ANC MP Cecil Burgess during the ad-hoc committee on Nkandla meeting on April 24, 2014 in Cape Town.
CAPE TOWN - The Right2Know (R2K) Campaign on Friday said the failure to appoint a new inspector-general of intelligence had left the public without recourse to illegal spying, and urged Parliament to appoint an impartial candidate to the post that has been vacant for 10 months.
The call comes amid continued political wrangling between the African National Congress and the opposition over the nomination of ANC veteran Cecil Burgess.
“This key watchdog role, tasked with protecting the public against illegal surveillance, has been vacant for ten months,” R2K said.
“As Burgess lacks the two-thirds majority needed to be Parliament’s candidate for Inspector General, the vote has been delayed and delayed as the ANC lobbies opposition parties to change their vote.”
Parliament’s intelligence committee recently denied claims that President Zuma urged MPs to support Burgess so that he can accede to the post and said it would investigate the alleged leaking of confidential discussions of meetings by DA MPs who sit in that committee.
ANC chief whip Stone Sizani earlier this week added: “In their leaking of the committee’s confidential discussions, the DA MPs spread malicious fabrications and disinformation in the media, thereby forcing the committee into an uncomfortable space of correcting the falsehoods publicly and openly discussing the confidential deliberation.”
R2K noted that in December there were reports that State Security Minister David Mahlobo had lobbied MPs to vote for Burgess.
It warned that the row provided fertile ground for political interference while the absence of a watchdog left the public without “protector against the spies”.
“R2K has already documented how complaints at the Inspector General’s office are stacking up, as citizens try in vain to open investigations of illegal surveillance and abuse of power in the intelligence structures,” the pressure group said.
“We demand an impartial candidate for this role. We demand an Inspector General who will protect citizens from abuses of the spies. We demand an end to the delays. This matter must be brought to a vote as the first order of business when Parliament re-opens in February. The intelligence committee must remember that its duties are to the citizens and not to the executive.”
Burgess earned a reputation as a hawk on security matters when he chaired the ad hoc committee that steered the highly controversial Protection of State Information Bill through Parliament.