IN A move to control the flow of information in and out of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe’s beleaguered government has acquired sophisticated phone-tapping, radio jamming and internet-monitoring equipment from communist hardliners in China.
Sophisticated Chinese bugging equipment is being installed clandestinely in homes, offices, restaurants and even lavatories. Chinese technicians handed it over to the Central Intelligence Organisation earlier this year in an effort to block the circulation of what Mugabe calls "hostile propaganda".
First to suffer is a popular UK-based shortwave radio station that sends out anti-Mugabe stories to Zimbabwe seven days a week. The independent radio station, SW Radio Africa, has been experiencing jamming problems all this year from transmitters installed in the Zimbabwean Midlands.
The station’s founder, Gerry Jackson, flies to Nairobi, Kenya, next week to pick up the International Press Institute’s Free Media Pioneer Award for courageous journalism.
"Mugabe will do anything to stop the truth being heard in Zimbabwe," she says.
Hi-tech bugging includes updated versions of pirated Israeli-made equipment which enters Zimbabwe through Cuba. It’s a copy of the sophisticated equipment Mossad uses to spy on Palestinians.
Wilf Mbanga, who edits the new weekly paper, the Zimbabwean, said: "The plan is to tap all landlines belonging to anyone of importance or prominence in Zimbabwe."
After this year’s general election Mugabe told party hardliners that he had turned again to the East.
On Independence Day (April 18), to cheers from party loyalists, he said: "We are returning to the days when our greatest friends were the Chinese. We look again to the East, where the sun rises, and no longer to the West, where it sets."