Some senior politicians in Swaziland think their phones are being tapped, a local newspaper has reported. One also thinks his car might be bugged.
The Sunday Observer reported (4 June 2017) that it contacted a number of politicians and found some suspected phones were tapped but they had no proof.
The newspaper reported, ‘House of Assembly Speaker Themba Msibi, when interviewed about the possibility of hearing devices and phones being tapped, said, “I too have concerns as at times calls sound hollow, making one suspect that a third party could be listening in.”’
Minister of Economic Planning Prince Hlangusemphi said he had heard rumours with nothing official and concrete to substantiate them.
The newspaper reported, ‘Minister of Natural Resources Jabulile Mashwama said rumours of bugging have been around since time immemorial.’
In July 2013 it was reported that police in Swaziland were spying on the kingdom’s members of parliament. One officer disguised in plain clothes was thrown out of a workshop for MPs and one MP reported his phone has been bugged.
Ntondozi MP Peter Ngwenya told the House of Assembly at the time that MPs lived in fear because there was constant police presence, in particular from officers in the Intelligence Unit.
The Times of Swaziland newspaper reported at the time that at the same sitting of the House Lobamba MP Majahodvwa Khumalo said his cellphone had been bugged ever since he started being ‘vocal against some people’.
The House was told that MPs were attending a workshop on the Elections Expenses Bill when they discovered a plain-clothed police officer taking notes of the MPs’ comments. He was ejected from the meeting.
The Times reported that Ngwenya said as MPs they were now afraid to do anything because there was too much police presence in their midst. ‘We know of the police who ensure our safety and they are normally in uniform, we do not know what is happening now,’ he said.
This was not the first example of police spying. In May 2013, the Media Institute of Southern Africa reported that police spies had infiltrated journalism newsrooms in Swaziland, which had led to a heightened climate of fear.
It is legal in certain circumstances to tap phones in Swaziland where King Mswati III rules as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch. The Suppression of Terrorism Act gives police the right to listen in on people’s conversations if they have the permission of the Attorney General.
When the Act came into law in 2008 Attorney General Majahenkhaba Dlamini said that anyone who criticised the government could be considered a terrorist sympathiser.
In 2011, a journalist working in Swaziland for the AFP international news agency reported on her blog that her phone calls were being listened in to.
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