The Zambia Information Technology Authority (ZICTA) says while the authority does not pry into people’s phones or messages, there is what is known as “lawful interception”.

And ZICTA Director General Patrick Mutimushi has warned that Uzi, which was granted a licence to be the fourth mobile network provider, will have its license revoked if it does not mobilize itself before May.

Speaking when he featured on ZNBC’s Sunday Interview, Mutimushi said there were certain circumstances that could allow the authority to intercept people’s communication.

“I really think the only piece of legislation that deals with privacy, we don’t tap into people’s phones, we don’t tap into people’s messages but within the ICT Act, there is lawful interception and there is a whole section on how this can apply and we follow what the law says,” Mutimushi said.

He said people were abusing social media in Zambia.

“The Constitution is very clear, it talks on the safeguarding of people’s rights. And being a citizen of this country to make sure that your privacy is contained, that is why one of the bills is talking about privacy and data protection, it actually boils down to an individual level how the privacy of an individual is protected. We don’t pry on people’s messages. On one hand I think you would be able to know that everyone has now gotten a perceived freedom to say I can do anything on the internet because they have a mind that they won’t be known. There is a lot of education that needs to be done, social media is good, it brings efficiency, it brings so many good things but unfortunately, especially the trend that’s in Zambia, a whole lot of people are using it for other reasons, the typical one is the malice aspect, distribution of pornography, cyber bullying, sextortion,” he said.

“The current law as it stands has certain provisions to be able to take people to book in terms of what is posted, a typical example would be pornography. We know that in the Penal Code it’s very clear what pornography is, behind the scenes, we are working, within government and other agencies, to make sure that when cases happen, we trace them and we are able to investigate to a point where we are able to get enough information to bring responsible people to book. [The people who circulate pornographic material] are not safe, I can tell that there are number of cases that we have dealt with and a number of arrests have been done by the police. I think nobody is safe, nobody can hide. Some people think that when you are on the platform, when you are on the internet platform you are able to hide and you can do anything that you want to do, I don’t think that is right and I want to make right to say there are working agencies to make sure that those who are doing illegal activity or abusing social media platforms will be dealt with.”

And Mutimushi warned Uzi had until May to mobilize or risk having its license revoked.

“When we put up that tender, in April 2018, we expected that the one who won the bid would come in as soon as possible. In 6 months we should have seen something, within a year we would start having services. Unfortunately, that has not happened, they came to us and said we need extension to be given to us for us to be able to make sure that we give the service and that extension was given. So right now, it is still valid moving towards May 2020 which is in the next 4 months. Until then, we expect that they should be able to mobilize and come into the market. Yes we have given an ultimatum, there are milestones that we have set which we are monitoring on a monthly basis whether they are meeting that or they are not meeting up and probably that license would be withdrawn from them. Before we could give [the license], due diligence was given and I can tell you that Uzi, because their international partners are Unitel Angola and also they have got some operations in Europe and in fact everything was satisfactory. What happens after the due diligence was actual implementation and that was the issue because right now we don’t have the Uzi as it is despite making sure that everything was in order,” he said.

Mutimushi explained why it was not possible for Zambia to have more than five mobile operators.

“I can tell you one thing, when it comes to high cost of services, there is an ingredient or resource called spectrum. It’s a typical block that runs from A to B, for example and you can only accommodate so much and partly that also contributed to who else can be accommodated in the market. If we had the resource spectrum infinity, then we would have 100 operators in there but there is a limit on how many you can give because for a proper operation of a network, you will expect that a certain minimum amount of spectrum is given to each operator and you can only accommodate so much. With the arrangement and planning and so on, yes a fifth operator can be accommodated. The spectrum has grown but you are forgetting that also technology is moving, that spectrum which has been released now we are looking at issues of making sure 4G and 5G [internet] comes into play,” he said.

“Look, one of our mandate is make sure that there is competition on one hand but this competition must be sustained. The new licensing regime was brought in and opened up the market and that’s why we had that tender for anyone to come in the market and unfortunately, the people we gave the license have not given us the required results that we needed. It is important to note that against the market, yes you can open but that doesn’t mean you need 100 operators in there. Are they going to be profitable and are they going to actually provide services and also make profit because at the end of the day, they must be sustainable.”

Meanwile, Mutimushi said although people were demanding non-expiry bundles, most people consumed them within a month.

He also said all mobile service providers had been given up to February 12 to introduce non expiry bundles.

“The non-expiry of bundles, in as much as it is there, it also continues the same trend which has been customizing my usage. Their (service providers) side of the story is that if you have a non-expiry bundle what it means is that you have network service that you have to have that bundle forever until it is finished so other expenditure comes in especially with network elements which you need to support to hold that bundle or a certain amount of time but if you have a bundle that expires at a particular period of time which is tied to usage, you may relieve the usage without necessarily having to have kept a bundle for as long as somebody uses. So meaning you have spent a bit more on that, on the storage of that bundle so that somebody uses until it expires and yet people just use bundles just in a month or so,” said Mutimushi.

“You would agree with me that MTN, I think last week did announce that they have introduced a non-expiry bundle option which is there, now what we have done is that with our discussions with the operators and putting up deadlines with our understanding the need and when things must be done, we put the 12th of February to be the last day when we expect all the operators to have non expiry bundles which we believe is…implementing what the parliamentarians resolved. All categories of bundles, you have got non expiry. You see what we do is we look at the trends that are happening on one hand and secondly, these are businesses that are being run. You agree with me, just when mobile services started, there was basically one type of category, ‘pay as you go’ where you pay and start using your internet which was very costly.”