"Foreign agencies" trying to destabilise the country: Mahlobo

State Security Minister David Mahlobo says “foreign agencies” are trying to destabilise the country.

Mahlobo told MP’s‚ during the budget vote for the State Security Agency in Parliament on Tuesday‚ that state and non-state actors‚ whom he did not name‚ were hard at work undermining national security in various countries.

 “These actors are in mass media‚” he said‚ “non-governmental organisations and community based organisations‚ foreign multinational companies‚ funders of opposition‚ religious and student organisations‚ prominent and influential persons and running covert intelligence networks to destabilise other countries who do not share a similar view as them.”

Civil society organisations‚ led by the Right2Know Campaign‚ held a protest outside Parliament to coincide with the budget vote‚ warning that there was “growing evidence of communication surveillance abuses in South Africa.”

This included evidence that phones belonging to investigative journalists from the Sunday Times and amaBhungane Centre for Investigative Journalism had been bugged.

 Government agencies‚ private companies and individuals had reportedly acquired “Grabber” technology‚ capable of imitating cell phone towers and siphoning confidential information from mobile phones.

The United Nations Human Rights Committee‚ they said‚ had issued a strong condemnation of the country’s surveillance capabilities and the law meant to regulate them‚ in a report on March 30.

The report raised concern that the grounds for issuing warrants authorising the interception of communications were too vague and the state’s system for interception of communications lacked transparency and accountability.

Mahlobo‚ meanwhile‚ said in his budget speech‚ “As a maturing constitutional democracy‚ we must be in a position to deal decisively with whatever challenges we face in our governance framework‚ whether it be economic‚ social or political issues. We must never yield to some domestic and international forces that might harbour intentions of creating conditions conducive to unconstitutional change of government.”

South Africa‚ he added‚ could not take lightly “any manifestations in our society and body politic that have the potential to advocate for unconstitutional change of government.”

The ANC has opened a case of treason against EFF leader Julius Malema who told the Al Jazeera television news channel that “we will remove this government through the barrel of a gun” if the state used violence to subdue protests.

Citing intelligence-driven milestones and priorities of his department‚ Mahlobo said that illegal migration and irregular movement of commodities across borders was a challenge.

 Syndicates moving illegal money‚ drugs and counterfeit goods across the border were being apprehended. Drugs worth R80 million were seized during an operation at the Kopfontein border post with Botswana and R54 million worth of heroin was found at the Lebombo border post‚ he said.

“In the past year we identified global illicit financial flows as a major security concern that knows no borders. South Africa is estimated to be losing over R80 billion per annum through illicit financial outflows. Illicit flows from Africa could be as much as US $80 billion per annum‚” said Mahlobo.

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