BY MOSES MATENGA
THE Media Institute of Southern Africa (Misa) Zimbabwe chapter has implored Parliament to probe the acquisition and deployment of surveillance tools in the country in order to ensure that citizens’ rights to privacy are respected.
In a statement, Misa Zimbabwe national chairman Golden Maunganidze yesterday said there were reports that government was in the process of acquiring and deploying surveillance tools to snoop into citizens’ emails and phone calls.
A recent report titled Running Circles by the University of Toronto said Zimbabwe was one of the seven countries in Africa — including Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea, Morocco, Botswana, Kenya and Zambia — using tools developed by the Israeli telecoms company, Circles.
The tools, the report said, intercept data from 3G networks, allowing the infiltrator to read messages, emails, and listen to phone calls in real time.
In a letter dated March 9, 2021, addressed to Speaker of the National Assembly, Jacob Mudenda, Maunganidze said the absence of adequate and clear data privacy legislation and mechanisms was cause for concern.
“We, therefore, reiterate that through your good office, you kindly facilitate the following actions: That Parliament probes the acquisition, deployment and use of surveillance tools in Zimbabwe through summoning the relevant authorities before the august House.
“Circles is also reported to be affiliated with NSO Group, which develops the often-abused Pegasus spyware. Circles, whose products work without hacking the phone itself, says it sells only to nation-States.
“The lack of transparency and information around these deals is against the spirit of good governance and basic principles governing public administration as enshrined in sections 9(1) and 194(1)(f) and (h) of the Constitution.
“Misa Zimbabwe, thus, urges Parliament to exercise its oversight function by examining how the acquisition and use of unspecified surveillance equipment will influence or curb the lawful enjoyment of the fundamental rights to privacy and free expression.”
Maunganidze said with the increase in the uptake of ICTs, the need to promote cyber security had grown, but it should not come with infringement of people’s rights.
“Further, Misa Zimbabwe also notes with concern the continued operation of the Interception of Communications Act, together with its provisions that infringe on the right to privacy.
“Misa Zimbabwe, therefore, calls on Parliament to also institute discussions relating to the alignment of the Interception of Communications Act with the Constitution.”
In 2018, Misa raised the same issue following reports of undefined facial recognition equipment that was acquired from China, and cyber security equipment that Japan had pledged to Zimbabwe.
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