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Telecoms body defends ‘spying’ Bill

Eric Chiriga

THE Government Telecommunications Authority (GTA) has discounted claims that the Interception of Communications Bill was repressive and would negatively imp

act on the sluggish telecommunications industry if passed into law.

“The intention of the government is to allow law-enforcers to track criminals and deal with subversive material,” said Charles Hwekwete, who represented GTA at the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (Potraz)’s Internet and Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) consultative workshop held in the capital last week.

The GTA provides telecommunications services to the government and its various organs.

“The Bill is necessary for security reasons. There are a lot of security concerns and the Bill will allow the government to address those concerns,” Hwekwete said.

He said Zimbabwe will not be the only country to have such a law.

“Besides, manufacturers of modern telecoms equipment are manufacturing in a way to allow lawful interception,” Hwekwete said.

According to the Bill, government would establish a communication centre to intercept and monitor certain communications in the course of their transmission, through a telecommunication, postal or related service system.

The Transport and Communications minister would also be granted authority to issue an interception warrant to state agents, “where there are reasonable grounds for the minister to believe, among other things, that a serious offence has been, is being or will probably be committed or that there is a threat to safety or national security”.

Telecommunication service providers would also be compelled to install devices to enable interception of phone conversations, faxes and emails.

The telecommunications industry currently has a single state-owned fixed-line operator, Tel*One and three mobile network operators namely Econet, Telecel and Net*One which is owned by the government.

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