Cellphone Jamming Was “Counter-Terrorism” Effort


By Oliver Ngwenya    19-Feb-2015 18:55 UTC+02:00
Junior Officer failed to terminate counter-terrorism effort resulting in cellphone jamming during SONA, says State Security ministry.  Image: Mail and Guardian.

Junior Officer failed to terminate counter-terrorism effort, resulting in cellphone jamming during SONA, says State Security ministry.
Image: Mail and Guardian.

In a statement released on Wednesday evening, the Department of State Security admitted to being at fault in the signal jamming saga surrounding the President’s State of the Nation Address on Thursday last week. They have placed the blame on one of its unnamed junior officers in what the Department’s representative described a result of ‘prolonged counter-terrorism efforts.’

In what has been described in some quarters as “a State of the Nation Address that has left the nation in a state”, media houses that had journalists covering the State of the Nation Address discovered that they could not send messages across because of a jammed signal around the parliament building. This lead to the first hurdle in the delivery of the President’s address as the Chief Whip of the opposition Democratic Alliance, John Steenhuisen stood up to request that the signal be restored before the business of the day could commence. Within a few minutes of the Speaker and Chairperson acceding to this request, the signal had been restored and the sitting of parliament moved on to its next hurdle. However, the media houses were obviously not impressed and took the matter up with the courts labeling the use of jamming devices to obstruct the signal as “unlawful” and “unconstitutional” when done during a sitting parliament. This is where it emerged for the first time that the State Department was responsible for the breach in the signal. The court, however, postponed the urgent application to next Thursday.

In its statement following the admission in court, the Department of State Security said that they had also been “taken aback” by revelation that the cellphone signal had been jammed. In their explanation, they said that because there was going to be the President, the Deputy President as well as other former Presidents, extra measures had to be taken. The representative for the State Department, Mr Brian Dube said that the State of the Nation Address had been rated major based on intelligence reports that had been received. He added that the jamming had been a result of prolonged counter-terrorism efforts. In concurrence with this view, the Minister responsible for State Security, Mr David Mahlobo added that the jamming of the cellphone signal had been the result of an operational error. He said that the junior officer who was operating the jamming device had failed to terminate it properly, with the result that other mobile operators were negatively affected. Mahlobo went to emphasize that there had been no intention to affect the use of mobile phones.

The statement ended by saying that “The Department of State Security regrets the unintentional disruption of signal in certain parts of the parliamentary chambers!”


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