South Africa: Sam Sole and Stefaans Brummer Took On the Surveillance State, and Won


In the era before Signal and other apps you could use to ensure your communications with confidential sources are safe, journalist and amaBhungane managing partner Sam Sole sensed that his communications were being monitored. He decided to do something about it.

(Disclosure: Daily Maverick is one of the amaBhungane's main publishing platforms. Read their latest investigation here.)

How do you know that you are being spied on? "We had the sense and in 2008, quite a credible source (told us so)," said Sole. The "we" is him and his long-time companero Stefaans Brummer with whom he runs amaBhungane, the investigations and impact hub that has broken many of South Africa's most important pieces of investigative journalism.

Then working at the Mail & Guardian, the two laid a formal complaint with the office of the Inspector-General of Intelligence. That complaint resulted in confirmation that they were being spied on. Sole summarises the IGI finding as:

"Whatever was done, was done legally."

It was an unsatisfactory response, he says. At the time, Sole was investigating the decision to drop charges against former president Jacob Zuma and he was talking to sources in the National Prosecuting Authority.

Those conversations were being tapped by...

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