Parties face censure for accessing phone numbers to canvas for votes
By Staff reporter | 05 Jun 2019 at 11:43hrs
Political parties will be prosecuted and penalised for accessing personal mobile phone numbers and using them to canvas for votes from the electorate under the new Protection of Personal Information Bill, Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Permanent Secretary, Mr Ndabaningi Nick Mangwana has said.
Speaking during the belated Press Freedom Day commemorations in Kwekwe recently, Mr Mangwana said there were complaints and concerns from the general public in the last elections when the electorate received messages on their mobile phones from political parties canvassing for their vote without them having provided them with their mobile phone numbers. He said every human being has his or her information taken at a particular time for specific purposes and that information would only be used for that particular purpose under the new bill.
"The Protection of Personal Information Bill came from section 75 of the constitution which is our rights to privacy," said Mr Mangwana.
"You know every one of us go to the Registrar General's Office and you give your information.
"You then start receiving text messages from certain political parties and when formulating this bill, people gave an example of the previous elections when people started receiving text messages from certain political parties asking for your vote and you start questioning and asking yourself where they got your information, it makes people uncomfortable because they want their information protected."
Mr Mangwana said Government was internationalising data protection and every personal data collected will be protected under the new bill.
"Every one of us is a data subject," he said.
"We are data subjects and being a data subject you need some protection, for example when applying for a job you submit your CV which has a lot of personal information.
"There is an expectation that that information will be treated with integrity and for the purpose that you submitted it and not for anything else. If you find out that information has been abused, you have the right to complain."
Mr Mangwana said the new bill, which is now awaiting approval from the executive, was in line with international standards with regards to the protection of personal information.
"What we are doing is basically standardising our practices with international practices to the protection of people's information," he said.
"For example, when people visit our country, when they get to the airport their information is collected because they have become data subjects. They do not want their information published anywhere else.
"So, the fact that we have internationalised our practices is good for the country. It also puts the country in a better light. We provide for the prohibition of processing of genetic biometric information and data except where consent is given. Your information can only be used for the purposes it has been collected."
With regards to elections, Mr Mangwana said officials in his ministry were leading the Sadc media observer mission in African countries that were conducting general elections. He said the ministry studied the Zimbabwe 2018 election observer mission reports in a bid to improve the 2023 election in terms of media coverage.
"Most of the directors in my ministry were out observing elections - in South Africa, Malawi and Madagascar," he said.
"The Zimbabweans were leading the media observer missions. "We have also gone through the observers' reports pertaining to our last elections and we are learning lessons from those reports and we hope and believe that the reports that will come up in the 2023 elections will be different."