Elizabeth SMS exposé: Snooping for political ends

THE publication of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s wife, Elizabeth’s private correspondence to an alleged lover last weekend further exposed President-elect Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF’s abuse of state security apparatus to target their opponents for political expediency, analysts have said.

Paidamoyo Muzulu

The publication of the electronic correspondence, the analysts said, shows the level of abuse of the security sector even in circumstances that do not threaten national security.

This latest incident reinforces the notion that Mugabe and his cabal have all along kept his perceived enemies under close watch, evoking the chilling memories contained in George Orwell’s futuristic novel 1984.

Orwell argued that the state was going to be “big brother” who watches everything and knows everything the citizens are doing.

Even Mugabe in one of his addresses said the state was watching everyone.

The latest incident is akin to the fugitive United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) whistleblower Edward Snowden’s revelation that the US was snooping into private citizens’ e-mails, Skype, GoogleTalk, Yahoo! Messenger and all mobile phone correspondence in its security programme — Prism.

However, the difference between Prism and the Zimbabwean-style is that private information frequently ends up being used by Mugabe and Zanu PF to settle personal and political scores.

Mugabe on the other hand relies on the Interception of Communication Act to bug into all electronic communication between any two persons.

In the past, the state has used personal correspondence between Finance minister Tendai Biti and a senior staffer in his office in a matter related to abuse of foreign travel allowances in the ministry.

In this instance, text messages between the two were published in state newspapers.

Another prominent case is that of Archbishop Pius Ncube — a trenchant critic of Mugabe — who was exposed in a compromising position with a woman. The tapes were later played on national television forcing Ncube to resign from his position in the church.

Political analyst Ricky Mukonza said the revelation of messages between Elizabeth and Kenny Ngirazi was unwarranted since this was not a national security issue.

“This is a private matter which has no national security significance. In fact, the story shows how the state is contravening individual rights to privacy,” Mukonza said.

Mukonza said electronic surveillance was, however, acceptable if it relates to national security.

“If surveillance is done to protect national security that is acceptable, however, if it goes beyond the boundaries to touch on personal details of no national or global significance then that would constitute a violation of any individual’s right to privacy,” Mukonza added.

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