Ministers fight for control of spy law

HARARE – The management of the Interception of Communications law is at the centre of the fight between the two Zimbabwean ministers of Information Communications Technology Nelson Chamisa and the Media and Information Publicity Webster Shamu.\r\n

A senior MDC official told RadioVOP that the minister of Information Communication Technology now had too much power in the eyes of Zanu PF as envisaged in the interception of communications law.

The act allows the Director General of the Central Intelligency Office, the Commissioner of the Zimbabwe Republic Police and the Commissioner-General of the Zimbabwe Revenue authority to submit requests for phone taps and other forms of communications interception to the Transport and Communications minister.

“This power now solely rests on Chamisa as the minister of Information Communication Technology and is the only official authorised to issue an interception warrant,” said the MDC official.

The minister, according to the act, can issue an interception warrant if he thinks a “serious offence has been or is being or will probably be committed” or if there is a “threat to national security”.

The warrant issued by the minister will be valid for three months, but he will be able to renew it as often as he likes if he thinks there is “good reason.” And he is not subject to control by any court. It is also alarming that the bill says that an interception request can be made orally in “the case of emergency or the existence of exceptional circumstances.”

Shortly after Chamisa held a meeting with officials from mobile phone provider NetOne, fixed line operator TelOne and the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe, about the high tariff charges affecting consumers, Shamu proceeded to have another meeting with the same group.

Chamisa said it was the duty of the Prime Minister to supervise and outline the boundaries of all the ministries that were established in the inclusive government while Shamu was not immediately available for comment.

Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai also told journalists at a press briefing in Harare that as the head of government he had the mandate to supervise and outline the boundaries for all ministries.

Tsvangirai said Chamisa’s ministry primarily oversees the posts and telecommunications sector, while Shamu runs the publicity arm of government, including the public broadcaster ZBC and all the state owned newspapers.

The Interception of Communications law was established in 2007 to provide for the lawful interception and monitoring of certain communications in the course of their transmission through a telecommunication, postal or any other related service or system in Zimbabwe.

It was meant to provide for the establishment of a monitoring centre, which is yet to be established.