MISA (Media Institute for Southern Africa--Zimbabwe) reports, in a press release today, what appears to be at least a partial victory for opposition parliamentarians and members of civil society with the announcement that the the GOZ is re-drafting the controversial "Interception of Communications Bill, 2006", which is designed to permit the GOZ to spy on telephone and e-mail messages.
The Chairman of the Parliamentary Legal Committee, Professor Welshman Ncube, who was among those who questioned the constitutionality of the proposed law, confirmed that the government had considered the committee’s concerns following a meeting held with the Minister of Transport and Communications, Christopher Mushowe and the Attorney-General Sobusa Gula-Ndebele. However, he appeared to caution against declaring victory just yet:
“The Bill has not been withdrawn per se. The government has redrafted the Bill to cover the portions that we raised concern with and have shown us the amendments. We are, however, yet to see the full version. I will only comment further when we see the full version."
MISA-Zimbabwe and its partners in the Media Alliance of Zimbabwe (MAZ), Zimbabwe National Editors Forum (Zinef), leading human rights organisations, the business community, have been pushing for the withdrawal of the Bill arguing that its provisions are vague and unconstitutional as they violate the right to freedom of expression, privacy and business confidentiality.
The proposed law, which does not provide for judicial and parliamentary oversight, among other contentious provisions, seeks to empower the chief of defence intelligence, the director-general of the Central Intelligence Organisation, the Commissioner of Police and the Commissioner General of the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority to intercept telephonic, e-mail and cellphone messages. The Bill seeks to create a monitoring centre whose function will be to facilitate authorised interception of communications.
The Bill also empowers state agencies to open mail passing through the post and through licensed courier service providers and makes it compulsory for internet service providers to install at their expense software and hardware to enable them to intercept and store information as directed by the state.