On 16 May the Minister of State Security David Mahlobo made claims that South Africa’s recent mobilisations against President Zuma is the result of a foreign plot for regime change. He accused unnamed civil society and community organisations, media organisations and “opposition activities” of being part of this plot, but has yet to release any evidence or make any arrests to support these claims.
According to Right 2 Know (R2K), “these claims seek to cast suspicion on people across the country who are mobilising against corrupt government leaders and a failure to deliver on people’s basic needs. Instead of addressing the needs of the people, there is an increasing tendency to frame such people as a ‘threat’.”
In recent years this allegation has been levelled against workers’ structures, against popular social movements and campaigns and against the #FeesMustFall student movements. The R2K Campaign itself has faced this allegation several times. “Legal NGOs who use court action to force government to comply with its own constitution, opposition politicians and the former Public Protector has similarly, been accused of being a CIA spy,” says R2K.
In a press statement, R2K asserts that there is growing evidence that intelligence structures monitor and harass activist movements and other civil society formations, as well as investigative journalists. “There is a risk that these repeated claims are laying the groundwork of a process to clamp down more fully on the right to organise, by seeking to restrict the activities of pro-democratic organisations, political parties, and individuals.”
R2K and other organisations have filed a series of complaints to the Office of Inspector General of Intelligence in recent years to protect citizens against such harassment, and intend to write to the chair of Parliament’s intelligence committee, Charles Nqakula, to request that Parliament holds open hearings on these claims.