Surveillance of Social Media Under Spotlight as Zim Teacher Goes on Trial...

Surveillance of Social Media Under Spotlight as Zim Teacher Goes on Trial Over Whatsapp Message

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ZIMBABWEAN authorities are prosecuting a teacher, who allegedly sent a message on a WhatsApp group, decrying payment of poor salaries by government to civil servants.

Edith Mupondi, who resides in Budiriro high-density suburb is currently standing trial at Harare Magistrates Court answering to charges of contravening section 88(b) of the Postal and Telecommunications Act for allegedly “sending by telephone any message that she knew to be false for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety to any person.”

According to prosecutors, Mupondi, who is represented by Gift Mtisi of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, unlawfully used her mobile phone handset to send a message on “Epworth Ladies” WhatsApp group on 23 October 2020, which read; “PaEpworth High School, Mr  Muzondo, Mr Mudzengere, Mrs Sithole please tinyareiwo muzvigarire kumba, muri kurwisa vanhu vari kukurwirai kuti muwane mari inotenga. Tinyareiwo please.”

When loosely translated in English, this means; “At Epworth High School, Mr Muzondo, Mr Mudzengere and Mrs Sithole, please respect us by staying at your respective homes. You are fighting people that are clamouring for payment of improved salaries for teachers.”

The message prompted Yvonne Sithole, one of the teachers at Epworth High School, who was allegedly mentioned in the WhatsApp communication reportedly sent by Mupondi, to lodge a complaint with Zimbabwe Republic Police resulting in her being arraigned before Harare Magistrate Tafadzwa Miti to stand trial on charges of contravening the Postal and Telecommunications Act.

Mupondi is the latest person to be prosecuted on charges which confirm that Zimbabwean authorities are intensifying the monitoring and surveillance of social media platforms and targeting people who share perceived dissenting views and opinions to those of President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government and his ruling ZANU PF party.

In her complaint, Sithole said the message allegedly generated by Mupondi scared her as it sent shivers down her spine.

“I recalled well since the opening of schools, I was going to school as usual since I had an exam class. On some of the days I would inform the Headmaster that I was not coming since I had no money for transport and this was being done by every teacher at the school. Surprisingly, on 23 October 2020, around 2026 hours, a WhatsApp message was sent in a group. The message was from a group called “Teachers Can’t Breathe Epworth” and it was forwarded to “Epworth Ladies Group”. It was forwarded by Edith Mupondi. I am now living in fear and I am no longer able to go to school since I don’t know the intentions of these people and I informed this to the Headmaster,” reads part of Sithole’s complaint to the police, which landed Mupondi in trouble.

Mupondi’s trial continues at Harare Magistrates Court before Magistrate Miti.

Zimbabwean teachers have in recent years staged protests against payment of poor salaries and unfavourable working conditions, which they blame on President Mnangagwa’s government. They are demanding to be paid a monthly salary of US$540, a figure which government has been reluctant to pay thereby forcing teachers not to report for duty citing incapacitation.

ENDS

Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights
Kodzero/Amalungelo House
No. 103 Sam Nujoma Street, Harare, Zimbabwe
Phone: (+263 8677005347, +263 242 764085/705370/708118
Email: info@zlhr.org.zw
www.zlhr.org.zw
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