About this Report

Big Brother EXPOSED is a report by the Right2Know Campaign that documents the stories of activists and community leaders who have been monitored and harassed by South Africa’s intelligence agencies – especially the State Security Agency and the Crime Intelligence Division of the police. (Download here.)

Certain organisations in South Africa have been raising concerns about this for years, but too often these concerns have been dismissed. Since the early 2000s, South Africa has witnessed several high-profile ‘spy’ scandals involving the surveillance of high-ranking politicians, and even some journalists, but this report presents a different perspective: that of community activists and unionists who have had similar experiences.

This report tries to understand why this is happening, explore the harm that can be done when intelligence structures intrude in democratic spaces, and equip people with the knowledge they need to fight back.

The Right to Privacy

Privacy is an important political right, giving every person the right to control how much information the state, or any other person, knows about your activities, your personal views, and the things you say in private communication. It also means your home or property can’t be searched without good reason. The right to privacy is contained in S16 of the Constitution, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which South Africa has signed.

The Right to Organise

This right is built into many other political rights – the freedom of association, freedom to be politically active, freedom of expression and the right to assemble, all of which are protected in the Constitution. But when people feel ‘policed’ or monitored, it can restrict their right to organise and their basic freedom of expression, because they may no longer feel comfortable to say or do certain things.

Why does this matter?

When intelligence agencies spy on ordinary people, especially community leaders and activists, it violates the right to privacy. It can also be a form of intimidation, and have a chilling effect on the freedom to campaign, which is enshrined in other constitutional rights.

The threat of surveillance can also sow division within organisations, causing members to suspect one another as informers.

There are real threats to people’s safety in South Africa where many people would agree that the intelligence agencies have a role to play: these tackling include gangsterism and organised crime, xenophobic attacks and the worrying trend of political assassinations. There are also potential threats to South Africa’s constitutional order, including the cancer of corruption in government and the private sector, and the risk of political manipulation of important state institutions such as the police and security agencies – and, of course, police brutality.

It is clear that the situation becomes worse, not better, when intelligence agencies turn their sights on political activists and civic organisations who are working to defend and build democracy on the ground.

So what can you do?

• Know your rights and equip yourself with knowledge of the intelligence structures. Share this information with others. Tweet it and Facebook it!
• Put the right to privacy and anti-spying work into all ongoing efforts to build democracy in SA.
• Pressure on Parliament and the Inspector General of Intelligence to provide better oversight on the intelligence services and pass laws that protect our rights.

Download the report:


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