President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration has reportedly acquired the controversial mobile phone snooping equipment from Israeli surveillance company NSO Group, in 2019 for use by the Central Intelligence Organisation.
The revelations have given rise to fears that government, which has openly expressed interest in snooping on mobile phones through enacting enabling legislation, was targeting opposition politicians, rights activists and journalists, especially in the run-up to the 2023 general election.
The mobile malware allows state spy agents to track activities on mobile phones without the knowledge and consent of the users.
It also allows them to penetrate applications like WhatsApp which have end-to-end encryptions.
The investigations principally found out that rights activists, journalists and lawyers around the world were been targeted with phone malware sold to authoritarian governments by an Israeli surveillance firm.
The malware by the name Pegasus reportedly infects iPhones and Android devices to enable operators to extract messages, photos and emails, record calls and secretly activate microphones.
“It’s not very clear yet if the software has been used, but it’s there,” the source added.
However, Information ministry permanent secretary Nick Mangwana refuted the claims.
“Government of Zimbabwe has no reason to buy malicious software,” he said.
“The report says it was sold to autocratic governments; government of Zimbabwe is not autocratic. So, Zimbabwe is automatically excluded. Any attempt to associate us with the purchase and delivery of that malware is malicious. So those are malicious allegations,” he added.
NSO has also denied what it called “false claims”.