SMS spam at Zanu (PF) congress

cellphoneHARARE For a moment last week Zimbabweans were given a glimpse into the factionalism rocking President Robert Mugabes Zanu (PF) party as anonymous text messages (SMS) were sent to mobile phones claiming that the countrys security chiefs were unprepared to salute Vice President Joice Mujuru.

The SMS messages also claimed that Zanu (PF) provinces would ditch Mugabe at the partys congress that ended in Harare yesterday.

Sources within ZANU PF said that the SMS messages were suspected to be coming from the partys youth league and Joint Operations Command (JOC) which comprises the commanders of the army, air force, police, prison and intelligence services.

Someone told me that it was the works of the JOC and the youths. We will look into if after the congress because it is mischief, said a high ranking source speaking on condition that he was not named.

Mobile phone users began receiving the text messages beginning last Tuesday as pamphlets were also dropped at the Rainbow Towers, the venue of the congress, with similar messages urging Zanu (PF) followers to revolt against the party leadership.

The first text message sent out Tuesday and welcoming delegates to the congress claimed that the sender was a member of the Zanu (PF) youth league.

Reclaim the party

More messages were soon to follow informing delegates that the party had been hijacked from the people and they must use the floor to take it back, a reference to plots by disgruntled provincial delegates to nominate rival candidates to party choices for national chairman and vice president.

Another text message read: Mutasa says he will not allow rules to be broken for election to party chairman plans to challenge SK Moyo, ZPFC SMS.

In the run up to the congress, Manicaland provincial leaders had nominated party secretary for administration Didymus Mutasa for the post of chairman ahead of Zimbabwes Ambassador to South Africa Simon Khaya Moyo.

The other message also received was to the effect that the (Joice) Mujuru faction at the congress demanded a young and vibrant leadership for the party.

Work of the enemy

However Zanu (PF) spokesman Ephraim Masawi dismissed the SMS messages as the work of the partys enemies.

This is the work of our enemies. We will not be affected at all. There are people who want to create divisions within the party but they will not succeed, said Masawi.

The partys secretary for youth Absalom Sikhosana also denied that the messages were coming from Zanu (PF)s youth league.

It (message) is coming from the enemy. That is how the enemy operates. That is not our project. It is a project of the enemy intended to cause confusion and chaos during the congress. Our people must just ignore them. The youth league is looking forward to the congress to help in building the country, he said.

Commenting on the same matter, Zanu (PF) secretary for education Sikhanyiso Ndlovu dismissed the messages as a charade.

The so-called threat to dump President Mugabe is a hoax and it shows political inexactitude as Zanu (PF) is united under its leader, he said in a statement.

Internal disagreements, political dialogue and guided democracy were predicted to be (dividing) Zanu (PF) provinces, which was far from the truth. The predicted storm in the politburo turned out to be a small rain shower. The so-called predicted fireworks turned to be a match light, Ndlovu said.

It was not clear who was generating the messages but mobile phone operator Econet Wireless Zimbabwe last Friday issued a statement distancing itself from the text messages and revealed that they have demanded Swedens telecoms giant, Tele2 Comviq to stop sending political messages to Zimbabwe.

The statement revealed that Econet chief executive officer Douglas Mboweni has since written to his counterpart at Tele2 Comviq, demanding that he takes immediate steps to stop the sending of political spam messages to Zimbabwean networks.

Econet communications manager Rangarirai Mberi said their investigations had established that millions of unsolicited messages were being sent periodically to Zimbabweans through the Swedish firms network.

International law violated

According to Econet, the text messages are using an inactive Econet number (0915…).

Mboweni said owing to ongoing investigations, he was not willing to discuss the details, except to add: A lot of local and international laws have been violated.

You cannot go to a third party country and start sending unsolicited messages to subscribers in that country. It has nothing to do with one’s political views. It is simply illegal, period. You cannot do it to AT&T customers, and we at Econet do not accept that, from a point of principle.

He warned subscribers to familiarise themselves with the law before involving themselves in bulk SMS messaging to the general public.

Mboweni said Econet would cooperate fully with the authorities by providing any available information leading to the identification of those responsible.

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