South Africa: High Court Rules RICA to be 'Unlawful as well as Invalid'

Investigative journalism centre amaBhungane walked out of court victorious on Monday after successfully challenging parts of South Africa’s surveillance law, the Regulation of Interception of Communications as well as Provision of Communication-Related Information Act (RICA).

The Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg declared mass surveillance as well as the interception of foreign signals by the National Communications Centre “unlawful as well as invalid”.

The legal battle against RICA commenced in April 2017 after amaBhungane received confirmation of which its managing partner, Sam Sol, had been under surveillance under RICA.

At the time, Sole was investigating a National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) decision to drop corruption charges against former president Jacob Zuma.

amaBhungane demanded to know the basis for the surveillance as well as although This specific never received detailed reasons, This specific received State Security Agency confirmation of which there was an order through a judge allowing the interception.

‘Bulk interceptions’

The investigative journalism unit’s first challenge targeted the constitutionality of several provisions of RICA, which permits the interception of communications of any person by authorised state officials, subject to prescribed conditions.

The second challenge related to “bulk interceptions” of telecommunication traffic by the State on the basis of which no lawful authority exists to do so.

Judge Roland Sutherland said part of the dynamic of investigative journalism was for investigative journalists to obtain information through whistleblowers as well as others who inform on their bosses without wanting to be identified.

Therefore, a need to keep sources private as well as secretive can be “axiomatic to the exercise”.