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Legislators Not Conversant to Debate Cyber Bill

by Wisdom Mumera

The majority of the current crop of legislators lack the necessary knowledge and skills to provide the much needed input into the Cyber Crime Bill according to various internet governance experts.

The Cyber Crime and Cyber Security Bill is set to come before Parliament within the next two weeks according Parliamentary Portfolio Committee Chairperson on Information Communication Technology, Postal and Courier Services, Charlton Hwende raising fears on whether the legislators can bring much input to it.

Speaking during the third Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Internet Governance Forum in Harare internet experts were unanimous in agreeing that the scope of internet governance was beyond most of the Parliamentarians and could result in the creation of a monster law.
Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa Director Nhlanhla Ngwenya said most legislators don’t understand the scope of cyber space and you should also understand that we are talking about a moving target which is unlike the print media where things are generally stagnant.

“Take for example Zuckerberg’s appearance before Congress, he was being asked stupid questions by politicians. Inane and irrelevant questions that had no correlation with the prime issue. That just goes to show the challenge that we have with legislators debating such issues as internet laws”, he said.

Dr. James Tsabora from the Centre for Applied Legal Research (CALR) added his voice to the argument questioning the format of creating laws vis-vis the nature of technology.
“Our laws are backward looking such that they have a challenge dealing with cyber-crimes.’
“We create laws basing on what has happened in the past but now technology and the internet are forward looking, constantly evolving and changing such that by the time laws have been debated and gazetted, technology has evolved a notch”

“So the question is do we have the norms to govern the internet, specific norms to regulate and to use in the creation of internet governance laws”, he said.

MISA Legal Officer Kudakwashe Hove raised fears about the creation of a monster law.
“The creation of a cyber law is a noble initiative but the fears of the public are about a monster law that will be used by authorities to prey upon members of the public”, he said.

The Cyber Crime bill has been pending since 2013 with fears amongst members of the public that authorities will increase their spying ad prying into people’s lives especially political opponents of the status quo.

Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) Programmes Manager Lilian Nwaloga added that African states had resorted to using cyber laws against political opponents in a narrative that has been happening in countries like Uganda, Burundi, Kenya, Nigeria and Ethiopia.

In Zimbabwe they has been an upsurge in cases where people have been arrested for cyber related crimes of late with the ZRP revealing that cyber-crimes rates have jumped from 38 in 2017 to more than 600 in 2018.

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