Malawi ‘spy machine’ declared Illegal – High Court

The High Court in Blantyre has struck off the roll a case in which two private Malawian citizens dragged Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (Macra) to court over the implementation of the most feared gadget known as Consolidated ICT Regulatory Management System known as  ‘spy machine.’

In the landmark verdict, Justice Healey Potani observed that basing on facts brought before the court, he is strongly convinced the CIRMS has the potential of being abused to eavesdrop telecommunication conversation without the user’s knowledge.

The judge further observed that suspicions are rife of reasons behind Macra’s insistence to implement the gadget he says has capacity to tap on phone conversations.

Nsaliwa: MACRA boss who bought the spy machine

“From the facts, there is also the potential and apprehension of the capabilities of the CIRMS being abused to eavesdrop on telecommunication traffic.

“The impression and implication of the above assertion is that the CIRMS can be set up in such a manner that would make it capable of tapping the content telecommunications traffic. One would tend to wonder, justifiably with suspicion, why the respondent would opt to use a system or gadget that has great potential of abuse,” ruled Potani.

He also bashed the communications regulator that any limitations on the right to privacy are not recognized by international human rights standards.

“The reliefs sought by the applicants are therefore granted and accordingly it is ordered that an order akin to certiorari should issue quashing the respondent’s (Macra) decisions complained of and it is declared that the respondent has no mandate, powers or jurisdiction to implement its decision and therefore is prohibited and restrained from implementing the decisions,” Justice Potani concluded in a judgment delivered on Friday.

The two applicants, Hophmally Makande and Eric Sabwera sought legal redress on the matter in their capacity as mobile phone users and had argued to the court through their attorney Lusungu Gondwe of Ralph & Arnolds that they feared for their privacy in an event the spy machine is implemented.

Meanwhile, in a post-court ruling interview, Gondwe told Nyasa Times the decision to quash implementation of the spy machine is victory to the country.

“It’s been a marathon case but at the end of the day I’m glad that the judge saw it wise to protect the dignity of Malawians, the ruling is victory to human rights and democracy in our country,” said a jubilant looking Gondwe.

Macra was being represented by Kalekeni Kaphale and it still remains to be seen if he is going to appeal the verdict.

The spy machine was the centre of altercation between late Bingu wa Mutharika’s regime on one hand and opposition parties and civil society groups on the other.

Macra, which has denied allegations that it intends to use the machine for spying purposes, is reported to have spent a heinous $6.8 million in purchasing the machine under the leadership of the organisation’s CEO Charles Nsaliwa.

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