2023 ELECTIONS: Turmoil as President ED Mnangagwa sends text messages to voters


THE Media Institute of Southern Africa (Misa) has written to the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz) demanding answers on how third parties were accessing citizens’ personal data, including phone numbers.

This comes after mobile phone subscribers purporting to be from President Emmerson Mnangagwa have been sending unsolicited text messages to prospective voters in different constituencies soliciting for votes ahead of this year’s crunch polls.

In a letter dated April 11, Misa Zimbabwe chapter director Tabani Moyo said themessages were based on constituency segmentations as per the voters roll.

“Over the past few weeks, mobile phone users have reported receiving unsolicited political messages that are personalised and highly targeted through local and constituency-based segmentation. The messages’ personalisation and targeted nature are closely related to the information in the voters roll,” Moyo said.

“There is every reason to believe that the unsolicited texts violate the Cyber and Data Protection Act which governs the use of personal biometric data. The Act states that the use of personal biometric data in this way is prohibited unless the data subject gives consent in writing.”

Moyo said Potraz as the regulatory authority of the telecommunications industry, has oversight on the way personal data is used.

“In that regard, Misa Zimbabwe seeks to know how third parties have access to subscriber numbers and are sending unsolicited messages in possible breach of the law,” he said.

Moyo said mobile telecommunication operators and the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) have denied leaking citizens’ personal information to third parties, particularly Zanu PF.

“Mobile network operators and the electoral management body, Zec, have distanced themselves from sharing personal data with third parties. This has raised more questions than answers on this issue which is central to our constitutionally provided liberties,” the letter read.

“We hope that your mandate as spelt out through sections 6, 9 and 13 of the Act, will help in clarifying the matter at hand and that the people of Zimbabwe’s right to privacy will remain protected, especially as we are now in the election season which is generally characterized by high level contest.”

Potraz director-general Gift Machengete could not be reached for comment yesterday.

— NewsDay

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