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Econet ordered to stop COVID-19 spam

By , Sub Saharan Africa Business, Tech, News and Development Journalist
Zimbabwe , 18 Feb 2021

Zimbabwe’s High Court has barred telecommunications firm Econet from sending unsolicited COVID-19-related text messages to its subscribers, following a successful application by Harare-based lawyer Sikhumbuzo Moyo.

Moyo argued that the COVID-19 bulk messages conveyed by Econet from the Department of Civil Protection were “depressing”.

According to Moyo’s court application, the text messages infringed on his constitutional rights “to privacy” as well as the “right to free association and the freedom from torture, inhumane and degrading” treatment.

The High Court in Harare, sitting on February 16, stated: “The respondent (Econet) shall forthwith and no later than 12 hours of granting of this order suspend all COVID-19 related messages transmission to the applicant’s mobile number. Respondent shall pay costs.”

Moyo was also seeking the Court’s declaration of illegality on Econet’s unilateral supply of his “details to a third party for transmission of information unrelated to service provision”.

He argued that transmission of “uninvited information is a violation of the contractual relationship” between him and the telecommunications service provider.

According to the court order: “The unilateral uninvited transmission of messages to application by the respondent service provider is illegal, wrongful and unconstitutional.”

Econet has ten days from the date of the ruling to appeal against the provisional order, failing which the provisional order will be confirmed as final.

It is not yet clear whether the company will seek to appeal.

A legal officer for a humanitarian organisation in Zimbabwe, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said: “With an opt-in or opt-out facility, this can be dealt with amicable. These messages are important for campaigns against Coronavirus but they should not be forced on those who do not want them and I agree that they can be annoying.”

Econet has previously been criticised for allowing election campaign bulk messaging by President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s Zanu PF. 

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