Minister David Mahlobo on signal disruption in Parliament during State of the Nation Address


“We wish to state that there was no executive or political decision to interfere with the free flow of information and constitutional obligations on transparency and openness during the State of the Address (SoNA). The Minister responsible for State Security was also taken aback.

“The mandate of the Security Cluster for the State of the Nation Address is to ensure the proper coordination of security planning of the event. This work is done through an operational structure called the National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure (NATJOINTS) as a standard protocol for any major event in the Republic of South Africa. The NATJOINTS consist of Security Cluster Departments (who are permanent members) and other relevant Departments participate on an ad hoc basis depending on the nature of the event.
“The security details and preparations are informed by the level of the security risk and threat assessment. The SoNA event was rated major based on intelligence reported prior to the event which was unprecedented. Furthermore, given the magnitude of the event and the fact that all spheres of government, the three arms of the State, international invited guests, two former Heads of State and the general public were present, maximum security had to be effected.
“The State Security Agency (SSA) was responsible for the threat and risk assessment and supporting the SANDF efforts to enforce the airspace security. The airspace security plan was also properly approved to supply security measures against low speed, low energy threats as well as the drones with minimal disruption to commercial aviation and related aspects.
“Restricted Airspace around Parliament has been promulgated. An advisory notice to airmen (NOTAM A0445/15 & NOTAM C0331/15) was promulgated as well as temporary restricted airspace (AIRAC AIP Supplement S008/15).
“The NATJOINTS Media Statement of the 11 February 2015 clearly indicated that ‘currently there is no fly zone over parliament and the areas surrounding it and this restriction will apply on the day of the event’. ‘All aircrafts, aerodrones and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVS) will not be allowed in this restricted airspace’.
“This airspace security plan was executed with precision especially when the Deputy President and President were in transit until the time of taking of salute at the doorsteps of the parliament, estimated between 18h35-19h00. However the application of this counter threat measure was prolonged beyond the normal operational requirements.
“The signal disruption was caused by an operational error by the member on duty. The operator failed to properly terminate the device and this impacted on proper access to some users of mobile phones. A departmental investigation is currently underway with a possibility of disciplinary action for those responsible for this operational failure.
“The Department of State Security regrets the unintentional disruption of signal in certain parts of the parliamentary chambers.
“It is within the mandate of the SSA to deploy these measures at various major events, rallies, occasions and events where the President who is the Head of State and Government including the Deputy President are in attendance and where threats and risk assessments justify such measures.
“The deployment of these counter intelligence measures where the Head of State and Government attends is in line with international risks assessment and crisis management procedures.
“In future the Department of State Security will ensure that its members in discharging their operational tasks handle their operations more diligently.
“This operation was never intended to frustrate the parliamentarians, the media and anyone who attended parliament and the result of it not being switched off properly is highly regretted.”

The above is the statement issued by the State Security Agency following allegations of interference with mobile phone signals ahead of the State of the Nation Address by President Jacob Zuma.