Internet blackout illegal: Court

HIGH Court judge Justice Owen Tagu has ruled that a directive issued by State Security minister Owen Ncube to telecommunications firms last week to disconnect Internet connectivity at the height of mass demonstrations was illegal, as he had no power to do so.

BY XOLISANI NCUBE

Justice Tagu gave a provisional ruling after the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), in conjunction with the Media Institute of Southern Africa-

Zimbabwe chapter (Misa-Zimbabwe), petitioned the High Court seeking an order to compel all the country’s Internet service providers to restore services following the government’s directive to withdraw provision of Internet and other communication services in the country last week at the height of public protests due to collapsing state of the economy.

Advocate Eric Matinenga told journalists after the High Court ruling that according to the decision of the court, Ncube, in his capacity as State Security minister, had no powers to give a directive in terms of the Interception of Communication Act, as he was not in charge of that legislation, saying instead, only President Emmerson Mnangagwa could do so.

“The Interception of Communication Act is one of the 12 Acts directly administered by the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe. The President does have the right to assign any other Cabinet members to act on his behalf to administer any of these 12 Acts. However, in this case, the court agreed with us that the minister was not assigned with any authority to issue such directive by the President,” Matinenga said.

The two groups jointly filed the urgent chamber application on Wednesday, citing Ncube, Central Intelligence Organisation director-general Isaac Moyo, Mnangagwa, Econet Wireless, NetOne, Telecel Zimbabwe and the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe as respondents.

ZLHR executive director Roselyn Hanzi, in her founding affidavit, criticised the move by the government directing all mobile telecommunication operators to shut down Internet services.

But Matinenga said the judge did not go into the merits of the case, as he made the decision based on preliminary points.

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