MISA blasts State for snooping on citizen movements

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By Leopold Munhende

THE Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Zimbabwe has expressed worry over government’s increased surveillance on citizens following Justice Minister Kazembe Kazembe’s detailed narration of movements by three MDC youth leaders allegedly abducted by state security agents last month.

In a statement Monday, MISA highlights it is not looking at Kazembe’s statements in isolation and cites Army commander Lieutenant-General Edzai Chimonyo’s statements in March the military will be “snooping into private communications.”

“The recent press statement released by the Minister of Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage, Kazembe Kazembe, on the alleged abduction of three MDC Alliance Activists Joanna Mamombe, Cecilia Chimbiri and Netsai Marova raised alarm on government surveillance of citizens,” Misa said.

“In his statement, the Minister gave a detailed narration of the purported movements of the three abductees, which included their precise locations and times on the day in question.

“And recently, in March 2020, the Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) Commander Lieutenant-General Edzai Chimonyo, addressing senior military commissioned officers at the Zimbabwe Military Academy in Gweru, said the military would soon start snooping into private communications between private citizens to ‘guard against subversion’ as social media has become a threat to national security.”

In his post-cabinet briefing on the 21st of April 2020, said the media rights lobby, Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube indicated government used a sophisticated algorithm to select beneficiaries of its $180 Covid-19 pocket money.

Misa added, “A social media report also elaborated that the Finance Minister claimed that they looked at how much money is in your bank account, mobile wallet, and using your cell phone number, figured out where you really stay.

“What is alarming is what appears to be a combined operation of excessive use of personal information, by public and private actors, government, and mobile network operators. This raises several issues of concern around data protection, surveillance and the right to privacy.”

MISA proposed an amendment to the Interception of Communications Act (ICA) that grants the state rights to snoop into private communications in matters that involve state security.

Added the group: “MISA Zimbabwe takes note of the chain of events that have transpired in these last few months in Zimbabwe, which seem to point to increased attempts by the government to promote and entrench mass surveillance of citizens.

“The Executive’s access to private data of citizens, use and storage should be prescribed by law and through lawful procedures that are in line with international human rights frameworks.

“MISA Zimbabwe, therefore, reiterates that the Interception of Communications Act, enacted in 2007, needs to be reviewed and aligned with the 2013 Constitution. The Act infringes on the exercise of rights and is not in keeping with international human rights standards through various aspects.”