Big Brother's eagle eye on you

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Johannesburg - You are being watched. When you walk down the street or drive down the road. When you withdraw money or sit in a park - a camera, with face recognition software - is probably watching you.

Some are mounted permanently on streets, some are placed in public transport, others are mounted on light aircraft, while some are carried by security agents.

Details of this Big Brother system in Gauteng have been seen by The Star; they are contained in a 2006 Department of Transport document classified as secret by the National Intelligence Agency.

The document, known as the Integrated Safety and Security Systems, proposed an “integrated monitoring platform”, which at the time was geared for the 2010 World Cup and beyond.

The document indicated that the project was capable of “performing under future conditions of crime and terrorism and provide an incident-triggered operational structure”.

Designed to entail traffic and security management, phase 1 of the system covered 18 interchanges and 800 intersections in Gauteng.

It included the monitoring of public transport, strategic assets, logistics centres and special events.

The document, compiled by the Gauteng Department of Transport, was handed to former MEC of public transport and roads Ignatius Jacobs, former finance and economic affairs MEC Paul Mashatile, former safety and security MEC Firoz Cachalia and various police departments.

The primary function of the system was listed as community safety and crime prevention, and the management, control and planning of traffic, public transport and events. Also listed was disaster management; intelligence gathering; joint operations; planning; modelling; simulation; and analysis.

These would be done through cameras that would monitor traffic flow of freeways, identification of vehicles, identification of the public through facial recognition, safety on public transport, and monitoring of traffic accidents.

The document said the cameras would include mobile cameras that would still function while a person was running. They could be used by law enforcement officers and government officials. Cameras could be used on motor vehicles, motorbikes and on light aircraft, and were also to be placed on buses and trains.

At the time when the Gauteng e-toll project was still a proposal, the document discusses cameras being mounted on gantries.

The document suggested 1 000 cameras on freeways and 800 on suburban roads; 96 mobile and 10 portable cameras; and two on fixed-wing aircraft.

There is no indication of how extensively the project was implemented, but information suggests parts of it were rolled out through various different departments.

A large part of the e-toll project contains ITS (intelligent transport systems). This comprises variable message signs, CCTV cameras and incident management services.

According to ITWeb, in 2008 there were at least 230 CCTV cameras along the main highways around Joburg and Pretoria. At the time, manager Alex van Niekerk said 200km of the highway was under continuous surveillance.

“The Gauteng provincial government controls a separate CCTV network along the R21 and R24, and the City of Johannesburg also has its own camera network,” the article stated.

And according to the Department of Community Safety’s annual report for 2011/2012, under-expenditure was partly due to R6.5 million allocated to the “CCTV project” but not spent as a result of challenges during the tender process on the project.

In last year’s financial report, the Department of Community Safety in Gauteng said it had appointed a service provider to maintain 195 CCTV cameras at 40 ATM sites. The cameras were linked to the “SAPS war room”.

In the department’s second-quarterly report last year, R6.6m was allocated for the maintenance, audit and integration of CCTV cameras in the province.

At the beginning of 2012, Frank Street Trading was hired to do the job. At that time, the report said, the control room at 10111 was renovated and given new screens and control panels, and 798 cameras were audited.

The DA MPL for transport in Gauteng, Neil Campbell, said cameras in Joburg had been shrouded in secrecy for years.

“If they do exist, there is no proof they are being used for the purpose they were intended, mainly to fight crime and monitor traffic violations. If these cameras are there as a Big Brother gathering intelligence, that’s simply not acceptable.”

Gauteng Department of Roads and Transport

spokeswoman Octavia Mamabolo said the camera network on roads was managed by Sanral through its command centre in Midrand.

“All the metros and community safety have deployed officials to the centre,” she said.

The cameras were being used for “incident management”, Mamabolo insisted.

[email protected]

The Star


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