Government security agents in Zimbabwe have been legally empowered to snoop on people’s telephone and mobile records, text messages and internet communication beginning Tuesday without permission from the courts.
But insiders said the snooping started in earnest in June this year when government compelled even private communication providers to surrender phone records.
The government gazetted Statutory Instrument 142 of 2013 on Postal and Telecommunications (subscriber registration) Regulations 2013 on Friday compelling telecommunication companies like Econet Wireless, Tel-One and Telecel to have a data base of network users and to make those records available to government if needed.
The government justified the act as being in the interest of national security and research.
Government enacted the Interception of Communication Act in 2007 which required a magistrate’s approval for data to be released. But the new regulations now only require the signature of an assistant police commissioner.
Service providers declined to comment referring all questions to the government.
But when reached for comment, Technology Minister Webster Shamu, declined to comment saying he does not grant interviews to VOA Studio 7.
Human rights lawyer Dewa Mavhinga said the new regulations are unconstitutional as every Zimbabwean has a right to seek, receive and disseminate information without state interference.