The Zambia Information and Communication Technology Authority says for the purposes of ensuring national security, there are instances where the authority intercepts certain people’s communication.

On Sunday, ZICTA Director General Patrick Mutimushi said that the authority does not pry into people’s phones or messages unless when it is applying “lawful interception”.

And in response to a press query, ZICTA corporate communications manager Ngabo Nankonde explained that citizens’ communication could only be intercepted after getting an order from the Attorney General or High Court judge unless where there was an imminent danger of loss of life or damage to property.

“The Electronic Communications and Transactions Act No. 21 of 2009 [the ECT Act], prohibits Interception of Communication. This is because it seeks to uphold the Right to Privacy guaranteed to every person in Zambia by the Republican Constitution. A person guilty of unlawful interception is liable to a maximum period of 25 years imprisonment. The Constitution, however, provides for instances when this Right to Privacy can be “overridden” or derogated from. This includes, among others, for purposes of law enforcement and maintaining national security,” she stated.

“Considering the importance of securing the Right to Privacy of individuals, the ECT Act puts in place the following restrictions notwithstanding the fact that such interception has been authorized by the law: Interception can only be effected by Law Enforcement Officers; The Attorney General needs to approve such interception; Only a High Court Judge can issue the interception order after the Attorney General’s approval; divulging intercepted communication to a person not authorized to have access to such communication is an offence: and the inception order is only valid for three months, albeit subject to renewal.”

She, however, said a law enforcement officer could intercept communication without an order when there was imminent danger of loss of life or property.

“Where there is imminent danger of loss of life or property, a Law Enforcement Officer may intercept communication without the order. Where the Law Enforcement Officer intercepts communication without Attorney General’s approval and an order from a High Court Judge, the Law Enforcement Officer should, thereafter, swear an affidavit explaining why he or she could not not first obtain the interception order before effecting the interception. If the Judge thinks there was time to first seek Attorney General’s approval and make an application to the High Court before effecting the interception, the Law Enforcement Officer will be liable to imprisonment of 25 years,” stated Nankonde.

“It is, however, to be noted that, generally speaking, an individual that deliberately places his or her Communication in the public domain is deemed not to expect the privacy of such communication. As such, the individual cannot expect his or her Communication he or she has deliberately broadcast to the public, to enjoy the same privacy protection as private communication would.”