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Intelligence Minister apologises for jamming signals at Sona

Minister David Mahlobo also described the jamming of signals as regrettable.

FILE: Screengrab from the 'bring back the signal' chant by the media in Parliament during State of the Nation Address 2015. Picture: EWN.

CAPE TOWN - While State Security Minister David Mahlobo has apologised for the jamming of signals during the State of the Nation Address (Sona), former intelligence minister Ronnie Kasrils has called on government not to place the blame on a technician as the orders need to be sanctioned by high level officials.

Mahlobo has described the jamming of signals as regrettable and in a briefing in Parliament this morning, he apologised to the nation.

He claims the use of signal jammers last Thursday was based on an intelligence risk assessment and was used to establish a no-fly zone.

Mahlobo has re-emphasised that the jamming of signals inside the chamber was the result of an intelligence official leaving the device on and an investigation is now being conducted to determine how this happened.

The signal jamming prevented members of the media from communicating on their cellphones and distributing information from inside the National Assembly.

It was unblocked after an unprecedented protest from journalists who chanted 'Bring back the signal'.

WATCH: MPs and journalists chant 'Bring back the signal'.

He says the use of the device is standard procedure but this has been disputed by Kasrils who held the position of state security minister under President Thabo Mbeki.

Kasrils says an investigation into what happened should reveal who instructed the technician to block the signal.

"We aren't simply being run by technicians who walk into places, roll up their sleeves and install some security devices. They do that on orders and to go into Parliament means that they had the blessing from right up there."

Kasrils earlier told Eyewitness News that it's not standard procedure to use signal jammers at major public events such as the Sona.

He says he never allowed such devices to be used at events like the opening of Parliament while he was intelligence minister.

"When it's used, it would be via a Cabinet meeting so that mobile phones that are brought in can't be used to send out signals or record the secret nature of such talks."

He's also questioned Mahlobo's reasoning for using jammers to set up a no-fly zone.

"There are many tall buildings around right over the road and on the top floor there is the stream of state security to deal with any threats from the skies."

Mahlobo also revealed there was more than one signal jamming device used during the Sona and mentions it will not be the last time such a device is used.

In a statement released by Mahlobo on Wednesday, he said there was no executive or political decision to interfere with the free-flow of information and what happened was unintentional.

He added that the State Security Agency was responsible for the threat and risk assessment for the event.

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