TRANSPORT and Communications Minister Mutotwe Kafwaya says allegations that the Zambian government is using an Israeli telecommunications company to spy on citizens’ phone calls and text messages are a “bad rumour.”

And Kafwaya says the three vehicles he recently donated in his constituency only cost a combined total of K240,000.

Zambia has been listed in a University of Toronto research report titled: “Running in Circles,” as one of seven African countries using ICT tools developed by Circles, an Israeli telecoms company, to spy on citizens’ phone calls and text messages, among other communications.

But in an interview, Kafwaya dismissed the report’s revelations, saying they were completely false.

“From my perspective, that is completely false. I don’t know any Israel company that Zambia is working with. I am unaware of that. It is hearsay, it is a bad rumour,” Kafwaya said.

In a recent report titled “Running in Circles”, the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab, which investigates digital espionage against civil society and published on the website, Zambia was found on a list of seven African countries that details how governments were using tools developed by the Israeli telecoms company to spy on citizens’ communications.

According to data seen on the website, some regimes had turned to digital surveillance technology to crush resistance and any opposition to their autocratic rule, mainly via smartphones, which had seen an exponential growth in usage among Africans on the continent.

Zambia was cited as one of the seven African countries whose regimes had adopted the spyware to snoop on citizens, which had led to the arbitrary arrest of a group of bloggers who ran an opposition news site in 2019.

“Zambia appears to be another Circles client. Its government also has a record of using surveillance against its critics. In 2019, authorities arrested a group of bloggers who ran an opposition news site, allegedly with the aid of a cyber-surveillance unit in Zambia’s telecommunications regulator (ZICTA) used to pinpoint the bloggers’ locations. It is not known if a Circles system was used, but the technology has these capabilities,” disclosed the article.

Meanwhile, the minister who is also Lunte PF member of parliament on Sunday donated three vehicles to the spouses of chiefs Mukupa Kaoma, Chitoshi and Shibwalya Kapila, saying the cars and three motor bikes donated to party members were worth K240,000.

“Those are second-hand vehicles, it is not brand new. They cost me K240,000. I have been a member of parliament for five years. I have been an accountant since 1998. Can I fail to raise K240,000 in the thinking of anyone? Let me tell you, I have donated more things in Lunte than that. I have donated iron sheets, cement, blankets for hospitals and that is far much more than what you saw. And all these things are coming from accumulated history. The fact that I donated those vehicles yesterday does not mean that I raised the money to buy them yesterday. If the vehicles were worth millions of kwacha, somebody can ask. My mid-term gratuity alone was way more than that and I expect a bit more at the end of my term if God gives me life,” said Kafwaya.