As 30 July draws closer, political parties are racing to canvass as much support (which they hope will turn into votes) as they can. Until now to put across their message, political parties have initially resorted to traditional means of inviting people to rallies and issuing manifestos. But now Zanu-PF is being accused of going a step further by sending targeted campaign messages to people’s phones asking to vote for them.
Now, this has drawn the ire of so many people across all walks of life, from ordinary people to civil rights activists to politicians. The backlash is stemming from the fact that whoever that sold the data (phone number and where they stay, constituency) is violating the peoples right to privacy by illegally accessing their data and using it to text targeted SMSes to them.
The messages are super targeted
The messages are addressed to the person receiving by name (surname) and they are also from the aspiring candidates for their specific constituency. This means the political party does not just have a list of random phone numbers but they have a solid database of the person, their number, where they live and who knows what else.
Econet puts out the fire
This scandal has dragged the name of Zimbabwe’s biggest telecoms operator, Econet through the mud with people accusing it of selling their precious data to Zanu-PF. Since the targeted SMS’s were being sent on Econet numbers only, Econet’s reputation was at stake and they had to say something.
In today’s press, Zimbabwe Electoral Commision (ZEC) made an indirect accusation to Mobile Network Operators that they may have sold the database to Zanu-PF. ZEC said;
Service providers have facilities where they sell their database to parties for bulk messages
Open Parly was at the forefront to ask Econet whether it sold customers information to Zanu Pf.
To which, Econet replied it doesn’t sell customers data to any third parties.
Hie OpenParlyZw, kindly note that we do not share our customer details or data with any third parties
Then Econet went on to reiterate that it doesn’t share its customers’ data with any third party (save Potraz) by making a press statement.
The Commissioners denial and its promise
ZEC chairperson, Priscilla Chigumba assured people that they will investigate whether data was leaked to political parties and ultimately take due action if they discover it was leaked.
We did not leak your information but we will investigate because your information was in the public domain with that USSD platforms used for voter inspections
ZEC’s Vague Explanation
ZEC didn’t really clarify how Zanu-PF got people’s phone numbers and their constituencies. The only feeble explanation that the Commission offered was that Zanu-Pf had searched for peoples numbers in places like supermarkets. Suppose people had arbitrarily left their phone numbers in places like supermarkets, I very much doubt that on top of their phone numbers, they would also provide their constituencies.
We didn’t give political parties your numbers they must have researched on their own
Anyway, this is why someone (on Twitter) is accusing ZEC of giving Zanu pf her information
I got a message too. Why I am convinced that it’s ZEC is cause the only place where I am registered using my married name is on the voters roll. My social media accounts, email, and even Econet number are registered in my maiden name and have never been changed!