Mandiwanzira warns against publishing unprotected voters roll

Harare – The Minister of ICT and Cyber Security Supa Mandiwanzira on Wednesday issued a statement warning against the publication on the Internet of the voters roll which includes addresses and phone numbers of the voters.

Mandiwanzira said publishing unprotected voters roll is a breach of cyber security.

However his statement does not address the issue where members of the ruling Zanu Pf send personalised messages to registered voters requesting them to vote for Zanu Pf candidates and President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

While responding to questions from journalists on Monday during a press conference at Zimbabwe Electoral Commission offices in the capital ZEC commissioner Netsai Mushonga denied to have sold the electoral database to Zanu Pf saying political parties would have done their market research while Qhubani Moyo accused mobile phone operators of receiving money to share the data.

ZEC chairwoman Justice Priscilla Chigumba denied giving any party registered voters’ numbers.

“What I will say in our defence is that, look, we will investigate because what we doing in this room is speculating. We will investigate and find out the source of this data. What you are actually saying in your intervention is, strictly speaking, not correct.

We did have a USSD code where you could actually check whether you were registered to vote during the inspection period, so it’s actually not correct to say Zec is the only one which had access to the information, she said.”

The explanations given by commisioners who were present at the Monday media brief were not convincing since they did not explain how the ruling party knew people’s constituencies.

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Since all the messages that were sent to Econet subscribers, Econet had to respond and distance themselves, saying it does not give or sell any customer data to third parties.

“Econet holds customer and client data in the strictest of confidence, in line with the requirements of the law. It does not give or sell any customer data to third parties. The company only shares relevant customer information with regulatory authorities, such POTRAZ, in line with subscriber registration rules and its licensing requirement,” said Econet.

Mandiwanzira who is the minister of Information Communication Technology and Cybersecurity responded to this development denouncing it and vowing to take action on those undermining the people’s right to privacy.

“The Ministry of ICT & Cyber Security condemns in the strongest of terms the publication on the Internet of the voters roll which includes addresses and phone numbers of the voters. This cyber security breach is unacceptable.

“The Ministry is aware that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission issued a protected copy of the roll while the one that has been published on the internet is unprotected.
“Such data cannot and should not be made public without the permission of the voters themselves. Publication of physical addresses and phone numbers of voters without their authority is an abuse of the internet just as it is unconstitutional,” he said.

Mandiwanzira said the ministry will not hesitate take action against those found to be undermining the people’s right to privacy.
“The ministry hereby warns those that are publishing the unprotected voters roll and the internet service provider hosting the site to cease their actions immediately.
Analysts however, do not agree with the level of seriousness presented by the minister on the issue saying Mandiwanzira did not say anything about the politicians who send the messages to the voters.

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There is a clear indication that members of the ruling party used an accurate database because people got messages that addressed them by name and the messages were coming from the relevant Zanu Pf candidate from their constituency which they will vote in.
Putting an unprotected voters roll on the Internet will put over 5 million registered voters vulnerable to identity thieves, stalkers or plain mischief makers.