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  • Interception of Communications Bill - Index of articles

  • Statement and submission on the Interception of Communications Bill (ICB)
    May 15, 2007

    View the Index of articles on the Interception of Communications Bill

    MISA-Zimbabwe implores Honorable Members of the House of Assembly to seriously consider the constitutionality of the proposed Interception of Communications law when the Bill goes for its expected second reading in the Chamber on 15 May 2007.

    In debating this Bill, Honorable Members should conscientiously examine and enquire into the constitutionality of the interception of citizens' private mail and telecommunications-related activities by the government as proposed.

    It is MISA-Zimbabwe's objective view that the revised Bill still falls far short of meeting the democratic benchmarks expected in a free and democratic society. The House of Assembly should, therefore, take into serious and objective consideration the concerns raised by citizens and the telecommunications industry during the public hearings conducted by the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Transport and Communications on the impact of the ICB on constitutionally and universally enshrined fundamental rights and freedoms and the civil liberties of ordinary citizens including the right to free communication and privacy.

    Of particular concern are the powers bestowed on the Minister who is an arm of the Executive to authorise the interception of communication. MISA-Zimbabwe notes with concern that security chiefs, all appointed by the Executive, have to liaise with the Minister also appointed by the Executive in deciding on what individuals and/or organisations to target using this proposed law. Besides MISA-Zimbabwe's objections to the unclear intentions of this law, there are glaring gaps as far as checks and balances are concerned in the application and administration of this law.

    MISA-Zimbabwe believes that security agents have means and ways already in place to track, arrest and seek the prosecution of criminal elements without making every citizen a suspect subject to privacy invasion through Ministerial certificates. MISA-Zimbabwe further notes with concern the implications this law has on the development of the telecommunications industry, which as stated in the ICB would be required to install equipment and systems to monitor communications at their own costs. This industry is already struggling as evidenced by the serious challenges being faced by mobile and fixed telephone service providers, an underdeveloped internet industry among other mediums of communication, would be further damaged and any prospects for growth doomed. Public confidence in this industry will be undermined and the enjoyment of freedom of expression rights further repressed.

    MISA-Zimbabwe asks Hon Members of Parliament whether they and their families and business interests feel free communicating and conducting business under the blanket glare of security agents where no offence is being committed.

    We therefore appeal to Honorable Members to critically examine the provisions of the Bill in a non-partisan manner by reflecting on the reasonableness of the proposed law in a democratic society and its impact on the viability of the telecommunications sector which employs thousands of Zimbabweans at a time when the majority of the citizens are struggling to make ends meet.

    Given the existing litany of punitive measures enshrined under restrictive legislation such as the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA), Public Order and Security Act (POSA) and Broadcasting Services Act (BSA) among others, it is MISA-Zimbabwe's humble submission that to pass this Bill in its present form will be a great disservice by an august institution that is mandated to protect the citizens' constitutionally guaranteed rights and freedoms.

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