Friday, March 17, 2006

Internet is Mugabe's Next Target

The Independent is reporting that Mugabe & Co. are bullrushing legislation that will allow them to spy on internet and telephony activity initiated within the country. From this article,
The proposed law, the Interception of Communications Bill, 2006, should be gazetted today and is set to be fast-tracked through parliament.

The Bill reverses a Supreme Court ruling in 2004 which declared unconstitutional Sections 98 and 103 of the Posts and Telecommunications (PTC) Act because they violated Section 20 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe...

...However, the Bill restores the provisions that were ruled unconstitutional. It seeks to empower the chief of defence intelligence, the director-general of the Central Intelligence Organisation, the Commissioner of Police and the Commissioner General of the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority to intercept telephonic messages passed through fixed lines, cellular phones and the Internet.

...It authorises the Minister of Transport and Communications to issue a warrant to state functionaries to order the interception of information if there are “reasonable grounds for the minister to think that an offence has been committed or that there is a threat to safety or national security of the country”

If passed into law, government will use it to set up a telecommunications agency called the Monitoring (and) Interception of Communications Centre from where spy units will operate facilities to pry into messages from both fixed and mobile phones. Sources yesterday said government had already ordered equipment to be installed at monitoring centres in Harare and Bulawayo.
This spells even tougher time for Zimbabwe's long suffering citizens. But I think it's going to hurt the country more economically than it will socially or democratically.

For starters, truth be told not very many people are using the web as a source for information in Zimbabwe. The simple reason is that the technology and infrastucture just hasn't become the mainstay of communication yet. I say it's going to hurt the economy because it will hurt the informal traders the most.

Informal traders are the web holding Zimbabwe's economy together. This new bill means that they have to employ a new kind of genious to get around the surveilance to complete web and phone based international transactions. One of the hottest informal markets is the trade for foreign currency which is responsible for the booming real estate and the illicit oil market which are no small contributors to the economy.

In the words of Jonathan Moyo, "The economy is ZANU-PF's worst opponent."

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