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Zimbabwe Govt Starts Spying On Cellphones‏


Published: October 1, 2013


National_in-the-news-NATIONAL-Local_stripGOVERNMENT has, with effect from today, permitted its security agencies to spy into people’s telephone call records, text messages and Internet communication.


This has been done through the enactment of Statutory Instrument 142 of 2013 on Postal and Telecommunications (Subscriber Registration) Regulations, 2013, which was gazetted last Friday.

Previously, government could only have access to people’s phone records when it was absolutely necessary, usually when following up criminal or other serious offences. In such cases, permission had to be sought through the court which would grant court orders for such interception after satisfying itself there were justifiable reasons to do so.

Legal experts yesterday said the newly-gazetted laws would be, in fact, illegal according to the Constitution of Zimbabwe. The experts said the gazetted new law was not in harmony with Section
57 of the Constitution as it infringes on people’s several rights including the right to privacy of communication.

According to the Statutory Instrument, telecommunication companies are now required to set up a central subscriber data base for all users from which information about subscribers would be released to law enforcement agents on demand.

Such information could also be released for educational and research purposes.

The law also compels companies to 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 the Statutory Instrument reads.

Telecommunications companies will no longer be allowed to activate any SIM card that is not fully registered, the law says. Providing false information upon registering a SIM card, such as regarding one’s residential address, is now an offence.

According to the new law, the creation of the database shall “assist law enforcement agencies or safeguarding national security”, “assists with the provision of mobile-based emergency warning system” and “authorise research in the sector”, among other reasons.

With only the signature of an Assistant Commissioner or higher rank now required, legal experts said the system could be grossly abused. There are no mechanisms within the law to protect the ordinary person against abuse by those authorised to snoop.

Experts said the word “purpose” was too wide, general and without justification to an adjudication board that could assess the validity of the reasons such information may be required.

They said a more strict way like the use of the judiciary as was the case in the past was the only way subscribers could be protected.

“It means the decision to release information is now between the police and the service provider. There is no adjudicating body playing a judicial function. There should be a quasi-judicial body to play the role of guaranteeing the rights of the people. Without an adjudicating authority, the subscribers will be exposed,” said a lawyer who preferred to remain anonymous.

“The new law does not specify under what circumstances it should be legal to divulge such information. The motive is good to combat crime, but my fear, which will also be everyone else’s, is that the law will not be used only to meet such a purpose.”

According to the Interception of Communication Act, Chapter 11:20, it used to be cumbersome to get a warrant to access subscriber call records, while interception would need the approval of the minister administering the Postal and Telecommunications Act, the Police Commissioner-General and the Director-General of Intelligence.

A court magistrate would decide on whether the police could be given a warrant to access call records.

“The gazette is not constitutional. It is not justiciable. For example, how do you use subscriber information for research? Will this be by the consent of the subscribers? We will end up having a lot of cases where law enforcement agents will be paid to track unfaithful spouses,” said another lawyer.

Human rights lawyer Chris Mhike said government should strike a balance between subscriber needs and its need to combat crime and terrorism.

He said the greatest weakness was the new law’s failure to allow information to be subjected to judicial scrutiny, which is the most competent forum for determining compliance with any law.

“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,” 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. 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 data base.”

He added: “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.”

Another human rights lawyer Alec Muchadehama said he would have preferred a situation where the courts had the discretion on whether access to call records can be allowed.

“Warrant of search can be abused by the police,” Muchadehama said.
Recently, there was an uproar in the United States after leaks by intelligence operator Edward Snowden showed that the government was snooping on virtually every citizen. In South Africa, a similar law had to be withdrawn after a public outcry.

WPSN comments

39 Comments on "Zimbabwe Govt Starts Spying On Cellphones‏"

  1. Bla Miki on Tue, 1st Oct 2013 5:37 pm 

    This is nothing new. In SA a SIM card costs less than one rand but you cant use it before registering it, they actually call it RICA. To do that you need to have a proof of residence plus ID particulars. Many frauds are being committed over the 4n before throwing away the sim card. Its good for us, a call can be traced to the caller through info including id number of the user. Its the American government which is closing down!

  2. The Zimbabwean on Tue, 1st Oct 2013 5:44 pm 

    Atotanga Jona uya nhayi mwari

  3. Obama Bin Laden on Tue, 1st Oct 2013 6:47 pm 

    Bla Miki that is different from what they are planning to do… my brother this is gross infreingement of human rights
    potrayed here. how can, in any
    sense, one use my personal
    information or part of my
    communication to research on
    something without my consent?
    what it does mean is there will be
    no such thing as intellectual
    property as to my secret research
    communicated to my partner. It
    will be vulnerable to abuse by
    government and/or any other
    interested party within the security.
    how do i protect my own research
    if someone can view it willy nilly?
    communication is part of life. i
    must be able decide to tell who i
    want to tell what. PLEASE!!

  4. **** gang on Tue, 1st Oct 2013 7:15 pm 

    Is tightening security going to improve our economy in any way nxaaa.Busy infringing our privacy ,deliver what you promised barbarics!

  5. Samir R Mtamba on Tue, 1st Oct 2013 7:16 pm 

    I think goverment is getting paranoid. Are we citizens or subjects. Wh jump at shadows? Incredible that educated people would stoop so low.

  6. **** gang on Tue, 1st Oct 2013 7:16 pm 

    Is tightening security going to improve our economy in any way nxaaa.Busy infringing our privacy ,deliver what you promised predators!

  7. george bachinche on Tue, 1st Oct 2013 7:20 pm 

    Why should one worry if there is nothing sinister about their communication. If I told my mistress how much I love her or how she was good the night before, why should that bother the government. Its those who are intent on crime who have cause to worry

  8. Kuda on Tue, 1st Oct 2013 7:37 pm 

    Thats zimbabwe politicians. Spying on people’s affairs. They think zimbaz ar so low as t try t fight th new gvt fo th stolen election. We ar much civilised. Thats what they fear. Shame on them. Mwari voga vachadealer navo.

  9. Anti zanu six mabone on Tue, 1st Oct 2013 9:25 pm 

    Vatanga vanhu ve Zanu kude kuuraye vanhu.chaunenge uchida kunzwa panhaurwa yevanhu chii.

  10. jephias on Tue, 1st Oct 2013 9:35 pm 

    don’t worry guys we all know who will be targeted and by who in this spying: its certainly not you and me- we are nothing.

  11. Foxxyman on Tue, 1st Oct 2013 10:18 pm 

    Kunyangwe vakaita izvozvo ini ndinongotuka chete,******** wemunhu wese wezanu,mbavha,mhondi dzevanhu.

  12. Enos Chikukwa on Tue, 1st Oct 2013 11:23 pm 

    Waste of time and resources.

  13. Blanco on Tue, 1st Oct 2013 11:56 pm 

    We are now looking west that is what is done by the US govt.

  14. conelious moyo on Wed, 2nd Oct 2013 1:11 am 

    I just wish it involved more than th police,say th high court them bureaucratic erratisism wld hv made it a bit difficult. Now there political appointees without any restraint. . , ¤§#?

  15. Spenser Mutabaruka on Wed, 2nd Oct 2013 3:45 am 

    Ok but is this a priority? Can we really say at this point in time we need that? Whos security is at risk? Whos the threat?
    I think the challenge we have at the moment is to tackle corruption and revive the economy. If all these energies are directed at that with our resources and our small population we can survive despite these so called sanctions.
    I think the most important thing to do now is to say Ok guys whoever steals today will go to jail than kupedzera uta kushiri nhoro dziripo.

  16. Muroyi ndishe on Wed, 2nd Oct 2013 4:37 am 

    This too much how can survive without privacy?.there’s nothing to do with criminals but its political strategies

  17. mwanawemundau on Wed, 2nd Oct 2013 5:09 am 

    we can still beat beat them in one way or another.senge ini zvangu lodger,ndobva gweru muharare zovhi kugara vanondiwanepi. nangananga nesu 1 million jobs dzavaitaura dzambobuda here?magetsi arikudzimwa ma industry kuswera akavharwa havazvioni ***** zanu pf

  18. Mutambudzwi Mafirakurev on Wed, 2nd Oct 2013 5:16 am 

    Dogs may bark but the elephant may still to go

  19. chasura on Wed, 2nd Oct 2013 5:42 am 

    Tangai ma phone calls a Masimirembwa uyo wokuba 6milion ne dzana Obert Mpofu. Muchaona kuti munhu wese uchazokuombererai maoko. Even neni Chasura ndinobva ndavhura muromo wesusu

  20. aliyu on Wed, 2nd Oct 2013 6:30 am 

    Hazvinetsi tongodzokera kutsamba.

  21. mavhu matete on Wed, 2nd Oct 2013 7:19 am 

    Look at what happened in Kenya gvt is beig blamed bse it did not take correct measures most terrorist are caught over the fone or email its important guys.When robber take your car that’s when you realize tracking is important

  22. Kenyan Bandit on Wed, 2nd Oct 2013 8:13 am 

    Does this bring ZESA to our houses? Wasting scarce resources

  23. maita on Wed, 2nd Oct 2013 8:47 am 

    Chero vakaunzwa uchishauda zanupf unenege watotauraka zvine basa ndokuti vazive kuti havadiwi vakaba period. Anyway they are pros and cons. In a sane society whcih we are not it would be good to trace criminal activity, but our insane society in Zimbabwe is to check who is anti-zanupf. Our laws are good but are abused by zanupf against its perceived enemies. If they applied to everybody it would be good. Steall from your company and go to your friend policeman and the victim is in trouble, go to ZFTU and the victim is in trouble but you are a thief using zanupf as a shield and zanupf has allowed that to happen that is why anything bad is associated with zanupf.

  24. morgan is more on Wed, 2nd Oct 2013 8:57 am 

    Zvakaoma kuda kutirambidza kutaura chete 2third majority yekupasisa zvakaora zesa;basa;mvura;chikafu;mishonga etc zvinobatsira vanhu hakuna asi makuda kuronda zvirikutaurwa pamafoni. ndanyara zvikuru chete ndozvinoita old age zanu pf

  25. ksuksu on Wed, 2nd Oct 2013 9:14 am 

    Registering sim cards is not a bad idea it actually helps to trace criminals. The bad idea here is snooping. People should be free to discuss what ever they want to discuss with their friends and relatives without anyone listerning in.

  26. maita on Wed, 2nd Oct 2013 9:14 am 

    If you look at all laws passed by zanupf parliament there is none for the people its all anti-people. Which law looks at people? So what do you expect. They know they don’t have the mandate of the people.

  27. Mugabe on Wed, 2nd Oct 2013 10:52 am 

    Taura hako…laws passed by an illegal government

  28. tobias on Wed, 2nd Oct 2013 11:23 am 

    nzara yabaya vanhu imi busy nema foni evanhu. Ndozvamaka vhoterwa here. Bread and butter tsvee nangananga nezvisingatipe sadza.

  29. Mr Matombo on Wed, 2nd Oct 2013 11:26 am 

    Bla Miki tirimo Joza mawataura , zveRica izvozvo zviriko asi right now ana Mtn, cell c, voda vakutopa vanhu akaregistwa kudara for free futi, the problem is thy just wana to control people, they want strip people of the only way they were left with to express their freedom right ,that is thru internet. Baba Jukwa has done a lot of damage to Zanu pf n a lot of people are using fake account to whistle blow corruption , hatisi vana vadiki. Manje tichamwaya iwaya mamtn paHarare po airtym hobho tione kuti muchatracer sei, tsve kuvaka nyika ,sona sona nevanhu.

  30. Bla Miki on Wed, 2nd Oct 2013 11:29 am 

    Those that wants to argue with me come to my house 74 Guydon Drive , Borrowdale, harare just after the police station and argue with me in person.

  31. Mamama on Wed, 2nd Oct 2013 11:36 am 

    Rwatotanga Jonathan musoro bhangu moyo. Tries his best to make people’s lives difficult. Zvatova zve Nazi Germany ka izvi?

  32. Chando Kupisa on Wed, 2nd Oct 2013 1:35 pm 

    Bla Miki, now that u have put your res details, put also your 4n number

  33. kaseke on Wed, 2nd Oct 2013 3:01 pm 

    ndiyaniwo nhai angatiurayirewo iko kemanzeve aka kajonah,,,katotanga kutoda kuonesa vanhu moto kakaita sei chokwadi???kamusoro bhangu shuwa.

  34. Zanu pf u are foolish Ilegal gvmnt on Wed, 2nd Oct 2013 3:36 pm 

    Kna zvikaita sei hamuchadiwa we are sik n tired of your foolishness you OLD Govenment pliz step down Mugabe your strategy is silly kuda kuona zvatinocommenter pababa Jukwa nekuvapa kwatinoita information ***** dzevanhu you rigged elections hope to change but till now there is no change hw dare are you Mwari vari kuona imbwa imi tichaona kwamunosvika nehumbavha hwenyu

  35. sekuru gora on Wed, 2nd Oct 2013 3:36 pm 

    what has jonah done to deserve all this unwarranted bull****. Just for the ignoramuses, mobile phone operators dont fall under jona’s ministry but shamu’s.

  36. imbwa imbwa Zanu pf ndiyo imbwa Nonsence on Wed, 2nd Oct 2013 3:40 pm 

    Hapana kuti Govenment no chingotii Zanu pf irikuda izvi kuitira kuti ikwanise kuuraya vanhu chete pliz be specified juss say Zanu pf is doing this to track peoples who oppose them n kill them hapana asingazvizive izvo

  37. Ngezi on Wed, 2nd Oct 2013 4:13 pm 

    Post Office is back in business. Iwo maStamp imariiko?

  38. HumanRights Fighter on Wed, 2nd Oct 2013 8:38 pm 

    Vanhu vaye vatanga zvakare. Hatichisina mufaro munyika yedu. That innocent sheep has turned into a wolf. Cries cries all over Zim.

  39. Okulempondo akufihlwa emgodleni on Thu, 3rd Oct 2013 12:03 am 

    iqalile inkathazo

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