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

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Police Should Only Mount Necessary Road Blocks-Zimbabwe Home Affairs Minister

 Zimbabwe’s Home Affairs Minister and his Deputy have called on the Police to reduce the road blocks on the country’s roads.

They made this call while appearing before  a Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Transport and Infrastructural Development.

Chombo stated that his Ministry had recommended that the road blocks be reduced to four per province, beginning from the end of June.

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“We have told the Commissioner General of Police to reduce or remove all unnecessary roadblocks and leave the necessary ones,” Chombo said.

Towing the argument of his Boss, Chombo’s Deputy maintained that road blocks were only necessary to  curb crimes such as drugs and human trafficking.

“These are the core aspects of the police. These other things were being done on behalf of the Vehicle Inspection Department. There is no need for the police to check on fitness of vehicles and the route (for commuter omnibuses),” he told the parliamentary committee.

 

Zimbabwe: Linda Musarira, Others Nabbed Over Toy Gun

Police have denied access to medication to the three human rights activists who were arrested for an alleged illegal possession of a “fire arm” in central Harare on Wednesday.

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Linda Masarira, Zimbabwe National Students Union secretary general, Makomborero Haruzivishe, and the Young Voters’ Platform national programs coordinator, Desmond Sharukai, were arrested at a local restaurant where they were having a drink Wednesday night for allegedly possessing a gun.

Fellow activists, who witnessed the arrest of the three, said Linda and friends were apprehended after they had an altercation with the workers of the restaurant they were having “drinks” at.

“Linda had a misunderstanding with one of the workers at the restaurant and she pointed a toy gun at him,” said the activists who requested not to be named.

According to their attorney, Obey Shava, from the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, one of the activists who are detained at Harare Central police station, Haruzivishe, was assaulted during the skirmishes at the scene of their arrest and sustained a “fractured” leg.

“The police have denied my clients access to medication after spending the whole day negotiating with them to have them taken to the hospital so that they can be attended to by doctors,” Shava told NewZimbabwe.com in Harare Thursday.

“They denied the request to have them sent to hospital for treatment despite serious and visible injuries,” he said.

Shava also said the police were yet to prefer charges against the three activists.

“This is an illegal detention which my clients continue to be under given the fact that it is now than 17 hours since they were arrested.

“If they are to charge them I suspect that they might charge them with assault and possible pointing a gun at someone, but they are yet to charge them,” said Shava.

Source : New Zimbabwe(London)

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

Zambia: Police Assault Nkombo – Harass Journalists in Midnight Raid On Hichilema

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Police have assaulted Mazabuka Central UPND member of parliament Gary Nkombo when he tried to enter UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema’s residence in a midnight raid.

Nkombo, who was informed of the raid and rushed to Hichilema’s residence, was met with full force and thrown to the ground.

The parliamentarian regained composure after a while and was rushed to hospital where he has obtained a medical report.

Muvi TV journalist Alexander Musokotwane was not spared from the fracas when he went to the scene to cover the episode. Police attempted to delete footage of their raid at Hichilema’s house.

Musokotwane was briefly detained and harassed before being released.

A heavy presence of police was deployed at Hichilema’s house overnight where it denied even the opposition leader’s lawyers entry.

The police raided Hichilema’s house in relations to a road incident in Mongu at the weekend where he was forced out of the road by President Edgar Lungu’s motorcade which did not have a proper escort to clear the way as is usually the case when the head of state is on official duty.

The armed cops forcibly gained entry into the premises and fired teargas at the opposition leader’s house without regard to the children and other occupants.

International lawyer Elias Munshya Wa Munshya has condemned the raid saying it was unconstitutional and unlawful.

Munshya says police must follow the proper procedure in arresting Hichilema because he was not a common criminal who had refused to respond to a call-out.

Source : Zambia Reports

Zambia: Police Acted Independently in Hichilema Midnight Raid – Treason Charge – State House

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Presidential press Amos Chanda has issued a statement claiming State House has not interfered with the arrest of leading opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema.

Hichilema, the opppsition UPND president, was arrested this morning after a midnight raid at his private residence and charged with treason for obstructing a presidential motorcade in Mongu.

State House have issued their first statement since the drama unfolded last night.

The episode has widely been condemned by all well meaning Zambians and the international community as an act of political intolerance.

But Chanda claims the state has no hand in the drama and will not interfere in the investigations.

BELOW IS A STATEMENT BY CHANDA

STATE HOUSE WILL NOT INTERFERE IN HH PROSECUTION.

STATE HOUSE has announced that it will not interfere with the ongoing investigations or charges being leveled against UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema.

Speaking at a media briefing today Special Assistant to the President for Press and Public Relations Amos Chanda clarified that State House had no intentions or business in interfering in police work.

Mr Chanda said it was not the duty of State House to prosecute individuals and neither was it their duty to arrest or not arrest individuals.

“Several crimes were committed but that is up to the Police to decide whether to prosecute or not, it is up to the Police to decide who to arrest or not,” Mr Chanda said.

Mr Chanda emphasised that they believed the police would decisively act on any criminal behavior that occurred in Mongu and the State would let police work independently as always.

He added that the UPND media had henceforth forged a statement from his office citing that the President was giving instructions to police.

He described the statement as fake and a total fabrication, Mr Chanda said a formal complaint had henceforth been taken to the relevant authorities.

Mr Chanda emphasised that State House would not give any comment on the criminal investigations being conducted by police.

Source : Zambia Reports

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 NewZimbabwe.com, 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.