Zim Finance Minister Hauls Mobile Giant To Court

Biti, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) took the extraordinary step of dragging Econet to the High Court after he got information that the police had approached the mobile phone company requesting a call history for phone numbers he allegedly uses to communicate.

In his court application Biti said Econet had no right or obligation to disclose such information to anyone.

Biti who is also the MDC secretary-general said the court application had been prompted by the fact that some police officers had sought to abuse their positions by approaching Econet and demanding information on his calls, under the pretext that they were investigating criminal activities.

“I understand and believe that certain members of the police have clandestinely approached the magistrate with a view to obtaining a search warrant. It is my respectful submission that such conduct would be unlawful, as it is against the provisions of the Interception of Communications Act,” reads part of Biti’s founding affidavit.

The Finance Minister said he feared Econet could be intimidated into submission by the police to disclose his information.

“I fear that should the respondent (Econet) be bullied into submission, my constitutional right to privacy would be unjustifiably interfered with and, in addition, vital information pertaining to the organisations I am heading will be unlawfully accessed,” said Biti.

Biti said he was privy to, and constantly disseminated, vital information via cell phones to stakeholders, which if accessed would jeopardise his party’s position and may be used to the detriment of the ministry that he leads.

Econet chief executive officer, Douglas Mboweni confirmed receiving a request from the police to pry into Biti’s communications.

“We take note of the contents of your letter which came four days after our receipt of the police request. Kindly be advised that Econet will act in compliance with its operating licence and/or any lawful legislation governing the release of such information,” Mboweni wrote in his letter to Biti’s lawyers.

The clandestine overtures to intercept Biti’s cell phone communication are part of the onslaught against the MDC leader who has twice survived an attack on his office by war veterans while unknown assailants bombed his residence recently.

Last month, the state-run Sunday Mail newspaper published an article making serious allegations against Biti and claimed that he was engaged in a relationship with an economist in his ministry. Biti dismissed the charge and threatened to sue the newspaper.