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NGOs slam surveillance of community activists

The activists have warned that the surveillance conducted by the police is illegal.

FILE: The Right to Know Campaign has compiled a booklet detailing the surveillance of community activists by police and state security agency spies. Picture: Masego Rahlaga/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - Independent NGOs based in Gauteng have joined forces with the Right to Know (R2K) campaign in the release of a new booklet detailing the surveillance of community activists by police and state security agency spies.

The activists have warned that the surveillance conducted by the police is illegal and claim several of them were arrested on trumped-up charges while a number of NGO officials have been approached to become informers for the state.

The groups include the R2K Campaign, the United Front, the Thembelihle Crisis Committee, the Soweto Electricity Committee as well as the Khoi and San Council.

The R2K compiled the booklet and national spokesperson Murray Hunter says there's a danger of South Africa becoming a securocrat state.

"I'm concerned that as we begin to talk about these abuses of intelligence services, few of the bodies that are given the legal mandate to support us are behaving in a way that can't be taken seriously."

Members of R2K and the Thembelihle Crisis Committee made damning claims of political espionage against the state and say they are being targeted for refusing to endorse the African National Congress (ANC).

They also claim they were offered up to R40,000 to spy on fellow activists.

The Thembelihle Crisis Committee's Bhayiza Miya says after the service delivery protests in March, they were unable to meet privately with their constituency.

"I was informed by the very same intelligence to say they are coming for me, the very same night. For speaking in a public meeting, we are not allowed as Thembelihle Crisis Committee to call a meeting."

R2K's Gauteng co-ordinator Alfred Moyo says once intelligence agents realised the activists would not endorse the ANC, they started infiltrating community networks.

Both men claim intelligence agents have active informants working in communities across Gauteng and their fear is that this will lead to targeted violence against them.

Meanwhile, National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa's Karl Cloete says his union has also been under intense surveillance.

"There should be no fear on the part of any activist or any organisation to express the mandate of their constituency."

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