Signal jammer illegal outside Security Cluster

ICASA says the security cluster is only allowed to use such a device if there’s a threat to safety.

FILE: Parliament has launched an investigation into the matter after journalists and opposition MPs protested the scrambling of the signal inside the chamber. Picture: Supplied.

JOHANESBURG - The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) says the use of signal jamming devices is illegal for an entity outside the Security Cluster.

ICASA has responded to Thursday evening's events in the National Assembly by adding the security cluster is only allowed to use such a device if there's a threat to safety at security functions.

Parliament has launched an investigation into the matter after journalists and opposition MPs protested the scrambling of the signal inside the chamber.

This happened just before President Jacob Zuma addressed the nation. He delivered his State of the Nation Address (Sona) despite the violent expulsion of Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) MPs, a walkout by the Democratic Alliance (DA) and protests about the cell phone signal being cut.

Icasa spokesman Paseka Maleka, "Even then they must use it for security purposes unless they've done their own assessment and then it can be used but until then another entity cannot use it."

The South African National Editor's Forum (Sanef) says it will approach the courts to prevent future attempts to block the cellphone signal in the National Assembly.

Sanef held a press briefing in Cape Town this afternoon.

The body will also ask the courts to compel parliament to allow broadcast media to install their own cameras in the legislature.

Sanef chairperson Mpumelelo Mkhabela says the organisation is concerned by Parliament's actions.

"Sanef is outraged by the shocking illegal clamp down on freedom of expression in Parliament during the State of the Nation Address on Thursday night. We believe these unconstitutional actions were an attempt by both the legislature and the executive to prevent journalists from telling the nation the full version of Thursday night's events."

EFF TO TAKE PARLIAMENT TO COURT

But the EFF said it would approach the Constitutional Court and ask it to rule on whether it was lawful for police to march into the National Assembly chamber.

Party leader Julius Malema said it also wanted one of its MPs who was hospitalised with a fractured jaw, to take legal steps against Parliament.

"Our people who were beaten will go to court. We want Reneilwe [Mashabela] to sue Parliament because it owed it to her to protect her. We are going to the Constitutional Court next week. Lawyers are now busy drafting the papers."

REACTION

There's been widespread reaction to last night's events with the EFF coming under fire from the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution (Casac) for the disruptions.

Casac's Lawson Naidoo said the MPs jeopardised the rights of South Africans to hold Zuma accountable by not letting him speak.

"It's insulting the rules of Parliament, it sought to deny the President an opportunity to make an address to Parliament that is part of our constitutional make up that the President is accountable to Parliament."

The National Religious Leaders Council, meanwhile, said it was deeply disappointed about what happened as it shows elected leaders have failed.

Rhema Bible Church head Ray McCauley said religious leaders were extremely concerned about what happened and they continued to pray for sanity to prevail.

"It was very sad for the country as a whole; I think everybody is in shock. I don't want to be a prophet of doom but we really expected what happened to happen."

McCauley said Malema since December tried to resolve issues between his party and president Zuma, however he failed to stop Malema from disrupting Zuma's address last night to ask him when he will pay back the money with regards to Nkandla.

McCauley said the ANC was also consulted separately in the run up to the address to get a commitment that Zuma will respond to the EFF's question next week.

FORMER SPEAKER URGES AGREEMENT

Former speaker Frene Ginwala has questioned whether South Africa needed to embrace a new form of Parliament in the wake of Thursday's chaos in the National Assembly.

Ginwala suggested that collectively South Africans needed to do some rethinking about the way in which the country is governed.

She said as the country's democracy progresses, Parliament is in need of transformation.

Ginwala added that while implementing changes may be difficult, traditional ways of agreement could offer a solution.

"The objective was, should be, to reach agreement. To persuade each other, to talk things through, not to fight things through. That is what we need to do. It's going to be a challenge but we still need to do that."