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can listen to your phone call
Farai Shoko, Mail and Guardian (SA)
October 11, 2013
in Zimbabwe that require telecommunication firms to record and keep
details about text messages, phone calls and emails of clients for
up to five years have elicited strong condemnation from civil society,
which says it is a violation of the new Constitution.
mandate players in the telecommunications sector, including broadband
providers, landline and mobile phone companies, to store mobile
phone messages, calls, emails and all websites visited by their
clients for up to five years to safeguard "national security".
can be used on demand by law enforcement agencies including state
law enforcement agencies used provisions in the Access
to Information and Protection of Privacy Act or the Interception
of Communications Act to request, for instance, phone records
from telecommunication firms, but they first needed to obtain a
warrant from the courts.
The new regulations
allow state authorities to demand information without a warrant,
the Movement for Democratic Change-Tsvangirai (MDC-T) has pointed
out in its vehement opposition to the law.
among opposition parties and civil society is that, apart from being
"draconian", the new law also violates the right to privacy
guaranteed in the new Constitution.
a new Constitution this year. The MDC-T pointed out that the omission
of judicial oversight - the need for authorities first to obtain
a court warrant - in obtaining citizens' telephone conversations
raised suspicion and speculation about the real motive of the law.
state agents can obtain information on an individual from the service
providers, the individual is not allowed access to the same information
that the state agents would have obtained," reads part of an
MDC-T statement, adding that it was designed to shrink the rights
The party said
the regulations confirmed that Zanu-PF wanted to turn Zimbabwe into
a police state where individual rights were not respected.
a prominent Harare human rights lawyer, said: "The primary
problem with the new regulation is that it will be possible for
the authorities to have access to communication without a requisite
warrant. The absence of judiciary overview in the interception process
makes the law dangerous to any democracy."
He said that
although it is acknowledged and justifiable that there are certain
circumstances that require authorities to access certain messages
or information to combat terrorism or crime, it was "prudent
that the authorities go before the judiciary for it to assess the
veracity of the demand".
an officer with the Crisis
in Zimbabwe Coalition, said that, although the regulations appear
to be normal practice the world over, they are open to manipulation
to deal with political opponents by intercepting their private conversations.
practice can kill democracy, because it unfairly puts Zanu-PF, which
controls the state security infrastructure, ahead of its opponents
on intelligence matters. To see this possibility, you need to look
at how the Public Order and Security Act has been abused,"
The MDC fears
that Mugabe could use the new regulations against his political
In the past,
it has accused him of using the Public
Order and Security Act to deal with his opponents by cancelling
meetings and arresting them.
out that, globally, there has been a tightening of communication
channels intended to prevent criminal and terrorist activity from
being conducted using information technology.
a political analyst with the International Crisis Group, said Zimbabwe
was no exception to this global development.
be looked at from the angle of protecting the total good and safety
of the nation [rather] than [from the perspective] of individual
invasion of privacy. It is important to take a balanced perspective
on this issue.
may be attempts by others to use these laws for political Machiavellianism,
but the original intent must be considered to be a need to enhance
national security," said Maisiri.
But MDC-T legislator
and award-winning human rights lawyer Arnold Tsunga strongly believes
state agencies have been given carte blanche to snoop on citizens.
have been empowered," said Tsunga.
In the run-up
to the polls, scandalous details about Tsvangirai's wife, Elizabeth,
were leaked from her mobile phone to state media, allegedly by the
Central intelligence Organisation.
The papers published
text messages purportedly between Tsvangirai's wife and a former
lover, suggesting she was still romantically involved with a former
between Elizabeth and the former lover were published verbatim in
the state-controlled media, giving credence to fears that state
authorities were spying on their citizens.
The MDC-T said
the messages were a Zanu-PF ploy to tarnish Tsvangirai's reputation
ahead of the polls.
a development specialist, said the new regulations were "sad
and a sign of a government whose priorities are misplaced".
He said the
legislation would "gag people's freedom. Now that the laws
are in place, they need to invest a lot of money in procuring spying
equipment and enforcing these laws at the expense of investing in
economically productive activities to reduce poverty levels."
commentator Jack Zaba said the new government feared the unknown
and the possibility of "Arab-style" uprisings co-ordinated
by new media technology.
Asked to respond
to allegations that the new regulation infringed on the right to
privacy, Psychology Maziwisa, the Zanu-PF deputy director of information
and publicity on Thursday dismissed the concerns.
nothing amiss about that, it happens all over the world. Ask Edward
Snowden," said Maziwisa.
is not sinister. It is driven by national interest. This is a national
security issue not a personal one."
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