(Last Updated on August 15, 2013 by Editor)
Zimbabweans are demanding an explanation amid indications citizens’ electronic communications have been placed under surveillance by the country’s spy agency.
The remarks were in response to a report in a State weekly newspaper on Sunday suggesting Elizabeth Macheka, the wife of the outgoing Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai had an inappropriate relationship with her ex-husband.
The paper published several e-mails detailing exchanges earlier this year between Macheka and her ex Kennedy Ngirazi, father to her five-year-old daughter. The report suggested there has been monitoring of her telephone and e-mail activity.
The scandal has already sent shock waves in Zimbabwe amid fears spy agencies were routinely intercepting cellphone short message service, and hacking into computers in their search for scoops.
It is not immediately clear if legal-but-secret warrants were used to compel communications companies to turn over information about Macheka’s calls and e-mails for analysis. Macheka’s damning article inadvertently outlined the extent of Zimbabwe communications’ monitoring activity at home and abroad.
Following revelations about Macheka, attention has now turned towards the State media’s intrusion into privacy, with its judgment now under the spotlight.
Many Zimbabweans were surprised at the precarious position the outgoing PM and his wife have found themselves in. Some people are calling for the urgent reprimand of the power hungry State media.
MDC spokesman Douglas Mwonzora said the story was a “diversion” to deflect attention from the “stolen election”.
Lawyer Kudzayi Kadzere said the phone hacking into Macheka’s private communications was “totally unconstitutional.”
“No one can do that save under the Interception of Communications Act,” he said.
The September 2007 Interception of Communications Act, empowers the government to open private postal mail, eavesdrop on telephone conversations and intercept faxes and e-mails.
The legislation gives powers to Zimbabwe’s Central Intelligence Organisation, the commissioner-general of police and the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority to spy on citizens’ phones and e-mails and use the information gleaned through spying for its operations.
But the law only authorises the Transport and Communications minister to issue a warrant to State functionaries to order the interception of information if there are “reasonable grounds for the minister to think that there is a threat to the safety of the country”.
The phone hacking scandal rocking Zimbabwe extends well beyond the media industry and has prompted soul searching on what extent politicians’ private lives are off-bounds for surveillance.
“I want to see more accountability amongst the media. At the moment there’s not enough accountability, not enough transparency. And really I think the hacking scandal of Mrs Tsvangirai’s phone and e-mails, coming to light as it has, has shown obvious difficulties,” said university student Shame Moyo. daily news