Home Technology Parts of RICA declared unconstitutional in South Africa

Parts of RICA declared unconstitutional in South Africa

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Breaking news! Parts of RICA are unconstitutional! This was the finding of the South Gauteng High Court today. The Regulation of Interception of Communications and Provision of Communication-Related Information Act (RICA) was implemented in July 2009.

Media group amaBhungane filed an application in the High Court challenging the constitutionality of the act in April 2017. This happened after it emerged that journalist Sam Sole’s communications were intercepted while he was reporting on the corruption investigation against former SA president Jacob Zuma.

Cellphone in hand
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In a decision handed down by judge Roland Sutherland on the 16th of September 2019 (Today). The court found that the law was inconsistent with the SA constitution on a number of points including:

  • RICA fails to adequately prescribe the procedure for notifying a person whose information has been intercepted.
  • The act fails to adequately prescribe the proper procedures to be followed when state officials are examining, copying, sharing and sorting through data obtained through interceptions.
  • RICA also fails to adequately address situations where the subject of surveillance is either a practising lawyer or a journalist.

To remedy these issues, the judgement adds a number of new sections to RICA. It also suspended the invalidity of the act for two years to allow for parliament to bring the legislation in line with the constitution.

Sutherland also ruled that the NCC’s domestic surveillance activities were unlawful and invalid. This comes after the Minister of State Security, the Office of the Interception Centres, the National Communications Centre, and the State Security Agency confirmed in an affidavit to the court that they conduct bulk surveillance.

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