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strengthens repressive instruments
Manyukwe, The Zimbabwe Independent
Moves to introduce
draconian laws such as the Suppression of International Terrorism
and the Interception of Communications Bills reveal government insecurity
and plans to intensify repression as the economy deteriorates further.
failure to prosecute opposition leaders on several trumped up treason
charges, including in the Mutare arms cache case last week, government
is working on the Suppression of Foreign and International Terrorism
Bill that will allow for a further crackdown on the opposition and
dissenters accused of collaborating with foreigners to destabilise
Interception of Communications Bill, details of which were first
published in this paper last week, will also strengthen the instruments
The law seeks
to empower the chief of defence intelligence, the director-general
of the Central Intelligence Organisation, the commissioner of police
and the commissioner-general of revenue to intercept telephones,
fixed lines and cellular phones and e-mail messages sent by Internet.
When it comes
into effect the government will use it to establish a telecommunications
agency called the Monitoring and Interception of Communications
Centre manned by spies tasked with prying into private mail.
week said recent developments characterised by the crackdown on
opposition MDC members following the discovery of an arms cache
in Mutare show government was running scared and wants to launch
a campaign of repression to consolidate its faltering grip on power.
Heneri Dzinotyiwei said the developments point to a government increasingly
defensive in the face of heightening unpopularity.
is becoming defensive. There is more reaction to the loss of favour
and support. That of course is not justified," Dzinotyiwei
government is failing to see the root causes of its unpopularity.
It is trying to address the symptoms. It won’t succeed."
said by concentrating on issues such as prying onto people’s
private lives, government was trying to divert attention from real
issues. He said there were no credible grounds for government to
come up with such legislation, except an attempt to curb rising
The new legislation
also appears to buttress arguments by the African Commission on
Human and Peoples’ Rights that in Zimbabwe: "There has
been a flurry of new legislation and the revival of old laws used
under the Smith regime to control (and) manipulate public opinion…"
also slammed state security agencies, saying "elements of the
CIO were engaged in activities contrary to the international practice
of intelligence organisations".
The CIO last
week was severely criticised by Justice Charles Hungwe for intimidating
state lawyers in a bid to sustain the alleged plot to assassinate
President Robert Mugabe linked to the Mutare arms cache "discovery".
laws fall in the same category as the Access
to Information and Protection of Privacy Act and the Public
Order and Security Act which the African Commission has said
had a "chilling effect and spread a cloud of fear" in
government’s insecurity in the face of the rising tide of
opposition on the political, social and economic fronts was behind
the current efforts to devise a chain of restrictive measures.
of State-Indebted Insolvent Companies Act and the Constitution
of Zimbabwe Amendment No 17 Act are seen as part of this. The
Reconstruction of State-Indebted Insolvent Companies Act gives state-appointed
administrators powers to enable them to forfeit to the state shares
or securities in a reconstructed company. The Act was used to legalise
the government’s inheritance of businessman Mutumwa Mawere’s
empire SMM Holdings under the guise of preventing its collapse and
Council for Higher Education, which Mugabe said was put in place
with "a view to improving operations of higher learning by
investing council with certain disciplinary powers over students
and lecturers", will further restrict academic freedom.
A number of
student leaders mainly at the University of Zimbabwe have been expelled
and dozens others countrywide have been suspended.
The 17th constitutional
amendment was meant to deal with white commercial farmers who were
posing a headache to the government through challenging its chaotic
agrarian reform in the courts.
of the Law Society of Zimbabwe Joseph James on Tuesday said the
introduction of the latest repressive laws pointed to its insecurity.
which constantly passes repressive legislation fears that it does
not have the support of its people," he said. "In a democratic
society if you believe in your right to persuade the electorate,
there is no need to close the democratic space. It is only when
you are not sure of yourself that you pass repressive legislation
— that is the only conclusion one can reach."
He said he was
surprised when Media & Information Commission chair Tafataona
Mahoso this week called for the tightening of Aippa through the
control of distributors of newspapers and periodicals coming from
outside the country.
that some foreign publications be subjected to some form of scrutiny
and censorship. Why is it necessary when it is said the world is
now a global village?" James asked. "Is that necessary
insight into Interception of Communications Bill
- The law
seeks to empower the chief of defence intelligence, the director-general
of the Central Intelligence Organisation, the commissioner of
police and the commissioner-general of the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority
to intercept: Fixed telephone lines; cellular phones; e-mail messages
sent by Internet.
- When it
comes into effect the government will use the Bill to establish
a telecommunications agency called the Monitoring and Interception
of Communications Centre manned by spies tasked with prying into
- State agencies
will be empowered to open mail passing through the post and through
licensed courier service providers.
- The Bill
authorises the Minister of Transport and Communications to issue
a warrant to state functionaries to order the interception of
information if there are “reasonable grounds for the minister
to think that an offence has been committed or that there is a
threat to safety or national security of the country”.
- The Bill
will compel operators to install software and hardware to enable
them to intercept and store information as directed by the state.
The service providers will also be asked to link their message
monitoring equipment to the government agency. Service providers
will also be compelled to keep personal information on clients
and provide it to the state if asked to do so.
by service providers to, among other issues, install the requisite
software and hardware to intercept messages and transmit them
to the government agency will attract a fine and/or imprisonment
of up to three years.
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