Econet in hot water over electoral spam
20 July 2018
An Econet Wireless subscriber is taking legal action against the mobile network operator after he received an unsolicited text message from the ruling Zanu PF party ahead of the 30 July election.
In his application to the High Court this week, Owen Mafa stated: "The purported conduct of first respondent (Econet) infringes on my constitutional right to personal privacy in that 1st respondent had no mandate to provide subscriber databases to thirds parties (2 and 4th respondents) without my consent."
Econet, the Zanu PF party and the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) are cited as respondents in the case.
Zanu PF has since confirmed that it send out campaign messages to targeted mobile phone subscribers in specific constituencies, mostly on Econet's network, but added those who received the text messages were on its membership database.
This has been refuted by Mafa and other subscribers. Mafa said he provided the ZEC with his contact details during the biometric voter registration exercise held earlier this year.
Econet has previously stated that it does not release private user information to third parties, while both the Posts and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (Potraz) and ZEC have attempted to distance themselves from the issue.
Social media seems likely to play a role in the forthcoming elections. Rival candidates Emmerson Mnangagwa of Zanu PF and Nelson Chamisa of the MDC Alliance have both taken to social media and instant messaging platforms to engage with followers.
By early this week, Mnangagwa had about 56 000 subscribers to his WhatsApp broadcast list, while there were about 36,000 unread messages to the WhatsApp account according to data reflected on an Android simulator installed on one of the devices running the account.
Econet is understood to have about 11 million active mobile subscribers.
A Potraz report this week said NetOne had lost 47% of its subscribers, while Telecel Zimbabwe lost about 12% of its network users in Q1 to end March 2018.