Kaapanda Denies Spying Claims

Information Minister Joumlel Kaapanda has said parliamentarians complaining of phones being tapped should know that they were part of legislators who passed the Communications Act in 2009.

Reacting to claims by Swapo parliamentarian Kazenambo Kazenambo in the National Assembly about a week ago that the government was spying on some leaders, Kaapanda, however, said if phone tapping is happening, it is illegal since the clause in the Act that deals with interception has not yet been regulated and so it cannot be implemented.

The ‘interception of communications’ clause in the Act was viewed as an attempt by the government to clamp down on its critics, including journalists. Part of the Act gave the Namibia Central Intelligence Service (NCIS) sweeping powers to spy on private citizens without judicial oversight.

Even though the law was passed in 2009, the section authorising the interception of phones is not legal since its regulation is still pending. Known as Section 6, the clause deals with the setting up of interception centres.

The old Namibia Central Intelligence Service Act of 1998 dictated that the NCIS required a court warrant to intercept or monitor communication and search individual’s premises.

The new Act, infamously known as the Spy Bill, gives sweeping powers to individuals at any level from an interception centre to monitor and intercept communication.

Kaapanda, one of the masterminds of the Act, told The Namibian that the regulation has gone through different consultative processes such as the NCIS, and the communication industry that had to make comments.

“You expect the process to take longer. As soon as the regulation is finalised, it will come to the ministry that will have to gazette it and then the process of implementation will begin,” he said.

The Namibian has also reported in the past about the Communications Act that gives government free reign to monitor telephone calls and electronic mail in the name of crime prevention and national security.

Swapo backbencher Kazenambo accused some staff members of the intelligence agency of tapping people’s phones, a practice he branded as backward and dictatorial.

Asked about his reaction towards the comments by the fellow parliamentarian, Kaapanda said: “If he has evidence that somebody is doing this to him, then he can go to the law enforcement agency and report it. The same applies to any other citizen,” he said, although he added: “I don’t know, I have no idea.”

And then he said: “The law was passed in parliament. Members of parliament participated in this law. It is not my law. If anybody is concerned about it, it’s their feeling about it, but it’s not my law,” he said.

Kaapanda insisted that they have gone past the process of consulting relevant stakeholders and are now waiting for feedback from the Communications Regulatory Authority of Namibia (Cran) on the regulation.

He further said a public announcement will be made on the implementation process and assured the people that the interception tool is not being abused.

Kaapanda also defended the Act saying it was prompted by the existence of the information ministry’s technologies and the need to safeguard the country from foreign cyber intervention.

He said the interception law is intended to protect citizens of the country and that Namibia is the only country without such a piece of legislation in the region.

Source : The Namibian