City surveillance cameras. Picture: ISTOCK
City surveillance cameras. Picture: ISTOCK

The Right2Know Campaign (R2K) and Privacy International (PI) have applied to be admitted as friends of the court in an ongoing legal challenge to SA’s surveillance law.

In a statement‚ the two organisations said their intervention came on the back of mounting evidence that the South African state’s surveillance powers have been abused.

They want to join the case launched by journalist Sam Sole and the amaBhungane Centre for Investigative Journalism in the high court in Pretoria. Sole and amaBhungane seek an order declaring some sections of the Regulation of Interception of Communications and Provision of Communication-Related Information Act (Rica) unconstitutional.

R2K and PI said the so-called "checks and balances" in Rica have failed to protect citizens’ constitutional right to privacy. In their founding affidavit‚ the organisations said Sole and amaBhungane argued that the provisions of Rica were unconstitutional as they did not provide a default rule that the subjects of interception orders be notified of the decision.

"R2K and PI fully supports the applicants’ argument. The complete ban on subject notification can never be justified‚" R2K’s Murray Hunter said in an affidavit before the court.

R2K and PI said there were instances where it would be justifiable to delay notification while an investigation is ongoing. Said Murray, "However‚ the state should have to demonstrate to an independent judicial authority that delay is necessary in order not to undermine the purpose of the interception‚ and the delay should last only for as long as those reasons subsist."