Intercepting the interception
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This article participates on the following special index pages:
Interception of Communications Bill - Index of articles
for Progressive Communications (APC)
January 25, 2007
of Communications Bill has caused some alarm in the country.
If passed, the Bill will inhibit the free exchange of news and opinions,
particularly on matters of a political nature. No one will be able
to send an e-mail or letter, or make a telephone call, without the
fear, however slight, that it will be intercepted by a government
agent. CHAKULA spoke to Brenda Burrell from the Kubatana
Trust of Zimbabwe and the NGO Network Alliance Project.
What is the status of the Interception of Communications Bill?
BURRELL [BB]: The original Bill was replaced on Nov 07,
2006 by a new consolidated text which incorporates amendments made
to satisfy the Parliamentary Legal Committee (PLC) and the Parliamentary
Portfolio Committee recommendations. The new version is currently
with the PLC and if it has a non-adverse report it will be taken
for its second reading in the House of Assembly when it resumes.
The House approved a Government motion that the original Bill be
replaced by the new consolidated text which would be treated as
having been introduced and referred to the PLC. (note the Bill was
What kinds of opposition have your organized, and how successful
has it been?
Kubatana made the ICB [the Bill] and concerns related to it available
to its diverse mailing list, inserting the conversation into a variety
of sectors locally and internationally. Civil society, members of
the public and business attended the public hearing on the Bill
hosted by the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Transport and
Communications and made verbal and written presentations to the
Committee. Together we successfully alerted a wide spectrum of Zimbabweans
to the many negative features of the Bill. The result being that
the Government took quick action to address some of the concerns
and re-write the Bill. The unfortunate reality is that the consolidated
Bill is no improvement. MISA
analysis of the Bill undertaken by MISA-Zimbabwe shows that even
in its revised form, the ICB is retrogressive and repressive and
has no place in a democratic society. As was the case with the original
Bill, the revised version is badly crafted and littered with vague
provisions that render it as a dangerously bad law."
What lies in the future, regarding organized opposition
to the Bill?
It would appear that civil society has now been distracted by the
government's call to harmonise the parliamentary and presidential
elections. This lack of attention to the ICB has been aggravated
by the length of time the Bill has sat with the Parliamentary Legal
Committee and the lengthy recess afforded the House of Assembly
and Senate (from Dec 20, 2006 - Feb 20, 2007). I expect that once
it emerges from the PLC we will see civil society re-engage around
How can others outside of Zimbabwe get involved, if at all?
The Zimbabwe Government is unmoved by the opinion of the first world.
The most useful lobbying would be that directed at African constructs
like the AU, SADC and other African parliamentary, regional and
civic bodies. That said, it is important that whenever and wherever
possible, Zimbabwe's oppressive and stultifying practices should
be critiqued and compared with more progressive examples from around
the world and more particularly elsewhere in Africa.
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