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Constitutional data open to manipulation

DATA collected during consultation meetings of the constitution-making process is not adequately secured and is currently being stored at the Constitution Parliamentary Select Committee (Copac) offices, exposing it to manipulation.

According to documents to hand, movement and security of the data, which includes signed hard copies of records of all outreach meetings held countrywide, audio records of the meetings, audio-visual records, digital cameras, compact video cameras and laptops used by rapporteurs in the field, is a complete mess.

A report to the Copac human resources sub-committee by former Copac national coordinator Peter Kunjeku, who received his dismissal letter on Tuesday evening, showed that there was chaos surrounding the movement and storage of the data collected during the outreach meetings.

 

According to the report dated October 29, no concrete plans had been put in place to ensure the safe storage of the documents.

“I was concerned about security of data on several accounts. From what I saw in terms of hand-over, most (if not all) was being done in the open-air in the car park behind the main office building,” reads Kunjeku’s report. “Most data and records were not sealed, a case in point being DVDs from Mashonaland West which arrived in a shopping carrier bag, unsorted and unlabelled.”

The report went on to say: “Some of the data was handed over accompanied by insufficient personnel as per requirement… when as staff we recommended Skynet be appointed courier, we were turned down, and we were told that data from provinces would be accompanied by representatives of the political parties in addition to the provincial coordinators.”

Preliminary indications had been that Copac’s bankers, MBCA, would take safe custody of the documents. However, the bank reportedly cited space constraints.

In a memorandum dated October 20 to Copac co-chairpersons informing them of his plans to move the data and store it at the National Archives of Zimbabwe in the interim while the committee’s back offices were being converted into a safe storage facility, Kunjeku said he approached two other banks, CBZ and Standard Chartered Bank, the UNDP and parliament to take custody of the data.

CBZ bank had indicated that it could provide safe storage, but later said due to their merger with Beverly Building Society and the subsequent restructuring, they needed time to clear out and find space.

Standard Chartered Bank and UNDP turned their request down without giving specific reasons, while parliament said it had space constraints. The internal memo to the co-chairs was written the day before Kunjeku was suspended by the select committee for tampering with the data by moving it to the National Archives of Zimbabwe.

National Archives was chosen because it was a government department whose function was purely storage of documents and there was no charge as it was their statutory obligation to secure documents of national importance.

In a letter to the director of the national archives, Mr I Murambiwa, Kunjeku said only the co-chairpersons would have authority to sign for release of the documents and equipment in the event that the documents and equipment would be required for uploading.

The data was taken to the National Archives in the morning of October 21 and returned to Copac offices later that afternoon after the select committee reversed that decision.

Kunjeku’s lawyers have since written to Copac co-chairpersons challenging the reasons for their client’s dismissal.

 

Faith Zaba

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