In our country, politics and technology rarely mix. This week, however, politics and technology have been the best of friends. ZANU-PF whipped up a storm when they sent unsolicited SMSes to some subscribers on Econet encouraging them to vote for the party.
The message pissed people off because it was very specific and was not like other bulk messages that subscribers usually receive. The message contained subscribers surnames and the constituency they had registered to vote in. People realized the party has their addresses and they were not enthused at all.
The big question was where did they get this information? Blame was passed around like a hot potato. Econet distanced themselves from the fiasco and claimed ignorance. They specified that they only share data with POTRAZ who are the telecoms industry regulator. People turned their ire to POTRAZ who also denied sharing this information with anyone. The Electoral Commission who has been accused by opposition parties as being partial was a target initially, but they too claimed innocence.
ZANU-PF has now spoken on the issue and their answer to the burning question is quite interesting…
Clearing the air
ZANU-PF’s secretary for legal affairs, Paul Mangwana is reported to have told Business Times that the database of messages sent belonged to the party and they had obtained it at their cell meetings:
We took phone numbers from our supporters or potential supporters when we were updating our cell-registers. We don’t need anyone to give us people’s phone numbers. We don’t need the POTRAZ or ZEC to give us those numbers.
What happens is that in our party every cell has 50 members and every individual gives their details to the cells. When the data came to us, we were told that they were our members. We have no apologies.
This explanation would make sense if it wasn’t for the fact that some of the people (myself included) who received these messages have never been to a ZANU-PF cell meeting. I had no idea the party had these meetings but I still received a message.
He said, she said…
Some other people who we talked to also claimed that they had never attended a cell meeting so it’s hard to know how or where exactly the numbers were obtained.
The fact that not everyone on Econet received the messages allows the political party to claim that they didn’t have everyone’s number. The fact that I never attended a cell meeting allows me to claim that they didn’t get my number there.
I guess at this point it’s the word of the party against the word of whoever feels violated. Just great.