By Everson Mushava
OK Zimbabwe was forced by the courts to release video footage of Harare West MP Joana Mamombe doing her shopping amid concerns the authorities violated the young legislator’s privacy, it has emerged.
Harare magistrate Bianca Makwande last week blocked attempts by prosecutors to use the footage in a case where they wanted the MP punished for failing to appear in court.
Mamombe could not appear in court with two other MDC Alliance members — Cecilia Chimbiri and Netsai Marova — on charges that they faked their abduction and torture in May because she was hospitalised.
The legislator is said to have suffered a mental breakdown.
CCTV footage allegedly of her at a Bon Marche supermarket was then posted on social media by people that included senior government officials, who used it to mock her.
Bon Marche is owned by OK Zimbabwe.
Angry social media users started a campaign to boycott businesses that have been releasing footage to the authorities, which is then used to vilify victims of alleged state-sponsored abuse such as in the Mamombe case.
Alex Siyavora, the OK Zimbabwe CEO, however, told The Standard yesterday that the CCTV footage was released to the authorities following a court order compelling every outlet at the shopping centre to release their recordings.
“There was a court order,” Siyavora said. “Everyone at the complex was given an order to release the CCTV footages of a specific time.”
Mobile phone operator Econet this year successfully challenged attempts by police to force it to hand over information about its customers that used the Ecocash platform in what was described as a victory in the fight to protect citizens’ rights to privacy.
High Court Judge Justice Clement Phiri declared the search-and-seizure warrant issued by Harare provincial magistrate Richard Ramaboa as unlawful.
But Siyavora said their situation was different from that of Econet.
“There is a difference, at our shops, a person just gets in and buys and leaves, at Econet, they record details of the subscribers before issuing them with lines,” he said.
“Our main concern is security, to detect people who steal from us and it is different from Econet.”
State broadcaster ZBC recently flighted footage obtained from outlets in Harare’s Belgravia shopping centre as the authoritiesought to to prove that the MDC Alliance trio faked their abduction.
Police initially confirmed that they arrested Mamombe, Chimbiri and Marova after they took part in a demonstration against hunger.
The police later recanted their statements after it emerged that the trio had been abducted and brutally tortured.
After they were found in bad shape near Bindura, the police charged the women with allegedly faking their abduction.
They have become targets of Zanu PF-aligned youths on social media, who accuse them of staging the abductions to soil the image of the country.