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  • Interception of Communications Bill - Index of articles

  • Interception of Communication Act (ICA) a threat to democracy!
    Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition
    August 06, 2007

    Visit the special index on the Interception of Communications Bill

    On Friday, 3 August 2007, President Robert Mugabe signed yet another repressive and restrictive act, the Interception to Communications Bill into law, amid fierce contestations from civil society and the broader progressive forces. The act gives the government through its administrative organs the powers to intercept messages on email, post and telephones which the state deems to be subversive. The enactment of the nefarious bill into law raises fears that the government of Zimbabwe is likely to revoke the Non Governmental Organisations bill which is aimed at closing down the NGOs.

    The Interception to Communications Act (ICA) forms part of the tools that the government uses to crash the rights and freedoms of Zimbabweans. The act is the latest and most fatal attack on democracy and joins the class of the undertaker's tools that include the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA), the Public Order and Security Act (POSA).

    Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition is deeply perturbed by the continued closure of democratic space in Zimbabwe. The act is aimed at striping off the citizenry's rights of freedom of expression which are guaranteed by the Universal Bill of Rights. This act is complemented by the proposed 18th Constitutional Amendment which seeks to deny the populace the right to vote, asserts ZANU PF's commitment to the establishment of a de facto one party state.

    Amongst other things, the state would be granted the super powers to invade the privacy of the citizenry through the state repressive machinery noted in the Bill as the Chief of the Defense Intelligence, the Director-General of the President's department of national security, the Commissioner of the Zimbabwe Republic Police and the Commissioner-General of the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority.

    The AU in particular called for the amendment or repeal of the above stated laws as they have proved to be ultra vires the provisions of the Universal Bill of Rights (UBR) such as the freedom to expression, association and choice.

    The ultimate end is a heavy military and intelligence involvement in the civilian activities alas in violation of the basic universal human rights. Given the politicized nature of the police, army, Central Intelligence Organization (CIO) and other organs that complement the state brutal rule, personal security at household level is severely threatened. The government will invade the citizenry's privacy through accessing the e-mail, telephone calls, postal services and any other forms of communication, messages obtained through such interceptions will be interpreted by the state to mean anything.

    The actions by the government are divorced from the AU resolutions on the situation of human rights in Zimbabwe, in Banjul, on the 5th of December 2005. The African Commission on Human and People's Rights (ACHPR) resolution number 4 states that:

    Calls for the government of Zimbabwe to respect the fundamental rights and freedoms, association and assembly by repealing or amending repressive legislation, such as the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, the Broadcasting Services Act and the Public Order and Security Act.

    It is also, against the provisions of the African Charter for Human and People's Rights (ACHPR) article 9 which maintains that everyone has the right to receive information and may express them in any way they like about any subject they choose.

    This means that everyone is allowed to tell others their opinions using any method they wish (such as in conversations, speeches and letters or through newspapers, radio, television, e-mails or the Internet), provided they do so "within the law".

    The Zimbabwean government is therefore not allowed to impose restrictions against such freedoms that are justifiable in a democracy.

    The act is also in violation of a Supreme Court judgment of 2004 that states that the sections 98 and 103 of the Posts and Telecommunications (PTC) Act were violating section 20 of the constitution of Zimbabwe. The section clearly outlines that any individual has the right to freedom of expression, freedom to receive and impart ideas and freedom from interference with one's correspondence.

    As Crisis Coalition we therefore deplore the motivation by the government of criminalising the fundamental freedoms. The faith and sincerity in the act is highly questionable. It is not meant to further the interests of the country but of certain private political e interests.

    Zimbabwe needs a new democratic constitution on which free and fair elections will be held to solve the current governance and legitimacy crisis.

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