The Presidency is “not happy” that President Cyril Ramaphosa’s personal cellphone appeared to have been the target of spyware, and the State Security Agency must investigate whether his phone was tampered with, acting Minister in the Presidency Khumbudzo Ntshavheni has said.
At Wednesday’s media briefing, Ntshavheni was asked to comment on the Guardian’s report that Ramaphosa’s cellphone number was listed as a potential target for surveillance in the Pegasus spyware case.
He was reportedly among 14 heads of state to be targeted, including Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan and French President Emmanuel Macron.
Ramaphosa’s number seems to have been selected by Rwanda in 2019, the Guardian reported.
“Of course, we will not be happy that we have been targeted because we believe that not only infringes on the privacy of the president but also infringes on the sovereignty of this country to make its own decisions without other countries trying to pre-empt those decisions and influence them and also try and undermine those decisions,” Ntshavheni said.
She added it was not reported whether the request to spy on Ramaphosa’s phone was implemented.
“So, the State Security Agency will have to look at whether the targeting resulted in the actioning, whether the phone of the president was tampered with. The State Security [Agency] will have to do that part and give us a report,” she said, adding:But we are not happy, for the mere fact that we are targeted. It’s a pity that that report comes now when relations are improving within the region, and we do not want to get into a state of distrust within members of the SADC community, and we are hoping we will work together with fellow SADC members to protect and respect the sovereignty of individual states, and we’ll not use unacceptable means to find information.
“There are always diplomatic channels to find information on decisions of South Africa.”
Ntshavheni was also asked about Deputy President David Mabuza’s continued absence, whether he was still in Russia, his medical condition, and whether the country was footing the bill for his medical treatment.
“I think we also need to respect the privacy of the person of the deputy president. Yes, the Deputy President is in Russia, he is undergoing medical treatment, and he is doing well, and he will return.
“That is as far as I can report to South Africans and not infringe his person, because nobody can disclose the health condition of another, even yourself, as a journalist, does not make you have a right to probe into the personal health status of any other person, irrespective of the position they hold.
Deputy President David Mabuza. News24 Jan Gerber, News24
“What you are entitled to know is the fact whether your leadership is healthy and fit for purpose and we are confirming that the deputy president has received his treatment or is receiving his treatment and he is responding to treatment, and he will soon return to the country.”
Mabuza, the chairperson of the inter-ministerial committee (IMC) on vaccines, was granted two weeks’ leave in late June to undergo medical treatment in Russia.
He had sought medical treatment in Russia since 2015 following an alleged poisoning during his birthday celebrations at a government event in Bushbuckridge when he was still the premier of Mpumalanga.