28/03/2017 17:31 SAST | Updated 28/03/2017 17:32 SAST

Inspector General Asked To Probe The State's Alleged Spying On SABC Staff

The interception of communications of SABC employees was not authorised, it has emerged.

A Protester rallies with others outside the Constitutional Court on July 1, 2016 in Johannesburg to protest against alleged bias and self-censorship in news coverage by the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) ahead of key municipal elections.

The DA will ask the new Inspector General of Intelligence to probe allegations by SABC journalists and staff that the State Security Agency has spied on them.

According to a parliamentary reply, Judge Yvonne Mokgoro had not authorised the SSA to intercept any communications of SABC employees, to the best of her knowledge, DA deputy chief whip Mike Waters said on Tuesday.

"If Judge Mokgoro did not authorise the alleged tapping, it is possible that it was done without authorisation, which is a criminal offence and must be treated with the seriousness it deserves," Waters said in a statement.

Waters said the DA would ask the new IGI, Setlhomamaru Isaac Dintwe, to compile a report that would be tabled in Parliament and sent to State Security Minister David Mahlobo.

A former SABC labour manager and SABC journalists testified before Parliament's ad hoc committee looking into the broadcaster's board that staff had been spied on.

Waters said the testimony had been captured in Parliament's final report on the SABC inquiry.

"If it is found that the SSA did unlawfully monitor and intercept the communications of SABC employees, they must be held to account," Waters said.

"Press freedom is a cornerstone of our democracy and we simply cannot have a situation where journalists are working in an atmosphere of fear and intimidation."

MPs shocked by testimony

Former SABC general manager of labour relations Madiwe Nkosi told the ad hoc committee's inquiry in December that the SSA was asked to investigate former group executive of risk and governance, Itani Tseisi, for allegedly leaking information.

The broadcaster suspended Tseisi in May 2014 for opposing key appointments, and abuse of procedures. He returned in September 2016, but then left permanently in October.

"I basically learnt he had been cleared of the allegations, but there was very serious discomfort about him having to come back. They said he was a risk, so he can't come back," Nkosi had said.

She said she didn't know if the SSA's involvement was "forgotten" or deliberately kept from her, but she said it had been downplayed.

MPs across the political spectrum registered their shock on hearing that the SSA was involved in an investigation of an SABC staff member.

The SABC 8 journalists told the committee how journalists had been harassed at the broadcaster. One had a laptop seized and searched, and returned when nothing was found.

Snake that 'eats other snakes'

President Jacob Zuma appointed Dintwe on March 13, after Parliament recommended him for the job.

He is the head of the police practice department at the University of South Africa. The published author and co-editor has worked as a police constable, a detective, and as a principal anti-corruption investigator.

During his interviews for the post, he told the joint standing committee on intelligence that he was an expert in forensics.

"I am competent for this office. I'm a cocktail, all in one. My career goes across all different spheres that are involved in anything which deals with the criminal justice system in this country," he told MPs.

He was a snake that ate other snakes, he said.