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Cabinet finally approves the Cyber Bill

Should we be afraid?

By Staff Reporter

Cabinet says it has approved the much-awaited Cyber Crime, Cyber Security and Data Protection Bill which seeks among other things to regulate and promote the safe use of internet in Zimbabwe.

The announcement comes just a few weeks after President Emmerson Mnangagwa included the Bill on the legislative agenda for the Second Session of the 9th Parliament of Zimbabwe.

The Bill has been in the pipeline for a long time dating back to the days of the late former President Robert Mugabe.

The approval which will be followed by the mandatory gazetting is expected to confirm or put to rest speculation that the Bill is seeking to muzzle use of internet in the country especially social media.

In its 35th Cabinet meeting decision matrix dated 8th of October 2019, Cabinet said Bill is seeking to build confidence and trust in the use of communication technology.

“Cabinet considered and approved the Cyber Crime, Cyber Security and Data Protection Bill, which was presented by the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs.

“The Bill seeks to combat cyber-crime and increase cybersecurity in order to build confidence and trust in the secure use of information communication technologies,” said Cabinet.

It remains to be seen if the government has made changes to the draft Cyber Bill that was circulated in 2017 and which received wide condemnation from civic society organisations.[DOWNLOAD Draft Cybercrime Bill – Zim 6 13 doc vers2 doc -1-2]

Seasoned lawyer and politician Tendai Biti condemned the draft arguing that it was only fit for countries that have terrorism and he even promised that he would challenge the Act in court should the government decide to pass it in its former form.

However, according to Cabinet, the Bill is providing for the following:

  • Provision and approval of codes of conduct and ethics to be observed by all categories of data controllers;
  • Data Protection with due regard to constitutional rights and public interest under POTRAZ;
  • Establishment of a Data Security Centre and a Data Protection Authority;
  • Investigation and collection of evidence relating to Cyber Crime and unauthorised Data Collection and breaches thereof;
  • The admissibility of electronic evidence for such offences;
  • Penalties for offences committed under the Act;
  • Penalties for the transmission of data messages inciting violence and damage to property;
  • Protection of citizens against cyberbullying and harassment;
  • Measures to address the production and dissemination of racist and xenophobic material using language that tends to lower the reputation or feelings of persons for the reason that they belong to a group of persons distinguished on the grounds set out in section 56 subsection 3 of the Constitution;
  • Penalties for persons who generate, distribute or broadcast data concerning an identifiable person knowing it to be false and intending to cause psychological or economic harm; and
  • Curbing the transmission of pornographic material.

In essence, the Bill advocates the use of ICTs for more constructive purposes.

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Daniel Chigundu

Daniel Chigundu is the news editor for OpenParlyZW an online platform that covers Parliament of Zimbabwe activities using social media (Twitter and Facebook). He is currently the secretary-general of the Zimbabwe Parliamentary Journalists Forum and a board member of Digital Communication Network.

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