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Experts rubbish Mahlobo's signal jamming claims

Radio frequency experts say a cellphone jamming device is not designed to enforce a no fly zone.

FILE: Radio frequency experts say a cellphone jamming device is not designed to enforce a no fly zone. Picture: Free images

JOHANNESBURG - Radio frequency experts have told Eyewitness News a cellphone jamming device is not designed to enforce a no-fly zone, as claimed by the State Security Minister David Mahlobo.

Before the start of the State of the Nation Address (Sona) last week, there was no signal in the National Assembly.

Journalists and editors launched into an unprecedented protest over the communication blackout.

Opposition Members of Parliament also took up the call of "Bring Back the Signal" in solidarity with the media.

Video: MPs and journalist chant 'Bring back the signal'.

The minister claims that such a device was deployed in Parliament last week as part of measures to secure a no-fly zone, but due to an operational error, resulted in the cellphone signals being jammed.

Radio frequency technician Eben Laubsher says cellphone jammers are not used to secure no-fly zones.

"Depending on what application and the amount of power it uses it's mainly for terrestrial use so it's drops cellphone communication but it's not for no-fly zone."

GEW Technologies' Karel van der Merwe says the devices were developed to neutralise bomb threats.

"It's used to jam a signal that would trigger an explosive device."

Meanwhile, the Democratic Alliance has questioned under what legal authority the State Security Agency was even allowed to operate at the Sona.

MAHLOBO APOLOGISES FOR SIGNAL JAM

While Mahlobo has apologised for the jamming of signals during Sona, former intelligence minister Ronnie Kasrils called on government not to place the blame on a technician as the orders need to be sanctioned by high level officials.

He described the jamming of signals as regrettable and apologised to the nation.

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

Mahlobo re-emphasised that the jamming of signals inside the chamber was the result of an intelligence official leaving the device on and an i nvestigation 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.

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