A recent survey by Afrobarometer has revealed that 36% of South Africans would allow the government to monitor their private communication in an effort to increase security and prevent incidents of violence.

Afrobarometer is a pan-African, non-partisian research network that carries out public attitude surveys on governance democracy, economic conditions and related issues across more than 30 African countries. When covering if interviewees would trade freedom for security, Afrobarometer found that an average of 43% of participants over all the countries surveyed would do so.

“A substantial minority (43%) are… willing to accept that “government should be able to monitor private communications… to make sure that people are not plotting violence”,” Afrobarometer says in the survey report.

The 2019 survey relied on data gathered from 45 823 interviews that were completed in 34 countries between September 2016 and September 2018.

The countries included in the surveys are collectively home to nearly 80% of the continent’s overall population. All the information gathered has been weighted to ensure nationally-representative samples and each country has been weighted equally.

The data gathered also reflects that 60% of South Africans interviewed would not want Government to monitor their private communication. Interviewees were asked to state which statement they agreed with, indicating where they stood on the trade-off of privacy for security. The statements were phrased as:

– Statement one: Government should be able to monitor private communications, for example on mobile phones, to make sure that people are not plotting violence.

– Statement two: People should have the right to communication in private without a government agency reading or listening to what they are saying.

Data collected by Afrobarometer shows the percentage of people in the country who would opt for government surveillance over their private communication, including communication made over mobile phones, in exchange for enhanced security measures.

With regards to the support of freedom of movement, the survey found that 43% of South Africans interviewed would agree with the government’s right to impose a curfew when faced with threats of public security. South Africa is noted as one of the few countries in Africa in which the majority support freedom of movement, along with Zimbabwe, Cabo Verde and Tanzania.

Information showing interviewees’ support of freedom of movement versus freedom of the government to impose curfews for public safety in specific situations.

Overall, then, the most recent Afrobarometer data revealed that while a solid majority of Africans still support protection of individual freedom of association, this support has declined modestly over the past seven to 10 years, both on average across the continent and in most individual countries. Moreover, substantial numbers of citizens are willing to consider trading freedoms for greater security, especially in countries that have experienced or been under threat of extremist violence,” the Afrobarometer survey report reads.

The full survey report can be found here. 

Picture: Pexels

Article written by

Ishani Chetty

Ishani is a vegetarian who is passionate about animals, social issues, the environment and current affairs.