The speaker of the legislature in the Free State, Zanele Sifuba, has reportedly opened a civil case after an explicit sexual video of her was leaked on social media.
The ANC parliamentary caucus in the Free State on Wednesday issued a statement, saying it had noted the issue of the video, received a briefing from Sifuba and discouraged the continued circulation of any material related to the issue.
“Cde Sifuba has henceforth indicated to have opened a civil claim and as a result advises all to respect her decision in dealing with this matter. The ANC caucus wishes to state that it has full confidence in Cde Zanele and supports her in what seems to be an attack to her integrity. We wish Cde Zanele strength, wisdom and courage to carry out her responsibilities,” said ANC chief whip Thabo Meeko.
Unverified social media claims were that the video was leaked after Sifuba refused to pay a bribe to keep it secret.
Extortion is a serious crime. Social media law expert Emma Sadleir said that any publication of personal information and images for revenge was illegal.
Once images make it on to social media, there is no way of controlling the circulation and what people do with the content, she said, but added that victims do have recourse.
“You can lay crimen injuria charges, sue for damages or open a protection order if it’s someone you know. Extortion is a criminal offence, so you can lay charges.
“There is nothing wrong with an adult taking videos of themselves or with intimate partners [if] they have consent, and it’s unfortunate if that information is used against them. I don’t believe in victim-blaming. If you pay when extorted, they might not stop.
“You can’t be too careful but people should avoid taking explicit pictures and sending them online,” said Sadleir.
She said the country has made headway in putting into place laws that protect victims of cybercrimes, such as the Cybercrimes Act, which is yet to come into force.
Security specialist Mike Bolhuis said extortion involving sexual revenge has become a disturbing trend.
“Sextortionists prey on vulnerable and lonely victims, threatening them with exposure to their family and friends. This still happens but as soon as the victim pays the sextortionist, additional people step in and threaten the victim with false police cases of assault, rape and the like. The victim fears being exposed and humiliated before family and friends for 'promiscuous behaviour' and, on top of it all, then also fears being persecuted, jailed and convicted for violent crimes.
“An ever-increasing number of cases specific to this type of crime have been identified and are being thoroughly investigated. This specific type of crime has been happening for a long time. Criminals pose as police and intimidate, influence and extort huge amounts of money from their victims,” said Bolhuis.
He said people should be vigilant and not get involved in any form of pornography, sexual services or sexual fantasy material offered on social media.
“Criminals focus on your vulnerabilities and these sites allow them the greatest leverage. The continuous harassment and threats leave the victims frightened, humiliated and feeling hopeless. It can lead to depression and even suicide,” Bolhuis said.
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