The South African Revenue Service is spying on its staff’s emails to catch any that are sent to media organisations.

The blanket monitoring which has happened for over a year includes computers‚ cellphones and the transmission of emails‚ SMSes and WhatsApp messages and is conducted by a specialised team within SARS’ IT department.

The monitors are tasked with looking for and flagging staff emails which contain certain keywords and which are sent to the email domains of several media houses.Among those domains which are looked for are the email addresses of the Tiso Blackstar Group‚ owners of The Times‚ Sunday Times and the online publications‚ TimesLIVE and BusinessLIVE.

Mysteriously‚ according to documents seen by The Times‚ media houses whose email addresses are not monitored are those belonging to the embattled Gupta family. These include The New Age and ANN7.

The monitoring‚ SARS sources claim‚ is on the instruction of senior management.

SARS spokesman Sandile Memela said the monitoring fell within the bounds of the organisation’s policies but staff representatives feel the monitoring goes too far.

Khaya Xaba ‚ spokesman for the National Education‚ Health and Allies Workers Union‚ one of two unions which represent SARS employees‚ said they were opposed to any “illegal” acts or the unwarranted monitoring of employees’ emails.

“This is an invasion of privacy. While we appreciate that members signed a secrecy oath‚ that does not give SARS the authority to invade our members’ privacy.”…