High Court judge Justice Chinembiri Bhunu Friday dismissed an urgent chamber application by Finance minister Tendai Biti seeking an order barring the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) from accessing his mobile phone information from Econet.
In passing judgment, Bhunu ruled that Econet should abide by the court’s decision and cooperate with the police.
“It is accordingly ordered that the application for an interdict barring the first (Chief Superintendent Majuta), second (Senior Assistant Commissioner Nyathi) and third (Commissioner-General Chihuri) respondents from accessing any information concerning the applicant’s calls be and is hereby dismissed,” Justice Bhunu said in his ruling.
“That the applicant’s (Biti) application for an interdict barring the fourth respondent from providing the first, second and third respondents with any information concerning the applicant’s calls be and is hereby dismissed.
The fourth respondent shall abide by this court’s decision.”
Justice Bhunu said: “In the absence of any right of appeal to the High Court, it appears to me a search warrant issued by a magistrate can only be impugned on review and not appeal. That being the case, the prospects of the High Court entertaining the appeal before it in respect of this matter are pretty dim indeed.”
He added: “The applicant also belatedly almost as an afterthought sought to attack the search warrant on the basis of irregularity, complaining that the magistrate made no record of the proceedings leading to the issuing of the search warrant. That complaint amounts to an attack on the validity of the proceedings before the magistrate.”
Biti’s urgent chamber application came after police approached the magistrates’ court and obtained a search warrant to access information from his Econet mobile phone lines.
In his founding affidavit, Biti said the need to access information from his phones was being spearheaded by his political enemies, seeking to destabilise the inclusive government.
He said this was clear evidence he was personally being targeted for harassment. “I have been subjected to a lot of harassment over the past few weeks, which include the bombing that was carried out at my house and the invasion of my office,” Biti said.
“I submit that the release of the information requested is unlawful and unconstitutional as it violates my right to privacy and protection of the law. Further, such information if released will be prejudicial to me and to my party, the Movement for Democratic Change.”
Biti further argued the fact a search warrant may well have been obtained does not make the process of obtaining such information lawful.
Last week chief law officer Chris Mutangadura, who represented ZRP, opposed Biti’s application arguing the police were entitled to access any information during investigations.
The police are investigating allegations against Biti to the effect he unlawfully authorised an employee in his ministry, one Petronella Chishawa, to go on various foreign trips on special per diem rates thereby showing favour to the employee.