one,” Jena says. “Where are you? we have to meet immediately and talk face to face.”
Elsewhere, a journalist with an independent newspaper calls a top government official who is his reliable source of information and gets almost the same response. “I can’t talk anything with you over the phone, you have to arrange for us to meet if there is anything you want,” the government official says.
Most Zimbabweans now refuse to hold important deals or any confidential discussions over the phone, whether fixed land lines or mobile.
There is a serious sense of fear, uncertainty and trepidation. As usual, the lack of knowledge as well as the proven viciousness of the Zanu (PF) regime when dealing with its enemies, simply cause a craze.
All this has been triggered by the passing through parliament of yet another tool the regime intends to use against its opponents in civil society, the opposition as well as the media – the Interception of Communications Bill.
The bill, which seeks to empower government to spy on, interfere with, and even block communication by Zimbabweans through any form, may it be internet, telephone, letters and so forth, now awaits President Robert Mugabe’s signature.
The Mugabe regime has already started spending scarce foreign currency to purchase advanced gadgets and equipment for spying purposes mainly from its new allies in the Far East.
“It is another piece of legislation that is calculated at eroding our freedoms and human dignity, that is what dictatorships do,” said Raymond Majongwe, a political activist.
“We have a government that not only knows its time is over, but even no longer even trusts itself and hence is coming up with a sorts of evil pieces of legislation, which only dictatorships would need.”
Transport and Communications minister, Chris Mushowe, maintains that the bill merely seeks to provide the country with powers to reinforce its security.
“It is more about national security than all those other fears,” he said. “The bill seeks to ensure that we defend our country from the increasing terrorism through the use of information materials. It is very democratic and people will have to understand how it works.”
But does government have the resources and how effective could this spying project be at the end of the day? MDC chief whip, lawyer and member of the parliamentary portfolio committee on legal affairs, Innocent Gonese explained to CAJ News.
“It is going to be very effective and they have the resources,” he said. “The bill will empower four people, the Chief of Military Intelligence, Director of the Central Intelligence Organisation, Commissioner of Police and the Commissioner General of ZIMRA to decide on people that need to be monitored. Any of these people can approach the minister, Mushowe, who should approve for the interception of communications on any identified individual,” said Gonese.
He added that the State does not really lose much because it passes the cost of spying to service providers.
The regime doesn’t need much resources because service providers are mandated to carry out the interception, may it be the recording of conversations or messages. The regime can end up pressing charges against someone based on what they would have recorded you communicating.”
Government sources say that the beleaguered president will not stop at anything and will certainly endorse it.
The regime wants the draconian piece of legislation in place ahead of next year’s elections and the record of Zanu (PF) leaves nobody in doubt about how it will exploit the opportunities of spying on political opponents as well as the media to the maximum.
The spying piece of legislation joins the Public Order and Security Act (POSA) and Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA), which were promulgated after the emergence of the MDC in 2000, to pose a serious challenge to Zanu (PF)’s hegemony.
AIPPA has been used to silence the privately-owned media, and has to date seen five newspapers being closed down and more than 100 journalists have been arrested. POSA has effectively stifled the activities of political parties. – CAJ News
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