Zimbabwe: Zanu PF Abuse Cell Phone Text Messages for 'Sanctions' War

Digital Content

Not content with violently invading farms and other businesses, ZANU PF has now begun invading the privacy of Net One mobile phone subscribers, by sending messages telling them to sign the so-called anti-sanctions petition.

One message sent without the permission of the subscribers was; "The time has come for every Zimbabwean to sign the petition or dial 0044 7893227001 for the removal of illegal sanctions imposed by the European Union and the United States of America."

Under regulations governing the use of bulk SMS services, receivers have to first consent to receiving the messages or subscribe first before being put on any list. In this case it seemed ZANU PF simply abused the status of Net One as a state owned mobile network, to forcibly send the messages.

Only last year threats from ZANU PF forced the privately owned Econet Wireless, to pull the plug on the use of some of its numbers for an audio news and information service launched by the MDC-T. Under the service dubbed 'Voice of Real Change' any phone subscriber in Zimbabwe could dial a set of given numbers and the service would call them back with various news and information options.

With over 100 000 callers on the first day the service was launched, ZANU PF panicked and threatened the regulatory authority. An article in the state-owned Herald newspaper by Nathaniel Manheru (believed to be Mugabe's spokesman George Charamba), warned that operating licences were up for renewal and Econet needed to be careful since government 'has to deal with all manner of mischief.'

Now with the state machinery heavily stacked against the MDC-T, the party has been challenged to do more to spread its message. Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's Facebook page for example already has nearly 60 000 followers but was last updated on the 8th October 2010, when the PM gave a statement on the state of the coalition government.

With the MDC-T headed for a congress in May, many of its officials have been accused of focusing on retaining their positions and fighting factional wars, instead of keeping their eye on the ball.

ZANU PF concluded its congress last year and is determined to destroy its rivals by hook or by crook and is using every means it can to do so.