CIO declares cyber-war
Taking transparency a bit too far - the
empty Reserve Bank stand at the recent Zimbabwe International Trade Fair mirrors
the nation’s empty coffers. Yet the government continues to splash out trillions
of Zimdollars on orders of fancy equipment from the east. This begs the question
Who is paying? And with what?
JOHANNESBURG – In a desperate bid to control
the flow of independent information in and out of the country, the increasingly
paranoid government of Robert Mugabe, has acquired sophisticated phone tapping,
radio jamming and internet monitoring equipment from China.
The equipment has been handed over to its dreaded
spy agency, the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) in an effort to block
the circulation of what it alleges is hostile propaganda from foreign based
radio stations and cyber-space.
The independent radio station based in
the UK, SWRadio Africa, has been experiencing jamming problems from two
transmitters near Gweru since before the elections.
Sources inside the
CIO told The Zimbabwean that the deal also involved the importation of upgraded
Chinese copies of Soviet-era air-borne radar systems for the Air Force of
Zimbabwe (AFZ) and a few ground-based radar stations.
"More equipment is
on the way, as government feels there is a need to counter hostile propaganda
coming through cyberspace. I cannot tell you about the budget but it will cost
trillions," said the source, who added that Chinese instructors and technicians
had trained CIO agents in operating and maintaining the equipment.
China, the government of President Hu Jintao, a hard-line Communist keen to
return the old order, has apparently intensified a crackdown on the use of
mobile phones and the internet for the circulation of anti-Communist propaganda
and the promotion of what it sees as Western-style freedom of the press and
human rights issues.
In a move that parallels Zimbabwe’s programme of
re-education in schools and youth camps, students in China were recently ordered
to take more Communist Theory classes in line with what the regime calls
"ideological education" according to the New York Times.
latest acquisitions allegedly include smaller, less visible high-tech bugging
equipment that is more difficult to detect. Minute omni-directional recorders
with enhanced long ranges at ultra-high frequencies have also been ordered and
can be useful for snooping on meeting sites from a safe distance.
source refused to explain how the new phone bugging equipment works but
confirmed that it included updated versions of pirated, Israeli-made equipment
sourced through Cuba.
In Zimbabwe, the CIO intends to use most of the
equipment to snoop on the internet, widen the taping of landlines and
cell-phones of opposition figures, State and private media journalists suspected
of working for foreign media, as well as opposition and public opinion leaders -
regardless of whether they are pro or anti-government.
"The purpose of
widening the net is to sense new threats to the present order, as most of the
known opposition, particularly the MDC and tribal-based hooligans like Paul
Siwela have been neutralized.
"We are now scanning the horizon for fresh
signs of political opposition and other threats to national security. At the
same, time we are countering and daily reducing the misleading effect of
anti-Zimbabwe propaganda from radio stations and internet-based organizations
outside the country. Government wants to win the cyber-war and the results have
been pleasing so far," said the source.
Part of the strategy in the
cyber-space war was to use CIO "case officers" and Zanu (PF) activists disguised
as students at universities all over the world. The source said one such case
officer, who formerly operated from the Matabeleland South office of CIO, had
been deployed to a university in southern Portugal in mid-2003 as part of
efforts to re-orient world student opinion on the crisis in
Efforts to contact State Security minister Didymus Mutasa for
comment were fruitless. A secretary at his office said the minister was away and
would not have the time to take the call even if he were