Right To Privacy Increasingly Under Threat in Zimbabwe: MISA Zimbabwe

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The Media Institute of Southern Africa, (MISA Zimbabwe) has expressed worry over infringement on the right to privacy by President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration.

This comes after Mnangagwa made threats Monday before chairpersons of Zanu PF provincial women, youths, and war veterans at the party headquarters in Harare.

He said that his government had managed to track the locations of certain individuals and their communication details.

“You see the fake abduction staged by this other party (MDC Alliance), false abductions, but because of ICT, we are now able to trace where they walked, slept and who they talked to, we have all that now,” Mnangagwa boasted

Undeniable CCTV footage was recently released by his government stalking the whereabouts of MDC Alliance MP Joana Mamombe who is facing charges of allegations of faking abduction.

She was arrested and charged despite being taken from police cells by suspected State Security agents and released after four days with massive injuries on their bodies.

But Misa Zimbabwe said, the right to privacy is provided for under Section 57 of the Constitution and it also provides that every person has the right to privacy, which includes the right not to have:

“their home, premises or property entered without their permission, their person, home, premises or property searched their possessions seized the privacy of their communication infringed; or their health condition disclosed. The right to privacy is very critical because it is an enabling right that allows for the exercise of media freedom and freedom of expression. It is in that context that the confidentiality of media sources is key and equally protected by the Constitution.

“Similarly, the protection of whistleblowers is also very important for the purposes of fostering transparency and accountability. Unjustified infringements to the right to privacy results in self-censorship as citizens will be afraid to communicate freely, fearing that their communications will be availed to other third parties.

“It should also be noted that Section 86 of the Constitution states that fundamental rights and freedoms may be limited only in terms of a law of general application, and to the extent that the limitation is fair, reasonable, necessary and justifiable in a democratic society based on openness, justice, human dignity, and freedom,” reads the Constitution of Zimbabwe.

MISA Zimbabwe added that it was concerned by” what seems to be targeted surveillance at critics of the government and dissenting voices.”

“MISA Zimbabwe, therefore, reiterates its earlier position that the Interception of Communications Act 2007 which regulates the interception of communications, including telephonic communications, postal telecommunications as well as Internet-based communications in Zimbabwe, should be aligned to the Constitution.

“It legitimizes surveillance and yet does not have any oversight mechanisms that prevent over-surveillance and extra-judicial surveillance.

“If the State engages in any form of surveillance, such surveillance should be lawful and based on a warrant authorized by a court of law through the judicial officers and for a specific and legitimate purpose.

“Indiscriminate and also targeted surveillance are both therefore disproportionate and uncalled for and amount to a grave violation of the right to privacy.

“The trend of surveillance in Zimbabwe, and in view of such sentiments by government officials, are worrisome particularly in light of the fact that the country currently does not have a data protection framework.

“This comes at a time when concerns around surveillance have also been noted in terms of the Cybersecurity and Data Protection Bill. The Bill proposes to impose three roles under the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ), which is that it remains as the telecommunications regulator and also becomes the Cybersecurity Centre and Data Protection Authority,” MISA Zimbabwe added.



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