South African government apprehensive about BlackBerry encryption

L.S.M Kabweza Avatar

Reports coming out of South Africa yesterday suggest the country’s government is apprehensive about BlackBerry services. The South African government is proposing allowing the police access to the BlackBerry encrypted messenger service supposedly in a bid to help catch criminals.

According to reports, the South African deputy communications minister, Obed Bapela, said the Blackberry messenger service (BBM) posed a security risk that the government needed to “address with urgency”. He added that there’s already evidence that the secure BBM was being used by criminals to commit crimes.

“We want to review BBM like in the UK and Saudi Arabia” said the deputy minister. He made the revelation at a Southern Africa Telecommunication Networks and Applications Conference.

These reports are likely to cause more anxiety to governments like Zimbabwe that have been skeptic about authorizing the implementation of BlackBerry services on local networks without strict monitoring.

In March this year, after Econet showed some interest in launching BlackBerry services, an article in a state owned newspaper (The Herald) warned that a clash was looming with the government over the BBM encryption keys.  The article noted that Econet needed to clear BlackBerry services with the telecoms regulator and the government as the core system would be based outside the country and its data heavily encrypted.

Three months later, the paper reported that the telecoms regulator, POTRAZ, had “banned” Econet from launching the service until it’s licensed. The POTRAZ deputy director general, Alfred Marisa, was quoted in the article explaining that POTRAZ currently doesn’t have a ‘BlackBerry license’ as part of its statutes. To date, Econet has not been given the green light to launch the service.

Like South Africa, Zimbabwe has the Interception of Communications Act which provides for the monitoring of telecommunications traffic by the state.


  1. KuraiMGT

    Anyone who can share with me the econetbroadband settings for mobile??? will greatly appreciate it

  2. Anonymous

    well done potraz, ban bbm until jesus comes! But on the other hand potraz looks like a toothless dog, does it have any enforcing arm? If so, why is Telecel still operating with a suspended licence? In the same light, what would stop an ISP to silently support bbm?

    1. Anonymous

      Really? What’s so commendable about that? Why don’t they ban all public-key encryption while they are at it (including all browsers that support HTTPS. wait, that’s redundant: all browsers,period). I wish there was a law that forced politicians to understand what they talk about at all times.

      1. Anonymous

         do your maths right! HTTPS is a simple security mechanism based on international standards, no addition software or hardware is required. No servers hidden in foreign countries with on few selected people accessing them.

        Now BBM is a totally different beast. Its based on servers were only RIM knows where they are located, most likely Canada and only RIM and a few selected secret services have got access to them. Do you see anything wrong with that?