Cellphone snooping ruling stirs mixed emotions

HARARE - A High Court ruling declaring that it is illegal for spouses to pry into each other’s cell-phones without permission has highlighted the fervour that has destabilised many marriages.

High Court judge Justice Tawanda Chitapa ruled that evidence obtained through looking into the cellphone of a partner without their knowledge could not stand in court as evidence because it would have been obtained illegally.

The ruling came after Fortunate Nsoro, 36, was found guilty of murdering her husband, who had

refused to divulge contents of a “suspicious” text message he had received.

Nsoro stabbed her husband Petros Mutasa, 55, in February last year.

In the landmark judgment, Justice Chitapa declared that unapproved snooping on your spouse’s cellphone contravened section 57(d) of the new Constitution adopted in 2013.

“There is no law which provides that a husband or wife has a right to infringe on the privacy of the other’s communications,” Chitapi ruled.

Gender activist and National Aids Council board vice chair Beatrice Tonhodzayi-Ngondo said there should be no problem with a couple accessing each other’s phones or any other possession.

“The problem comes in when we refer to it as snooping,” she said.

“Snooping shows an element of digging into or trying to uncover something. To me; that means there is already a problem. “The issue should never be about phones but the state or quality of a relationship.”

She said the fact that there is noise around this shows that cellphones are hiding a lot of secrets.

“The issue is not cellphones or passwords; it’s the disintegrating relationships, it’s the infidelity, it’s the lies, that’s what should be corrected,” she said.

Award-winning singer Cindy Munyavi said: “People should trust each other enough to leave the next person’s phone alone...you might go through your partner’s phone and misconstrue things.”

Media practitioner Tabani Moyo said even those who pretend not to care about the spouse snooping, deep down they know that their right to privacy has been invaded.

“There is always a problem .. of people parading false love through pretending that all is good and well when they invade each other’s privacy. So I believe that genuine relations are founded on trust, the other part has purity of intentions and that he or she safeguards the interest of the relationship.

“So the issue of access to mobile phones in the relationship should be understood in the context of protecting and promoting the collective right to be respected and trusted,” he said.

Social commentator Rejoice Ngwenya said the biblical perspective of “we are one” in a marriage does apply as a gold standard to many marital relationships under the stewardship of a Christian value proposition.

“However, measured against world standards of constitutionalism, the liberal approach of the sanctity of individual rights are supreme,” he said.

“To me, it is a matter of choice, that is choosing whether or not couples have unlimited access to each other’s phones.

“The caveat: there are issues of personal interest women discuss among themselves, for instance, my wife with her sisters; with my sisters; with her mother; with my mother; with her friends.

“It would be inhumanely cruel and totally irresponsible for me to ‘eavesdrop’ on those conversations,” Ngwenya added.

Misa-Zimbabwe administrator Annie Musodza said: “It’s good and it’s bad. There should never be secrets in a marriage especially if you want the institution to survive. It’s not good to snoop on each other’s phone because it is a personal gadget and should be kept that way.”

Filmmaker Elton Mjanana said it depends from couple to couple and what they agree on. “I think the court ruling is sensible. There must be a level of privacy even between couples whether married or not,” he said.

Musician Leonard Zhakata said legislation and the Judiciary must not aid divorces through “imported” laws.

“We are Zimbabweans and we have our ubuntu or hunhu,” the Mugove singer said.

“Maybe spouses may need to agree on the do’s and don’ts in their marriage contract.”

Women’s rights activist Virginia Muwaningwa said this issue goes beyond gadgets to mutual trust, respect and loyalty.

“Where there is nothing to hide, there should be no need to want to snoop in each other’s phone and on the flip, a spouse should also not be worried to see their partner holding the phone,” she said.

“Too much focus on gadgets takes away from the real issue of relationships and whether these are healthy, caring and mutually beneficial.”

Media practitioner Rashweat Mukundu said in any relationship based on trust, the wife and husband should have access to each other’s mobile phones.

“But what the ruling does is to entrench tension and separate lives in marriages and the moment there is suspicion in a union, then the seeds of destruction would have been laid. The ruling does not build but destroy families which are foundations of a stable society,” he said.

Deputy director of the National Gallery of Zimbabwe Chinovava Chikukwa said these are the issues being addressed by the current exhibition at the gallery titled: Pixels of Ubuntu/Unhu — Exploring the social and cultural identities of the 21st century.

“These gadgets have contributed to the pixilation of our ubuntu/unhu. Remember pixels are there either to enhance your image or distort your image.

“...why would I have a pin code on my phone? I believe couples have to come to an agreement on what to do.”

Playwright and producer Patience Tawengwa does not agree with the court ruling at all.

“Marriage is built on trust, so I shouldn’t feel the need to snoop on my spouse’s phone or worry each time it rings or a message comes in.”

Guitarist Gwenya-Gitare Mono said “it should be up to me and my wife what we agree on. Every home must have its own rules just like every country has its own constitution and laws,” he said.

Singer Loveness Wesa said: “If one isn’t ready for a relationship, they just shouldn’t be in a relationship. A relationship means oneness. If there is things to hide, you might as well be alone, single, period.”

Mbira player Hector Mugani said the truth is there is a difference between love and marriage.

“If there is love and transparency, then there is no need to use that law and there is mutual understanding and respect for each other.

“I share my phone with my wife and I use hers from time to time. If there is nothing to hide, then there is nothing that stops the sharing. How can you hide things from a person who you stay with?”

Singer and dancer Kessia Magosha said people have lost trust in each other and cheating has sharply increased.

“I agree with the ruling as it protects me from getting hurt. Vakuru vakati ukatsvaga gudo mugomo unoriwana!”

Post a comment

Readers are kindly requested to refrain from using abusive, vulgar, racist, tribalistic, sexist, discriminatory and hurtful language when posting their comments on the Daily News website.
Those who transgress this civilised etiquette will be barred from contributing to our online discussions.
- Editor

Your email address will not be shared.