Zim BlackBerry services still banned

By Alfonce Mbizwo, Harare, Zimbabwe

The use of popular BlackBerry services will remain banned in Zimbabwe while authorities probe the legality of its use in the country, according to the telecommunications industry regulatory body, Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz).

While BlackBerry devices are available in Zimbabwe, the use of the BlackBerry Messaging services has not yet been allowed, reportedly due to security concerns.

“We are discussing with operators the impact of the BlackBerry service on the lawful Interception of Communications Act,” Potraz director-general Charles Sibanda said.

The Act allows the State to intercept and monitor communications in the course of their transmission through a telecommunication, postal or any other related service or system in Zimbabwe.

Local mobile networks, Econet Wireless and Telecel earlier this year expressed interest in introducing Blackberry services to the Zimbabwean market.

Local media reports recently suggested that Information and Communications Technology Minister Nelson Chamisa had approved Econet's rollout of the BlackBerry system but was overruled by his government colleagues, who feared the possible impact of its social networking capabilities.

The BlackBerry message service was a key technology in the uprisings in the Arab uprising which led to the fall of governments in Tunisia and Egypt earlier this year.

Zimbabwe’s economy is recovering under an uneasy unity government forged by long time rivals, President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai in 2008 and tensions are never far from the surface.

However, many Zimbabweans enjoy the services on South African lines which they can use because of roaming agreements between the networks in the two southern African countries.

The local mobile networks have declined to comment on the matter.

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