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Mere Political Tug-of-war

I HAVE been following the battle for control of Zimbabwe’s telecommunications portfolios with interest. For years, communications has been a tightly regulated and strictly controlled space.

Politically that has made a lot of sense –– adds a certain credibility to the “Big Brother is watching” threats that keep the population in check. So I was pleased and impressed when the Ministry of Information Communication Technology was created, and allocated to the MDC.

But, unsurprisingly, Nelson Chamisa had hardly taken office when the tussle over control over communications began. First, Webster Shamu, Minister of Media, Information and Publicity tried unsuccessfully to assert his control over telecommunications.

Then President Robert Mugabe announced that he was “redefining” things, taking the Department of Communications out of the Ministry of Information Communication Technology, and putting it in the Ministry of Transport, (Communication) and Infrastructure Development –– run by former Minister of National Security Nicholas Goche.

So, I could understand Chamisa being upset. According to the Zimbabwe Independent, he is threatening to resign unless his ministry is combined with Goche’s, and the two co-chair it. The article reports: “Chamisa is also said to be prepared to stay only if the administration of the Interception of Telecommunications Act was removed from his ministry, leaving the original portfolio as it was.”

Wait a minute. Where is the principle here? Where is the commitment to democratic values that the MDC purportedly stands for? If Chamisa was going to resign unless the Interception of Communications Act was repealed, I would be impressed. But he is happy for ICA to continue, so long as he’s not responsible for it?
Reading the Independent this weekend, I got the sense that Chamisa was not frustrated that the liberalisation of Zimbabwe’s telecommunications sector was being thwarted.

He did not seem outraged that the potential to open up access to information to a range of Zimbabweans might not be realised.

They did not quote him as expressing concern that Zanu PF control over telecoms would mean continued surveillance of activists’ communications. Rather, he just does not want to feel demoted –– and he does not want to lose his ministerial position.

Amanda Atwood,

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