Ex-intelligence chiefs 'shocked' by jamming device

2015-02-18 08:02
Ronnie Kasrils (Werner Beukes, Sapa)

Ronnie Kasrils (Werner Beukes, Sapa)

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Parliament does not own any scrambling device - Mbete

2015-02-17 14:12

Speaking to the media during a briefing ahead of Tuesday's State of the Nation debate, Speaker of the National Assembly Baleka Mbete stressed Parliament did not own a cellphone signal scrambler or jammer; she added Parliament did not sanction the use of the device. Watch.WATCH

Cape Town - Former intelligence chief Billy Masethla and former intelligence minister Ronnie Kasrils have expressed their shock following the revelation that the State Security Agency (SSA) placed a signal jamming device in Parliament during the State of the Nation address last Thursday.

A lawyer representing Parliament revealed on Tuesday that the SSA had placed the device in the National Assembly. Speaker Baleka Mbete also conceded that Parliament was aware that a certain "device" would be used as part of security measures for the address, but said the plan was not to block journalists' cellphone signals.

Speaking to Netwerk24, Masethla said he did not believe there was any justification for the use of a signal jamming device in Parliament.

For what reason was it placed there, and to prevent what, he asked.

Parliament is the one place where this should not be done, Masethla added.

Fears of police state

Meanwhile, Kasrils also expressed his shock at the use of a cellphone jamming device, questioning who gave the orders for it.

No ordinary government official would have ordered it without instructions from higher up, he believes.

South Africa's constitutional authority and rule of law is at stake, and if those who are responsible for it are not punished the country risks becoming a police state, Kasrils added.

According to earlier reports, the cellphone signal returned during the State of the Nation address when Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa sent a note to State Security Minister David Mahlobo. There was no confirmation of the SSA's involvement until Parliament's legal representative Advocate Norman Arendse revealed it on Tuesday during an application by media houses and other organisations to ensure full coverage of proceedings.

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