Zanu PF admits sending out bulk SMS

(Last Updated On: July 11, 2018)

… It is part of their campaign strategy

 Garikai Fadzi

HARARE – Zanu PF has confirmed sending out bulk messages soliciting for votes from its supporters across the country ahead of the 30 July elections and exonerated the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) from the act, saying the phone details of its supporters were taken from the party’s register.

The messages are from President Emerson Mnangagwa urging his supporters to vote for him, and also for Zanu PF members of parliament and councillors.

“We took phone numbers from our supporters or potential supporters when we were updating our cell-registers,” Paul Mangwana, the Zanu PF secretary for legal affairs, told the Business Times. “We don’t need anyone to give us people’s phone numbers. We don’t need the POTRAZ (the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe) or ZEC to give us those numbers.”

Opposition parties and civic society organisations have claimed that Zanu PF and ZEC were colluding to ensure the election result favours the ruling party.

Mangwana told the Business Times that the messages indeed came from Zanu PF and they were part of its campaign strategy. “What happens is that in our party every cell has 50 members and every individual gives their details to the cells. When the data came to us, we were told that they were our members,” Mangwana said.

“We have no apologies,” he continued, defiantly. “We knew that we would have an election this year, so we started campaigning before the proclamation of the election date. If they [the opposition] were sleeping, it is their business.”

POTRAZ had earlier in the week distanced itself from the messages and images circulating on the social media, saying they were illegal.

“Potraz did not share any subscriber information with third parties as it does not keep such data,” the post and telecom regulator said in a statement on its website. “Potraz prohibits operators from sharing subscriber information with third parties.

“In view of the above, and in line with its mandate to promote the interest of users as stipulated in Section 4 of the Postal and Telecommunications Act, POTRAZ requires operators to respect the constitutional right of customers to personal privacy and should not provide their subscriber databases to third parties without the consent of customers.

ZEC commissioner Dr Qubani Moyo denied that the electoral management body gave its database to Zanu PF. “The service providers should explain how Zanu PF accessed those numbers,” Moyo said. “Such a suggestion [that ZEC gave ZANU PF the phone details] is preposterous. They did not get them from us. Even people who are not registered voters received the messages from Zanu PF. How do you explain that?”

He said ZEC would not take action against either Zanu PF or the concerned mobile network operators. “We are not taking action against anyone because political parties can send messages to people. It is none of our business,” Moyo insisted. “People have their methods of dealing with third parties apart from us. The methods they used to access the information are none of ZEC’s business.”

According to ZEC, the final voters register for the 30 July elections has 5,695,706 people on it.

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