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Zimbabwe Passes Communication Spying Law

Zimbabwe this week passed a new law allowing the government to monitor telephones, mail and the Internet. For VOA, Peta Thornycroft reports that the Zimbabwe government justifies this new law by saying it is necessary to protect national security.

President Robert Mugabe regularly tells his country that Zimbabwe's sovereignty is under threat, which is the reason he uses when he puts the army and police on alert.

He says the main opposition political party, the Movement for Democratic Change, is a "puppet" of the west, and that its leaders take their orders from Washington and London.

The new law, the Interception of Communications Act, sailed through both houses of parliament, where the ruling ZANU-PF has a large majority.

Opposition Movement for Democratic Change legal secretary David Coltart said the new law was what he described as "typically fascist legislation." He said this law gives enormous powers to "a tiny coterie of people" to intercept e-mails and all other communications.

Coltart said the law was "not subject to review in any way by any independent authority." He said he had no doubt it will be abused to "interfere with legitimate democratic activities"

Transport and Communications Minister Chris Mushohwe said similar legislation existed in the west. He said Zimbabwe needed the legislation to prevent crime and guard national security.

Few Zimbabweans have access to telecommunications, and those that do have long believed that the government was already monitoring phone calls and e-mail.

This week riot police interrupted a stage play, called "The Good President" at a theater in the country's second largest city, Bulawayo, saying it was a political gathering and that police permission was needed before it could go ahead.

Most opposition political meetings and rallies are presently banned in Zimbabwe.