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What do POTRAZ And The ZANU PF Candidates Who Sent Unsolicited Messages Have To Say About Accessing People’s Data?


The ongoing controversy of targeted bulk SMS by Zanu-PF aspiring candidates is nothing short of drama. The notable burning questions which were raised out of this drama were, “Where did Zanu-PF get the database?” and “What does the law say about accessing people’s data and sending unsolicited SMSes?”

A Recap

Naturally, people (initially) accused Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) of being an accomplice in this drama. But at a press briefing yesterday, ZEC Chairperson, Priscilla Chigumba denied the allegations saying that they didn’t “leak” peoples information to Zanu-Pf. And she promised that ZEC was going to conduct an investigation to ascertain what really happened.

Then ZEC insinuated something quite alarming during the press briefing. It said that Mobile Network Operators (MNO’s) could have sold the database to Zanu-Pf as a way of generating (additional) revenue from companies who send bulk messages.

Of all the MNO’s, Econet was put in the line of fire, being accused of selling their database to Zanu-PF simply because its customers (only) received the ‘targeted’ SMSes. However, Econet quickly refuted ZEC’s statements saying that it doesn’t sell or give customer data to any third parties except to Potraz as part of the regulatory requirements.

Potraz joins the (accused) bandwagon

After Econet and ZEC denied selling or giving their database to Zanu-pf, people dragged POTRAZ into the drama. Since POTRAZ is a regulatory body which has unlimited and unreserved access to MNO’s databases, people implied that it (POTRAZ) may have colluded with Zanu-PF. POTRAZ has access to the MNO’s database as the MNO’s submit their databases quarterly as part of POTRAZ’s compilation of mobile registration statistics.

Techzim managed to contact POTRAZ about this issue asking whether it gave a database to Zanu-PF (or for that matter, any political party). Anyway, POTRAZ denied the accusations and went on to say that it didn’t sell customers database.

Responding to a ‘ tweet’, POTRAZ made it clear that MNO’s were not allowed to sell the database of their subscribers as they were mandated to uphold subscribers privacy.

Techzim Goes a step Further, to ask the Zanu-PF candidates

We have just called the Zanu-PF candidates whose names were in the bulk messages.

The first candidate said we shouldn’t have called him but instead call the number which sent the ‘targeted’ messages and not his number which was inside the message. The problem is that we can’t call the sender of the message because there was no number where the SMS came from. The sender was only written as President (as shown below).

The second candidate we called, said she didn’t even know (before we called her) that her number was being sent to people asking them for votes. So it came as a surprise to us that even the candidates themselves are not aware of these ‘targeted’messages.

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3 thoughts on “What do POTRAZ And The ZANU PF Candidates Who Sent Unsolicited Messages Have To Say About Accessing People’s Data?

  1. The entity which can easily shade more light is Econet. They can say if the messages were originated from an Econet account or not (even if there is no number). If it didn’t originate from Econet then they should still be able to say if it came from another local operator or from outside the country.

  2. I was just about to say the same thing. Also from what I have gathered it is simply not possible for Econet data alone to have been used in sending the SMS. How for example would Econet know the constituency you registered with ZEC. Econet can only know where you live roughly but some people registered in other constituencies and got messages from these constituencies. There is also the curious case of a lady who only used her married surname with ZEC and go a message using that name. The inevitable conclusion is that either ZEC were careless and got breached somehow or they simply bulked to Zanu PF pressure and shared private data because there are the source of this data. Potraz would not have voter related data.

  3. The only body that knows our surname, phone number and ward is ZEC. If ZEC did not supply the data could the candidates have generated these databases from copies of the voters roll they received? In which case they spammed everyone and necessary action should be taken. If they “did not” send the bulk sms then a formal investigation needs to happen and the guilty parties made to spill the beans or deal with the consequences! This is not something that needs to take weeks or months, in theory Econet should be able to determine the source of these messages?

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