Econet challenges police search, seizure warrant

By Staff reporter | 21 Jul 2020 at 18:46hrs
ZIMBABWE'S largest mobile phone operator Econet Wireless yesterday sought a court order to suspend a police warrant seeking information on its transactions arguing that this would violate the privacy of the company and millions of its subscribers.

The police on Friday requested Econet, which has more than 11 million subscribers, to hand over details of its mobile money transactions and subscribers because authorities suspect its network was used to conduct money-laundering.

In an urgent High Court application, Econet said the warrant should be suspended while the court determined its legality at a full hearing in future.

"The warrant of search and seizure is unlawful and constitutes a violation of the applicant's right to privacy and also the right of privacy of the applicant's subscribers," the company said in the court filing.

Econet argued that the police warrant was too wide in its scope, which made it unconstitutional.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa's government has already suspended some of Econet's EcoCash bulk transactions agent lines, saying they were fuelling the black market trade for foreign currency EcoCash is under Cassava SmarTech Zimbabwe Limited after Econet Wireless unbundled its financial technology wing into a separate entity in 2018.

In an affidavit filed along with the urgent application, Econet Wireless chief executive officer Douglas Mboweni revealed that as of July 1, 2020, the company had 11 405 557 mobile subscribers.

"The interim relief sought is as follows; an order be and hereby granted for a stay of execution of the warrant of search and seizure issued by the third respondent (Harare magistrate Richard Ramaboa) on July 17, 2020, pending the determination of its lawfulness by this honourable court on the return date," he said.

"An order that the first and second respondents (ZRP Commissioner-General Godwin Matanga and [ZRP Detective Inspector and Officer-in-Charge CID Asset Forfeiture Unit Northern Unit, Mkhululi] Nyoni, respectively) pay costs of suit in the event the present application is opposed."

Mboweni said on the return date, Econet Wireless would seek: "That the decision of the third respondent (Ramaboa) to authorise a warrant of search and seizure in respect of the applicant be and is hereby set aside. That the warrant of search and seizure issued by the third respondent on July 17, 2020 against the applicant be and is hereby declared unlawful and set aside.

"In the event that the warrant of search and seizure issued by the third respondent on July 17, 2020 had been executed by the time of this order, the respondents and anyone who acted through the authority of the warrant of search and seizure be and is hereby ordered to forthwith restore all articles seized from the applicant."



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