Surveillance of social media under spotlight

Source: Surveillance of social media under spotlight

As Zim teacher goes on trial over whatsapp message

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

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.

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