National Assembly Speaker Thandi Modise. Picture: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency (ANA)
National Assembly Speaker Thandi Modise. Picture: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency (ANA)

I am sceptical of going back, says Thandi Modise after porn hack and racial abuse during Zoom meeting

By Mayibongwe Maqhina Time of article published May 8, 2020

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Johannesburg - National Assembly Speaker Thandi Modise has expressed her disinterest in participating in any virtual meeting over the platform Zoom as the national legislature came under criticism on social media for opening itself to hacking.

“I am sceptical of going back to Zoom. I must express that,” Modise told the National Assembly programme committee yesterday when it discussed the planned virtual sitting of the House for oral questions to the ministers. “I do not want to be exposed to what I was exposed to this morning. I do not think the country deserves that,” she said.

This comes after a virtual meeting of the committee was interrupted when it was hacked with porn images and Modise, who was chairing the virtual meeting, was racially abused.

This prompted the legislature to move the virtual meeting to the Microsoft Teams platform.

Modise made the comment when the meeting discussed proposals for a virtual session on oral questions to ministers planned for May 27.

A presentation by the administration provided for the House to hold a wholly virtual meeting or one which would see up to 40 MPs physically come to the chambers and others attend virtually.

The administration was mandated to work out the logistics for the planned virtual session, including the platform to be used for connection. “We are to go into the nitty-gritty of the two platforms,” Modise said.

She used the opportunity to express her views on Zoom which has been flagged on security matters. “I have my doubts about Zoom,” Modise said.

“I expressed them from last week. It is not just what happened to the Minister of Women and us today. It is also what happened to parliament in the UK.” She noted Zoom was “risky”.

DA chief whip Natasha Mazzone noted the “atrocity” incident. “I hope you are right and nobody deserves that abuse,” Mazzone said. ACDP MP Steve Swart expressed his disgust. “The sad part was this was broadcast live on TV and in front of everyone. It is disgraceful and disgusting,” Swart said.

EFF MP Hlengiwe Mkhaliphi noted that everything happened very quickly after Parliament agreed to reopen and continue with its function. Chair of chairs Cedric Frolick said: “We must restrict the platform to members participating, especially if we live stream.”

ANC Deputy Chief Whip Doris Dlakude said the incident was unfortunate. She noted that security was breached despite Zoom providing good and quality service. Modise said they would decide on the preferred platform between Zoom and Microsoft at a meeting next week.

But social media users laughed off claims that the virtual meeting was hacked. Twitter user Koshiek Karan said: “If your country is led by a group of pensioners who feel 4IR is the popcorn setting on a microwave, you are in huge trouble.”

Several hours after reports surfaced about the hacking, Karan said: “Check this out, nobody has even deleted the tweet even after being hacked.” 

AngusRedBlue said the “fools” posted the meeting link, ID and password on Twitter. That’s like saying your phone is hacked but u posted the PIN, SMD, password online.” Uncle-Z said: “Publishing meeting details on a public forum like this will lead to unscrupulous people joining your meeting.”

Political Bureau

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