Government Approves Massive Surveillance For Bulawayo

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By Leopold Munhende

CABINET has approved Bulawayo City Council (BCC)’s planned installation of a vehicle surveillance system.

The system will be installed by the city’s implementing partner, Tendy Three which won the contract to install the surveillance equipment on all streets in the city centre.

The approval was announced by Information Minister Monica Mutsvangwa at this week’s post cabinet media briefing.

Her announcement comes four months after the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) raised questions over government’s acquisition, deployment and use of surveillance tools reported some three years ago to have been supplied by China.

China and fellow Asian giant Japan are reported to have pledged facial recognition software among a host of controversial surveillance technologies.

“The Bulawayo Vehicle Parking Management System Project is a 30:70 Public- Private Partnership between the Bulawayo City Council and Tendy Three,” said Mutsvangwa.

“The two main objectives of the project are revenue generation (US$1.1 million to US$1.8 million per year) and employment creation. The project involves the installation and maintenance of a fully integrated parking management system which will allow users to pay parking fees using their mobile phones and other payment methods. Surveillance equipment will also be installed on all streets in order to aid traffic management in the city,” she said.

“The introduction of the system will increase revenue generation to the Bulawayo City Council, thereby improving service delivery.”

Real-time vehicle detection and recording is listed as one benefit of the surveillance that has been approved for the six year partnership.

Tendy Three is set to pour in US$2,2 million into the project, with equipment worth US$700 000 having already been acquired.

MISA Zimbabwe chairperson Golden Maunganidze, who wrote the latter to parliament in March this year, said collection of people’s data through such surveillance without laws that govern collection, access, distribution and storage was a danger.

Maunganidze said only after formulation of policies that determine when, how and why an individual can have their information collected should this be welcome.

“Our issue is on coming up with policies, there is need for us to have policies that govern how data can be collected, accessed, distributed and kept,” said Maunganidze.

“There is a danger if they start capturing information without laid down policies on who collects, keeps and stores this, it could lead to abuse, without any remedy for victims. As MISA we maintain that people’s information should be protected, no one should collect it as and when they please without consent. At least there should be a clear policy on how, when and why my information will be collected,” he said.

“It is a problem caused by new technologies which are coming up, against a lack of laws to govern their use.”

President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s so-called new dispensation has been accused of using Chinese technologies to snoop into lives of dissenting individuals such as opposition politicians, human rights activists and journalists.