"Dlamini Negligence" or Wilful Default?

Posted March 27, 2017
Written by Mark Heyink

In my comment "Privacy - Constitutional Crisis Parallel to the SASSA Debacle" I highlighted the "Dlamini neglect" that allowed the constitutional right of privacy of at least 10 million South Africans to be plundered by unscrupulous business. I also pointed to the intervention of the Information Regulator in the "Black Sash" application and the fact that eventually, despite government's neglect of the constitutional right of privacy and the protection of personal information of South Africans, we at last have an independent Regulator that seems intent on discharging its duty to South Africans. I also suggested that government was either grossly negligent, alternatively wilfully obstructive in its handling of our constitutional right of privacy. In response to that article I have received 2 telephone calls in which I have been asked to elaborate on why I believed there may be wilful obstruction by government in failing to protect the right of privacy.

My misgivings of government's good faith with regard to the constitutional right of privacy have been addressed in several articles that I have written. These misgivings appear to be endorsed in an article which appeared in the Daily Maverick on the 22nd March 2017 authored by Marianne Merten, entitled "ANC's Policy Document on Home Affairs: When Big Brother met Monopoly Capitalist". The article (a link to which is provided at the end of this comment) refers to a cabinet statement of February 2016, that asserts:

"The ANC should support the principle of repositioning Home Affairs as a secure, professional, modern department that is a powerful enabler of service delivery, economic development and state security".

The intention is to move the Department of Home Affairs, the largest repository of personal information relating to South African citizens, within the Justice, Crime Prevention and Security Cluster. Astonishingly in the Policy Discussion document tabled in support of this move it is also mooted that "identity services and products" would be sold by the Department of Home Affairs to potential partners, including government printing works, the CSIR and private sector companies.

As Merten's correctly points out, this flies in the face of the constitutional right of privacy and the safeguards that are contained in the Protection of Personal Information Act. The inaction of government in protecting this important human right, seems to go further than pure negligence and statements of the nature quoted above evidence an active contempt in government quarters for the constitutional right of privacy. Despite the fact that globally privacy is a burning jurisprudential issue and how personal information needs to be protected in light of disruptive technologies is taxing governments in all democracies, government's attitude to selling personal information that is not even owned by it, can only be described as ethically bankrupt. While this is not the first occasion that we see government attempting to benefit by claiming rights which it does not enjoy, it is a further reminder that either government does not understand the concequences of the plunder of citizens' personal information in the 21st century, or recognises the truth of the statement that "information is the oil of the 21st century" and wishes to exploit this potential at the expense of its citizens. This cavalier attitude towards constitutional rights, while it continues to disappoint, no longer surprises!

The far more chilling implication of government policy would be the positioning of Home Affairs within the JCPS Cluster. Personal information being available to securocrats, at their whim, is one of the primary reasons for ensuring the protection of privacy is so forcefully stipulated in our Constitution. The oppression of German citizens in the 1930's by the Nazis who had control over Germany's information systems, and subsequently by East German governments, until the fall of the Berlin wall is well documented. Indeed, the Nationalist government used similar tactics to oppress the ANC and its members. The dangers of over-zealous government simply cannot be ignored. This, particularly in light of statements of the Minister of State Security relating to the regulation of social media and the manner in which the Cybercrimes and Cybersecurity Bill has been approached by government, should have alarm bells ringing shrilly in our ears.

Privacy is a fundamental principle of democracy. Its loss will herald the breakdown of the democratic fabric that many have fought so hard to achieve. It is fragile and make no mistake it is under threat. Please do not allow overzealous government or unscrupulous business to to rob you or your children of this fundamental human right!

Link to Daily Maverick article:

CLICK HERE



©Mark Heyink 2017
www.privacyonline.co.za

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