Zvamaida Murwira Senior Reporter
Parliament yesterday protected the privacy of cellphone users by outlawing legal provisions empowering the police to approach a mobile service provider to access information that a subscriber would have furnished when registering a sim-card.The House also rejected another law compelling a financial institution to inform the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe or the Depositors Protection Board when a person wants to withdraw huge sums of cash.
The nullification followed a concurrence by responsible Government ministries to adverse reports prepared by the Parliamentary Legal Committee against the Statutory Instrument on Postal and Telecommunications (Subscriber Registration) Regulations and the one on Depositors Protection Corporation Regulations that were gazetted last year.
The Senate withdrew the adverse reports on the two Statutory Instruments on Tuesday after its chairperson and Mudzi South MP Mr Jonathan Samukange said their reservations against the two legal instruments had been addressed.
Mr Samukange said his committee found the provisions in those two legal instruments to be unconstitutional as they violated people’s rights.
On the Postal and Telecommunications (Subscriber Registration) Regulations, Mr Samukange said information given to a mobile service provider by a customer was for internal use and could not be accessed by a third party without a court order.
“We said no, that information is actually given for a specific reason,” he said. “It is not to be accessed by a third party and we objected to a police officer, whether in their official capacity or any other, to have access to that information.
“If the police officers really want the information, they go to court just like any Zimbabwean, make an application before a magistrate or a judge who will then give them a search warrant.”
With the Depositors Protection Corporation Regulations, Mr Samukange said the requirement by a bank to inform a third party when there was a request to withdrawal a huge amount defeated the concept of honouring a claim on demand.
He said there was also a temptation by financial institutions to claim that they were waiting for a clearance from the central bank when they did not have the cash.
“We have from experience, including myself, realised that when the banks do not have money, they will tell the depositor that we cannot give you US$20 000 which you want because we are waiting for the response from the authority,” said Mr Samukange.
He said what complicated the issue was that the consultation would be done under closed doors and a client could not verify, but would just be told by a bank teller that no response had come from the authorities.
What was strange, said Mr Samukange, was that the need to inform the central bank did not arise when one was making a deposit, only to crop up during withdrawal.
“You have the right to access your money the same way you would have deposited it,” he said.
Mr Samukange said the relevant Ministers had since captured their concerns and had gazetted the laws addressing the gaps.
Other members of the Parliamentary Legal Committee are Mount Darwin South MP Chris Kuruneri (Zanu-PF) Mashonaland West Senator Prisca Mupfumira (Zanu-PF), Harare East MP Mr Tendai Biti (MDC-T) and Harare West MP Ms Jessie Majome (MDC-T).