By Mark Matambirofa
Some members of the public have called on the government to ensure that the upcoming Cyber Crime, Cyber Security and Data Protection Bill does not infringe on people’s rights adding that it should be used to promote the safe use of internet in the country.
Zimbabwe is in the process of coming up with the much-awaited Cyber Bill which is part of the legislative agenda that was set by President Emmerson Mnangagwa a few weeks ago when he opened the Second Session of the 9th Parliament of Zimbabwe.
As a way of showing intent and seriousness on the Bill, Cabinet followed up the announcement by approving the principles of the Bill which is now waiting to be gazetted before being tabled in Parliament.
The Bill is coming at a time when the government has exhibited some of the powers that it has in terms of controlling the internet in the country, a development which has sent speculations that the Bill might mean bad time ahead for internet users.
However, according to government, 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.
Batsirai Ngusha from the University of Zimbabwe said the Bill is a welcome move but it must not block freedom of expression which is given by the constitution.
“In as much as we want to protect and guard against cyber offences and cyber-crime, the Bill should consider issues to do with human rights not being undermined or infringed according to Section 61 of the Constitution which provides that, ‘every person has the right to freedom of expression, which includes freedom to seek, receive and communicate ideas and other information’,” he said.
Ngusha added that when the time of debating the Bill come, it must be subjected to scrutiny to measure if it is in line with the constitution and international human rights standards such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) Article 19 (2) which states that everyone must exercise his or her right to freedom of expression.
Commenting on the same issue, Cloud Creative founder and chief executive officer Tanaka Nyambuya said the Cyber Bill must be created in such a way that it will allow artists to use digital tools to be creative without fear of them being arrested.
“If the bill is fully concentrated on upholding a civilised nation it must then allow artists, filmmakers, journalists and any creative minds to fully express themselves using the digital tools without interference and fear of being labelled as criminals since it is within our constitutional rights.
“The Cyber Crime and Security Bill must respect Section 62 of the constitution which provides every citizen with the right to access information held by the state or any institution of the government in order to allow information overflow in every corner of our country,” he said.
According to Philip Shoko, a farmer by profession, the Bill must seek to secure electronic transaction in the country as well as promoting democracy.
“The bill must protect the people against hacking and identity theft by cyber-criminals and also ensure that electronic financing is regulated so that farmers receive money as per agreed date and time.
“Regardless of that I also expect the Bill to be liberal and democratic to all persons in the country,” he said.