment.

He is expected to brief the media on his decision on Thursday.

Source : News24wire

Zimbabwe: Mazoe Evictees Report Grace to Botswana, SA Embassies

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“We cannot fight the First Family with all the resources at their disposal. They are using armed police and there is nothing much we can do but just to approach the courts and the regional bodies to which the country is a member,” said Dube.

Villagers who were evicted from both Arnold and Manzou farms in Mazoe district by First Lady Grace Mugabe have formally reported their plight to Botswana and South African embassies as as SADC.

Botswana is led by President Ian Khama, the only regional leader openly critical of President Mugabe’s rule.

The decision to approach regional leaders comes after Grace Mugabe continues to defy court orders stopping her from illegally and forcibly evicting the villagers.

The Arnold farmers were evicted two weeks ago from the land they had been staying in for the last 17 years after they forced a white commercial farmer out.

Officials from the Lands Ministry argue that the land belongs to the First Family and Grace, who wants to expand her projects, needs an additional 1.400 hectares of arable land.

Over 700 people have been affected.

In an interview with, the secretary of the Arnold Farmers and Residents Association (ARA), Innocent Dube, said apart from using divide and rule tactics the First Family also continues to defy court orders apparently showing that they are above the law and disregard the country’s Constitution.

“We have already filed a report at the South African Embassy in Harare and they said they were going to forward it to Swaziland,” said Dube.

He added, “We also went to the Botswana Embassy whom we told of our fate and are sympathising with us and honestly speaking they have been very helpful.

“So we are looking forward to get a positive response from the regional body to tell Mugabe to respect the rule of law and the right of Zimbabweans despite of their class.”

Dube said as villagers they were powerless as they could not fight the Mugabe family.

“We cannot fight the First Family with all the resources at their disposal. They are using armed police and there is nothing much we can do but just to approach the courts and the regional bodies to which the country is a member,” said Dube.

On March 23, the police went to Arnold farm and demolished the farmers’ homes. They then bundled villagers into lorries during the night and dumped them along Mvurwi road near Riverside Farm.

It is then that the villagers approached the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights who made an urgent court application to stop the evictions but the police refused to comply with the court order.

The police continued to demolish the farmers’ homes arguing that they only take orders from the First Lady.

The villagers then filed another urgent chamber application for contempt of court and, again, relief was granted by the High Court.

The land dispute between the farmers and Mugabe’s wife has been on-going since 2014 which is when she first attempted to evict them.

At the time, the famers’ representatives went to court which ruled that villagers should not be evicted until the government had offered them another place to stay.

The ministry of lands then gave offer letters to the five representatives in what was seen as a way of silencing them.

Source : New Zimbabwe

Grace Mugabe Defies Court Order, Destroys Villagers’ Homes

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Despite a Zimbabwean court ruling against First Lady Grace Mugabe’s demolishing villagers’ houses and evicting them from a farm , the police, under the First Lady’s order, proceeded with the illegal evictions of mostly women and children.

Black Ops, alternate facts and damn lies: The ANC’s escalating credibility crisis

Ranjeni Munusam

South Africa


As more details emerged at the weekend about the covert operation to pump up the ANC’s election campaign and spread fake news about opposition parties, the party continued to deny knowledge and involvement. It has “nothing to do with the ANC” was spokesperson Zizi Kodwa’s response to a report of a secret recording implicating ANC general manager Ignatius Jacobs in the war room operation to influence public opinion during the election period. This is not only about the criminal acts and big personalities being shamed. It is also about the erosion of trust and further diminishing of the ANC’s credibility. By RANJENI MUNUSAMY.

There is already a big problem deciphering the messaging of the ANC. Who carries the true voice of the ANC? President Jacob Zuma? ANC Secretary-General Gwede Mantashe? ANC Deputy Secretary-General Jessie Duarte? National spokesperson Zizi Kodwa? ANC chief whip and communications subcommittee head Jackson Mthembu? ANC elections head Nomvula Mokonyane?

All these people speak for and on behalf of the ANC. Rarely do you find them saying the same things.

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Then there is the problem of who is the authentic ANC? The national executive committee elected at the last national conference in Mangaung in 2012? The Zuma camp elected at Polokwane in 2007 – before they all turned on each other? Thabo Mbeki’s ANC? Nelson Mandela’s ANC? The ANC in exile? The struggle veterans who have served in the party structures for over 40 years?

Kebby Maphatsoe?

Of course, the ANC prides itself on being a “broad church” made up of and representing people from all walks of life. But it is problematic when the interests and messaging of those who lead the party are conflictual. It is even more of a dilemma when doubt is cast about whether the elected leadership represents the true values and essence of the ANC.

After the ANC’s decline in the 2014 election, it was quite clear that the 2016 local government elections would be an uphill climb for the party and that they were in serious danger of losing control of the metros. It is hardly surprising therefore that the ANC would have employed new tools, particularly social media, and additional resources for its election campaign.

But if there was confusion previously about the ANC’s voice and messaging, the 2016 campaign splintered these even more. It became difficult to identify what exactly the ANC was telling its voters with an explosion of people speaking, seemingly on behalf of the ANC.

Official campaign messages were drowned out by crude attacks on the opposition, social media bullying of journalists, celebrity “twars”, government spokespeople usurping the ANC’s voice, and concerted efforts to present the ANC as “trendy”. Selfies of people in ANC regalia flooded social media. The ANC even held a fashion show to showcase its brand. The “dab” was all the rage.

It certainly was an energetic and obviously high-budget campaign. With all this activity, the ANC suffered heavy losses in the election, dropping to 53.9% nationally and losing control of three metros. One of the main reasons for this is that through all the noise and Twitter trends, the ANC did not pay significant attention to the issues that impacted on voters. Delivery failures, corruption, wastage of taxpayers’ money, scandals involving ANC leaders and the refusal to be held accountable all created negative perceptions among the electorate.

It is convenient to blame the media for generating and fuelling these negative perceptions. But the reality is that the ANC created the basis for adverse commentary in the media by failing to do its job or doing it badly.

We now know that the ANC campaign went beyond what was apparent and engaged in a “black ops” manoeuvre to influence public opinion. Amabunghane  that a covert war room was set up on behalf of the ANC with a planned budget of R50-million to pay people to create false narratives favouring the ANC and targeting opposition parties. This included printing fake opposition posters, which is in violation of the Municipal Electoral Act and the election code of conduct.

The story broke after public relations consultant Sihle Bolani, who worked on this covert campaign, brought a case against the ANC for non-payment. It created a sensation because of the large amount of money and the personalities involved, one of which is Shaka Sisulu, grandson of struggle icon Walter Sisulu. The story also proved that certain people were being paid for their pro-ANC tweets.

On Sunday, amaBhunganerevealed in the City Press that Bolani had secretly recorded meetings with ANC officials at the party headquarters, Albert Luthuli House. The recordings implicate the ANC’s general manager Ignatius Jacobs in directing the campaign to take a “dig at [the ANC’s] opponents” and also confirmed that R50-million was the targeted budget for the campaign.

Despite attempts by the ANC and Sisulu to distance themselves from the activities of the war room and to play down the black ops campaign, there are serious implications.

The claim that the ANC’s senior leadership did not know about the war room is no excuse for what happened. How could millions of rand be raised in the name of the ANC without the knowledge of the officials? The fact that it was done during an election campaign is even more damning as all parties should be extra careful to avoid scandals during an election period. Second, how could a covert operation be run from the ANC headquarters without anyone else knowing about it? What else goes on in that building, possibly illegally, that the officials do not know about?

The most serious indictment on the ANC leadership is why so many people felt comfortable in engaging in surreptitious and illegal behaviour on the ANC’s behalf. Did they not fear getting caught out and facing negative repercussions for trying to manipulate South African voters?

Is it that the prevailing atmosphere in the ANC is to disrespect the public and to treat people like idiots? Was that the reason this group of people felt it was perfectly acceptable to raise millions of rand and wilfully engage in behaviour to deceive voters, all in the name of the ANC?

The ANC cannot simply wash its hands or throw someone under the bus. If it wants to affirm its credibility, there needs to be a thorough investigation into who was involved, how the money raised was spent and a disclosure of all the activities of the war room. Those who committed illegal acts, such as producing fake opposition party posters, should be charged.   

But the ANC also needs to ask itself some hard questions.

Why has it surrendered its brand and its voice to a range of people who use and abuse them as they please? Why are government spokespeople speaking for the ANC and using the party to elevate their own status? Why are celebrities engaging in social media fights on behalf of the ANC? Why do so many people feel entitled to use the ANC brand to amass wealth for themselves?

And why is the ANC’s image so diminished?

The answer to these questions is that the ANC leadership has lost control and is disrespected by the very people who claim to be advancing their cause. If the ANC wants to deal with the chaos in its communications structure, it must shut down the gallery of illegitimate people peddling “alternate facts” and outright lies on the party’s behalf.

The ANC should wake up to the fact that neither “fake news” nor “paid Twitter” has helped the party win votes or public confidence. The social media pseudo-celebrity pack are in fact doing further damage to the ANC brand and eroding the credibility of the party.

Hillary Clinton had the world’s biggest stars campaigning for her and still lost the US elections to someone who could not even get a G-grade celebrity to sing at his inauguration. The next election in South Africa will be won by whoever best taps into people’s interests and needs. And there will be dire consequences for those who continue to lie to and disrespect the people of this country.

Photo: ANC’s Top Six at the January 8th rally in Soweto, 2017. (Greg Nicolson / Daily Maverick)

Source : Daily Maverick