[JURIST] Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe [BBC profile] has signed off on the controversial Interception of Communications Bill [PDF text], which establishes a government communications surveillance agency and authorizes the government to intercept communications across the telephone, the Internet, and other electronic communication devices. The bill, which has been criticized by opposition lawmakers as an effort to consolidate power and crack down on dissent, will also allow the government to open conventional mail, requires communication services providers to facilitate the interception and storage of private communications at the government's request. The legislation was approved in June by both the Senate and House of Assembly [JURIST report].
Mugabe has been criticized for his handling of the economy of Zimbabwe [JURIST news archive] and his increasingly authoritarian rule. In July, Zimbabwean police reports indicated the arrest of at least 1300 shop owners and managers [JURIST report] who refused to comply with price controls that halved the prices of all goods and services [AP report]. Zimbabwe's inflation rate, which is reportedly exceeding 5000 percent, is largely attributed to Mugabe's controversial white-owned farm seizure program as previously productive farms have become barren under inexperienced new owners. In June, the International Commission of Jurists accused [JURIST report] the Zimbabwean government of "interfering with the proper functioning of the administration of justice, the role of lawyers and their independence". In May, Zimbabwean police refused to comply with a High Court ruling [JURIST report] requiring police officials to vacate a farm seized by police in March, and responded by ordering more police on to the property. In March, opposition leader and presidential hopeful Morgan Tsvangirai [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] was arrested and beaten [JURIST reports] while in police custody. Police officials have routinely ignored court orders and critics have alleged that Mugabe has given tacit approval to their actions. BBC News has more.