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MDC-T condemns mobile phone snooping regulations
03/10/2013 00:00:00
by Staff Reporter
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MDC-T has accused the Zanu PF government of “shrinking the rights of the Zimbabweans as provided for in the new Constitution” over new regulations on mobile phone snooping.

Regulations gazetted last week will permit security agencies to spy into individuals’ mobile phone records without having to go through a judge, as was previously the case.

Mobile phone companies must disclose subscriber data upon receiving a “written request signed by a law enforcement agent who is not below the rank of Assistant Commissioner of Police or a co-ordinate rank in any other law enforcement agency”.

“The written notice to be issued by the law enforcement agency pursuant to subsection (2) shall indicate the rank of the official of the law enforcement agent, and the purpose for which subscriber information is required,” section 9 (3) of Statutory Instrument 142 of 2013 on Postal and Telecommunications (Subscriber Registration) Regulations says.

Human rights lawyer Chris Mhike said “while Section 9 (4) of the Regulations forbids release ‘where such release of subscriber information would constitute a breach of the Constitution of the Republic of Zimbabwe (and) any other enactment . . .’ there are no clear guidelines as to the circumstances that would amount to constitutional breaches.”

The MDC-T joined the condemnation of the new regulations on Thursday, saying Zanu PF “wants to violate and deny the people of Zimbabwe their privacy.”

“The regulations will make it possible for the State agents to interfere with the communication rights of individual Zimbabweans. As such, they make Zimbabweans feel more insecure when communicating with each other as they will know that their communications may, without due process, be accessed by State agents,” the party said in a statement.

“These regulations therefore, violate the clear provisions of the Constitution to the effect that every Zimbabwean has a right not to have his or her communications interfered with.

“Further the regulations make it possible for State agents to actually monitor the content of the conversations between or among individuals. This is because the regulations do not prescribe the information that service providers must allow the State agents access to.

“Whereas State agents can obtain information on an individual from the service providers, the individual is not allowed access to the same information that the State agents would have obtained. These regulations are clearly designed to shrink the rights of the Zimbabweans as provided for in the new Constitution.


“They confirm that Zanu PF wants to convert Zimbabwe into a police State where individual rights are disrespected by the State.”

Rights lawyer Mhike said “for the release of information to be fair and reasonable in a constitutional democracy, it must be a precondition that a court order be secured.”

He added: “Since that precondition is missing, this latest legislation remains highly susceptible to abuse and misuse from authorities and those with access to the central subscriber database.

“The fact that in terms of Section 8 (13) of the Regulations ‘any person who is aggrieved by any unlawful use of his personal data shall have the right to seek legal redress’, does not cure the monumental flaws of the statutory instrument.

“The damage would already have been inflicted, possibly to irreparable levels. In its present form, Statutory Instrument 142 of 2013 is an inherently bad and dangerous law.”

The MDC-T’s Mkoba MP Amos Chibaya raised the issue in Parliament on Wednesday, challenging Deputy Information Minister Supa Mandiwanzira: “It has been reported in the media that your ministry intends to spy on citizens’ conversations on cell phones and also on internet. Is this not violating our own Constitution on the freedom of association?”

Mandiwanzira told the MP he was “somewhat ill-informed about the functions of the Ministry of Information, Media and Broadcasting Services”, adding: “We have no jurisdiction whatsoever on the issues that he has highlighted.”

All mobile phone networks have been ordered to register their users or face huge fines. Opponents of the snooping law say this is designed to make it easy to target individuals for monitoring.

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