MACRA embarrasses Malawi Govt on ‘spy machine’ says AG

Malawi’s Attorney  General, Ralph Kasambara, has accused the Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (MACRA) of embarrassing government for continuing to appeal against a decision by  a Commercial Court restraining it to use the Consolidated ICT Regulatory Management System (CIRMS), also known as ’spy machine’.

Kasambara, who is also the Minister of Justice, said this in an interview with Nyasa Times after the High Court ruled that the ‘spy machine’ is illegal in the country.

“It’s unfortunate that MACRA went on with this to embarrass the government. It should have listened to [earlier] ruling by the Commercial Court,” said the Attorney General.

Kasambara: We will salvage the situation

The regulator bought the gadget rather controversially from Agilis International of the United States at the price of US$6.8 million (about K2.1 billion).

In his determination, Justice Healey Potani ruled that “there is the potential and apprehension of the capabilities of the CIRMS being abused to eavesdrop on telecommunication traffic.”

Justice Potani said MACRA “failed to satisfy six necessary requirements that the operation must be prescribed by law, reasonable, recognized by international human rights standards, necessary in an open and democratic society, of general application and must not negate the essential content of the right to privacy.”

What next

Asked what will happened to the machine after MACRA already spent an astronomical figure to purchase it, Kasambara said government will “comply with the directive of the court” not to use it for spying.

He however said Capital Hill would want to “salvage the situation” and ensure part of the machine is used.

“We will liaise with the telecom operators [Airtel, TNM, Malawi Telecommunications Limited and Access Communications Limited] to use part of the machine for revenue assurance and quality control,” Kasambara told Nyasa Times.

“The issue of spying and Call Detail Records is out,” he said.

MACRA purchased the CIRMS machine during the height of the late Bingu wa Mutharika autocratic rule which triggered condemnation from opposition parties, the civil society, the corporate world, business captains and the ordinary citizens.

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