Zimbabwe Court Bans Mobile Operator’s ‘Depressing’ Covid Texts

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Zimbabwe’s biggest mobile-phone company has been barred by the country’s High Court from sending text messages to subscribers listing daily coronavirus infections and deaths.

Econet Wireless Ltd., which has 13 million subscribers, was sued by Sikhumbuzo Moyo for sending coronavirus updates as infections and deaths surged last month. In court filings, Moyo said he lost his father to Covid-19 and the unsolicited messages from the mobile operator were depressing. He asked the company not to send him the daily text messages.

“Despite my attempt to avoid mental torment, Econet slides in my messages and makes sure every day is a day of reflection on the death and possible deaths around the subject,” he said.

Zimbabwe has been hit hard by the coronavirus with three cabinet ministers and a number of other senior government officials succumbing to Covid-19. Hospitals are overwhelmed and personal-protective equipment and oxygen is in short supply.

As of Wednesday, the country had 35,423 confirmed cases and 1,418 fatalities, according to data from the health ministry. Little testing has been done in comparison to countries in Europe and North America and neighboring South Africa.

The company’s failure to stop sending the “unwelcome messages” after the demand to stop violated Moyo’s constitutional rights, Judge David Mangota said in his ruling. “The unilateral transmission of messages to applicant by the respondent service provider is illegal, wrongful and unconstitutional,” he said.

Econet has 10 days to challenge the provisional order.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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