HomeOpinion & AnalysisColumnistsService providers can have their line on August 31.

Service providers can have their line on August 31.


The last week in the country has been as speculative as ever.

To begin with no one knows just how much of the 72 million dollars that was acquired after the still controversial auctioning of the Chiadzwa diamonds will go to needy socio-economic development products.

Neither does anyone really know what President Zuma’s report to SADC on the Zimbabwean GPA will contain.

Perhaps until such a time the knowledge becomes a little bit of history and once again, in the hands of the political principals.

But I do know one thing for certain, which is that the mobile telephone companies in Zimbabwe are trying to seduce us into some sort of super surveillance state.

And this in aid of the infamous Interception of Communications Act as well as the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ).

Not to mention the still dreaded Central Intelligence Organisation.

It baffles the mind to attempt to understand why Econet Wireless, Netone and Telecel are literally falling over their feet to make their subscribers give them details that they either should have or have never offered rewards for.

What is however evident is that there are issues of potential loss of operating licenses for the three service providers, particularly for the ones that are not state owned.

It is now public knowledge that the call to have every subscriber’s name, address and national identity number in some database came initially from POTRAZ.

Amongst some of the reasons cited for this draconian call has been the issue of security of mobile phone lines against theft.

This would be well and good had we been informed how many such thefts have occurred in the thirteen or so odd years we have had mobile phone technology in Zimbabwe.

The probable reason lies elsewhere.

The mobile phone companies are evidently functioning primarily out of fear of losing their operating licenses from government.

What they have not done is query whether getting all of these subscribers onto some database that they will inevitably handover to POTRAZ is democratic in form, intent or end product.

Instead, they have deemed it fit that they ignore such a query and proceed to literally blackmail Zimbabweans into accepting a scheme they were never consulted on.

This can only leave one to conclude that apart from all the marketing slogans that they have such as ‘everyone everywhere networked’ or ‘inspired to change your world ’ and ‘the network of choice,’, these companies are not being honest.

Their dishonesty resides in the likelihood that they are attempting to cover up what essentially is a state security exercise in order to retain their licenses.

It is not their business to register subscribers onto obscure lists whose use is not democratically arrived at, and not even by Parliament.

It would not be far off the mark to begin to view these companies as organisations that pay token commitment to the importance of freedom of expression and access to information.

It would seem that the latter principles are only valid to them, where and when a profit is to be made.

If the government through POTRAZ or through the ministry of ICT decides that they should have lists of subscribers they do not ask why and in terms of what democratic principle.

We are all too aware that in these periods of the inclusive government and with talk of elections being a regular political issue, these lists are as draconian as they are political.

That they come at such a time when licenses of service providers are subject to renewal from an undemocratic POTRAZ should give one pause for thought.

Why anyone would wish to give all of their details to both a service provider and a government that has a lieu of repressive legislation on ICTs at their disposal is potentially beyond belief.

If the cost of refusal to register my mobile line is its termination, then so be it.

I am not going to be part of combinations of profit and repression and pretend to be enjoying it.

So come August 31 2010, I might just be contactable by email or landline, unless of course, they want to come after that too.

Takura can be contacted on kuurayiwa@gmail.com

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