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  • Interception of Communications Bill - Index of articles

  • Spy bill fails test again
    Clemence Manyukwe, The Financial Gazette
    April 26, 2007

    IN a major climb down, government has conceded that a revised version of its controversial spy bill, the Interception of Communication Bill, is just as draconian as the original, and has pledged additional amendments.

    Government first withdrew the bill before Parliament last year after strong objections from the Parliamentary Legal committee (PLC). It came up with another consolidated text and sent it back to the PLC, but critics charged that the Bill remained unconstitutional even after those changes.

    The Bill, gazetted on May 26 last year, provides for the interception of both telecommunications and postal articles by the Commissioner of Police, the Chief of Defence Intelligence, the Director-General of the Central Intelligence Organisation, and the Commissioner-General of the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority or their nominees on the strength of a warrant or detention order issued by the Minister of Transport and Communications.

    In an interview this week, chairman of the legislative assemblyís legal committee, Welshman Ncube, said government had undertaken to make fresh amendments to the consolidated text.

    "The Bill is still before Parliament. The Attorney General (AG) and the Minister promised to come up with amendments to the text that was before the legal committee," he said. Transport and Communications Minister Christopher Mushohwe is sponsoring the Bill.

    Following last yearís agreement between the PLC, the AG and Mushohwe to come up with another version of the Bill, Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa moved a motion "that the present text of the Interception of Communication Bill (H.B 4, 2006), currently in the Order Paper, be withdrawn and be replaced by a new consolidated text of the Bill in terms of Standing Order No. 128 and that the new Bill be treated as having been introduced in terms of Standing Order No. 103 and referred to the Parliamentary Legal Committee."

    The House of Assembly adopted the motion on November 7 last year.

    However, after an analysis of the consolidated text by lawyer Chris Mhike, the local chapter of media rights group, the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) said the Bill remained repressive.

    MISA-Zimbabwe said although there were differences between the consolidated text and the original Bill, the thrust of the proposed legislation remained unchanged.

    "The Interception of Communications Bill, 2006, even in its revised form, is a retrogressive and repressive piece of law that has no place in a democratic society. No amount of revision would justify the impending snooping. ," MISA-Zimbabwe said.

    It however, noted the limiting of the Ministerís powers through the transfer of certain functions to the Administrative Courts, and the provision of review functions by the AG or the Administrative Court.

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