Redbricks – hi-tech listening post


WARD 12, PARIRENYATWA HOSPITAL, HARARE - My friend Mujubheki, he who was brought in here in a strait jacket because he could not make sense of what is going on in our count

ry, has been very quiet lately. But this week he broke his silence and told me he had been thinking very deeply about the latest assault on our freedoms by Mugabe’s government.

He said he was worried that the men in dark glasses from Redbricks Building will now be able to monitor our land lines and cell phones, as well as emails. Personally, I don’t know why Mujubheki is worried. He hasn’t got a phone. He hasn’t got a cell phone. He hasn’t got a computer. He can’t even read!

Anyway, not to upset him by pointing out these minor deficiencies, I told him that he was behind the times, as this has been going on all the time. Telephones in this country have been monitored for years. Ever since email began, the guys at Redbricks have been busy intercepting them. Since the Look East policy, of course, this has all been accelerated and enhanced by the supply of Chinese technology and experts.

I’m sure you all remember the Supreme Court ruling of 2004 when the entire bench struck down the proposed amendments to the Post and Telecommunications Act for violating the constitution of Zimbabwe.

Devised by that master of disinformation, former information minister Prof Moyo, the amendments would have made it ‘legal’ for the spy agency to read our mail, listen to our conversations and use whatever information they gleaned in a court of law. Thankfully those funny chaps in English wigs and ermine gowns (maiwee that must be hot in summer!) took a dim view of the professor’s draft and were brave enough to rule it unconstitutional. They actually ruled that section 20 of the constitution guaranteed all Zimbabweans freedom of expression and the right to receive and impart information without interference.

But the government, of course, was not satisfied with this ruling and has continued to ignore it completely. And sadly, nobody has been brave enough to point this out and force them to abide by the decision of the Judiciary. And just to make sure that nobody ever can, the government has now put before parliament a new bill which seeks to compel internet service providers (ISP) to do their dirty business for them. ISP’s must install hardware and software that will enable them to intercept and store all the information (emails etc) passing through them on behalf of the spy agency.

The bill specifies that monitoring must be real time. They want to hear you speaking now, now. Immediately. And government has insisted on paying them for this national service! But if they don’t do it – they can be fined and/or jailed for up to three years.

I could see Mukubheki becoming increasingly agitated as I tried to explain all this hi-tech stuff to him. In the end he shook his head sadly and remarked: “So I better tell my son not to worry about getting me a cell phone after all.”

I worry about him.

Post published in: Opinions

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