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Court stays EcoCash search warrant

By , Sub Saharan Africa Business, Tech, News and Development Journalist
Zimbabwe , 23 Jul 2020

Zimbabwe’s Econet has won a court reprieve to stay the execution of a search and seize warrant that would have empowered police to seize data related to mobile money subscribers and transactions.

Econet had applied for an interdict of the warrant at a Harare court earlier this week. This was after police sought to seize data related to EcoCash mobile money subscribers and transactions for the period January to June 2020, arguing that the platform was complicit in money laundering activities.

The Court will determine the lawfulness of the warrant when it sits for a full hearing at a later date.

Speaking to the media outside the Court, a legal representative for Econet said: “The judge ruled that if there’s any criminality, the warrant should be limited to those individuals against whom allegations are made. As it is, the judge ruled that the warrant is burdensome and a breach of everyone’s right to privacy.”

EcoCash has been under the government radar, with authorities saying the platform is being abused by mobile money agents and bulk payment account holders who are driving up the street exchange rates for the country’s local currency.

Econet denied the charges and argued the warrant is a violation of privacy rights.

The African Declaration on Internet Rights and Freedoms (AfriNetRights) said on Thursday that civil society groups in Zimbabwe had also petitioned the High Court seeking to block the warrant.

“Indeed, the right to privacy is at stake here,” said AfriNetRights.

COVID-19 battle

This week, several large companies - including Econet, NMB Bank and CABS, as well as retailers Pick ‘n Pay and OK Zimbabwe, said staff at some of their outlets had tested positive for COVID-19 forcing them to shut down affected outlets.

In the case of Econet, the company has completely shut down its service shops until further notice.

“We regret to announce that some of our staff members tested positive to COVID-19 and are now quarantined. Strict measures around contact-tracing and testing have been taken on these cases,” said Econet this week.

NetOne also said it was closing its outlets for today and going forward outlets will only open on Mondays, Wednesday and Fridays between 9am and 11am.

COVID-19 deaths have topped 26 in Zimbabwe, while cases have sped up to 2000. This has prompted President Emmerson Mnangagwa to introduce stricter lock-down measures, including a dusk to dawn curfew. Businesses are only allowed to open between 8am and 3pm.

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