Home News Spy Bill Criticised for Risking Constitutional Rights and Enabling Political Abuse

Spy Bill Criticised for Risking Constitutional Rights and Enabling Political Abuse

by Thaabit Kamaar


South Africa – The General Intelligence Laws Amendment Bill, commonly called the Spy Bill, has raised increasing concerns among experts, observers, and citizens. Many fear that this legislation could pose a significant threat to our democracy and constitutional rights.

While some argue the restructuring and dissolution of the State Security Agency, separating it into distinct entities for foreign and domestic intelligence, and addressing past abuses during the Zuma era are positive steps, the prevailing opinion is that these changes might result in even greater misuse on a larger scale.

The bill proposes extensive surveillance of electronic signals, communication signals, and internet traffic. If the bill is enacted, ordinary citizens, political institutions, and various organisations could be subjected to unwarranted surveillance and deemed threats to national security without proper justification.

Philip Rosenthal, the Director of Christian View Network, further asserts the bill creates opportunities for malicious individuals to exploit intelligence services for personal gain, echoing concerns about past misuse during former President Jacob Zuma’s tenure.

“A number of years back, a group of organisations made submissions to Parliament that the chairman of the Parliamentary committee didn’t like, and he threatened to have State security investigate them. Obviously, he wasn’t allowed to do that, but this bill could allow a politician like that to abuse state security to spy on his opponents.”

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The Bill’s Potential to Violate Constitutional Rights

Rosenthal also raises a troubling issue, highlighting the possibility that government departments could employ intelligence services to scrutinise and surveil NGOs, organisations, and civil society entities that express opposition to government regulations, policies, and draft bills.

Additionally, the bill risks encroaching upon several constitutional rights, including the freedom of religion. It suggests intelligence agencies may be required to conduct vetting processes for individuals seeking to establish a religious institution or NGO.

“What they’ve also put on the list is anything which threatens what they call Peace and Harmony or a threat to equality. Now, what does a threat to peace and harmony, or equality mean? Well, everybody’s definition is going to be different. We know that certain people keep accusing religious organisations of being opposed to equality … They could then say, okay, you guys are a threat to equality. So, state security needs to spy on you.”

In Rosenthal’s opinion, the people should duly oppose and reject bills which strip citizens of their powers, rights and freedoms and centralise them within the state. While safeguarding our national security against external and internal threats is undoubtedly essential and, to some degree, necessary, protecting our rights and freedoms as South Africans is equally crucial.

“We, as South Africans, have to say no. We are keeping our rights, and we are not giving them to the state.”

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