Biti a marked man

July 11, 2011 at 8:39 am Leave a comment

THENJIWE MABHENA

State security agents have intensified their onslaught against Finance
Minister and Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T) secretary general Tendai
Biti by making clandestine overtures to intercept his cellphone
communication.

The covert advances were disclosed by Zimbabwe cellphone operator Econet,
after Biti moved to block the police from accessing his cellphone call
register. Biti’s lawyers, Atherstone and Cook Leg wrote to Econet to protest
against the police’s conduct in prying into their client’s affairs.

Econet CEO Douglas Mboweni confirmed receiving a request from the police.
“We take note of the contents of your letter which came four days after our
receipt of the police request. Kindly be advised that Econet will act in
compliance with its operating licence and/or any lawful legislation
governing the release of such information.”

In their letter to Mboweni, Biti’s lawyers indicated that some members of
the ZRP had visited Econet demanding the call history of numbers which he
was using. The lawyers said the police’s request coincided with an article
published in the state-run Sunday Mail newspaper recently making serious
allegations against Biti. The newspaper published phone numbers which it
claimed belong to him. It also claimed Biti was engaged in a relationship
with an economist in his ministry, a charge which he has denied.

Mboweni’s response authenticates a report published in the Sunday Times last
week on plans by the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) to set up sex
traps for top MDC leaders as part of a systematic campaign to rescue
embattled President Robert Mugabe from defeat at the next elections.

After receiving unsatisfactory guarantees, Biti went to the Harare High
Court on Tuesday seeking to interdict Econet from disclosing any information
about his cellphone lines, particularly any call history or information
arising from the numbers that he uses to contact any person, without a valid
court order obtained in accordance with the provisions of the Interception
of Communications Act.

Biti said Econet had no right or obligation to disclose such information to
anyone.

He said the court application had been prompted by the fact that certain ZRP
members have sought to abuse their positions by approaching Econet and
demanding that it hands over information on his calls, under the pretext
that they were investigating criminal activities.

“I understand and believe that certain members of the police have
clandestinely approached the magistrate with a view to obtaining a search
warrant.

“It is my respectful submission that such conduct would be unlawful, as it
is against the provisions of the Interception of Communications Act,” Biti
said in his founding affidavit.

Biti said he feared Econet could be bullied into submission by the police to
disclose his information, although such conduct was unlawful.

“I fear that should the respondent (Econet) be bullied into submission, my
constitutional right to privacy would be unjustifiably interfered with and,
in addition, vital information pertaining to the organisations I am heading
will be unlawfully accessed,” he said.

Biti said he was privy to, and constantly disseminated, vital information
via cellphones to stakeholders.

If this information was accessed, this would jeopardise his party’s position
and may be used to the detriment of his ministry.

He said if Econet released all of his conversations, it would also prejudice
the investigation into the bombing of his home.

“I also suspect and believe that the people pestering the respondent for the
release of such information are pursuing a political agenda, whose motives
can only be sinister,” said Biti.

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