UK based constitutional law expert, Alex Magaisa, has questioned the legality of the internet blockade in Zimbabwe that lasted about 30 hours. Writing on his blog, BSR, Magaisa said that if mobile operator, Econet Zimbabwe, shut down the internet based on a warrant as it claimed in an SMS, then the shutdown was technically illegal.
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Econet’s statement says it was responding to a “written warrant”. If it was indeed a “written warrant”, it could not have been used to block Internet and social media communications. This is because the scope of a warrant is specifically defined by the Act and it does not cover blocking communications. It only permits the “interception” of communications and this is strictly defined by law.
We find the meaning of interception in the definition section of the Act. It describes interception using a telecommunication system as “to listen to, record, or copy, whether in whole or in part”. Nowhere in this definition is there any mention of or reference to blocking communications, not for individuals, let alone the entire country.
Prominent lawyer, Advocate Fadzayi Mahere also said that there’s no law in Zimbabwe that authorises the shutdown of the internet:
2. I invite telecoms corporates to read s61(3)(b) of the Constitution which gives them freedom of establishment and expressly states that they are independent of control by government and political interests. #ZimbabweShutDown
— Fadzayi Mahere (@advocatemahere) January 16, 2019
Dr. Alex T. Magaisa is a Zimbabwean lawyer, lecturer of law in the United Kingdom, Zimbabwean political strategist, and blogger. He currently lives in the UK. Magaisa is known for his political and social commentary work on issues affecting Zimbabwe and has been a columnist... Read More About Alex Magaisa
Fadzayi Mahere is a Zimbabwean lawyer and MDC politician. Prior to joining MDC, she was an independent politician and political activist known for being vocal in her opposition to Zanu PF governance. She was one of the prominent activists of the #ThisFlag Movement in 2016.... Read More About Fadzayi Mahere
The January 2019 Protests was civil unrest and riots that occurred in Zimbabwe and the violent response from the government from 14 to 16 January 2019. There are different figures provided on the number of people that died but a common figure is 5, most... Read More About January 2019 Protests