South African Court Rules Mass Surveillance as “Unlawful”

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Today, a South African court has ruled against a piece of legislation that gives the government the ability to spy n the electronic communication of its citizens.

The court found that parts of the Regulation of Interception of Communications and Provision of Communication Related Information (RICA) Act are unconstitutional. This is an excerpt from the court document.

It is declared that RICA is inconsistent with the Constitution, and accordingly invalid to the extent it fails to adequately provide for a system with appropriate safeguards; to deal with the fact that ordes in question are granted and the declaration of invalidity is suspended for two years to allow Parliament to cure the defect.



The judge who issued the decision, Judge Roland Sutherland, found that the law was inconsistent with the constitution in a number of ways. Apparently the act fails to adequately prescribe the procedure for notifying a person whose information has been intercepted; fails to adequately prescribe proper procedures to be followed when state officials are examining, copying, sharing and sorting through data obtained through interceptions and the act fails to adequately address situations where the subject of surveillance is either a practising lawyer or journalist.


This means that the bulk surveillance activities in South Africa are unlawful and invalid.

RICA came into effect on 1st July 2011 as an answer to the rise of organized criminal activity caused by sophisticated communication technology. This case was brought by a journalism unit, amaBhugane after learning that one of their journalists had been targeted by state surveillance operatives.

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