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  • Interception of Communications Bill - Index of articles

  • Zimbabwe: Intercepting the interception
    Association for Progressive Communications (APC)
    January 25, 2007

    Zimbabwe's proposed Interception 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.

    CHAKULA: What is the status of the Interception of Communications Bill?

    BRENDA 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 not re-gazetted)

    CHAKULA: What kinds of opposition have your organized, and how successful has it been?

    [BB]: 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 Zimbabwe said:

    "An objective 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."

    CHAKULA: What lies in the future, regarding organized opposition to the Bill?

    [BB]: 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 the issue.

    CHAKULA: How can others outside of Zimbabwe get involved, if at all?

    [BB]: 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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