Calls to overhaul intelligence agencies

The ad hoc committee is holding public hearings on the General Intelligence Laws Amendment Bill. Picture: Nardus Engelbrecht/Independent Newspapers

The ad hoc committee is holding public hearings on the General Intelligence Laws Amendment Bill. Picture: Nardus Engelbrecht/Independent Newspapers

Published Jan 28, 2024


Members of the public have been reminded that they have until February 15 to make written submissions on the bill that will overhaul the intelligence services and split the entity into the South African Intelligence Service and the SA intelligence Agency.

Acting chairperson of the committee Bheki Hadebe said over the weekend during public hearings in Soweto on the General Intelligence Laws Amendment Bill that people will have another chance to make written submission on the bill by mid-February.

However, he said they noted that there have been calls for the bill to give more powers to the National Intelligence Co-ordinating Committee (Nicoc) and the Inspector-General of Intelligence.

The intelligence bill was crafted by the state after the Sydney Mufamadi and Prof. Sandy Africa reports into the crisis plaguing spy agencies.

Hadebe said they have taken note of issues raised by the community in Soweto.

“Members of the public also commented on the structural design of the security services as proposed in the Bill. Some members noted the need for the National Intelligence Co-ordinating Committee to be independent from services. Inputs also called for the independence of the Inspector-General of Intelligence to be ensured. They argued that it is needed for accountable intelligence services,” said Hadebe.

Rani Makaganeg of the South African National Civic Organisation (Sanco) told the ad hoc committee about rampant crime in parts of Johannesburg and how the police were failing to deal with criminals.

Director of the Free Speech Union of South Africa Sarah Gon said the bill wanted to clamp down on NGOs and faith-based organisations.

Gon said the bill gives government powers to do security vetting on those who wanted to operate NGOs or churches.

“This is a complex bill and has huge implications for society and required more time for public consideration. My concern is that the bill gives the state the power to do the mandatory security vetting and this is crucial, ‘on anyone who seeks to establish and operate an NGO or religious institution’.

“It effectively allows the state to decide who can establish an NGO or faith-based organisation. This is particularly unconscionable because civil society and religious society in South Africa have been responsible for largely securing our rights against the state,” said Gon.

She said civil society has been at the forefront in exposing corruption in government.

Al-Jama-ah councillor in the City of Johannesburg Imraan Moosa said the bill must protect politicians and councillors against spying by other bodies.

Former Johannesburg mayor Mpho Phalatse had denied spying allegations made against her administration in 2022. The DA-led coalition at the time had been accused of spying against opposition councillors.

But Phalatse denied the allegations.

Moosa told the public hearings they need to protect councillors and politicians against any form of spying in the country.

“I refer to the protection of personal data in the bill. The bill must have clauses to prevent what had happened to Al Jama-ah in the City of Johannesburg. This is with regards to councillors and politicians who must surely be protected from spying by governing bodies,” said Moosa.

He added that they fully support the General Intelligence Laws Amendment Bill.

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