'Zim needs fresh cyber-bullying laws'

HARARE - Zimbabwe needs to enact the first ever anti-bullying laws to defend against online abuse, with Parliament asked to urgently pass an anti-harassment law specific to the Internet.

The call comes as Edmund Kudzayi, the Internet “troll” who allegedly posted vile abuse against top Zanu PF regime officials on Facebook, has reportedly been asked to step down as Sunday Mail editor.

He has been given an exit package including three months salary and his Toyota Bubble vehicle. Kudzayi has been hauled before the courts for the hateful comments, including calls to over throw the president.

The Information minister Jonathan Moyo’s key recruit and Sunday Mail editor is facing serious sedition charges, and that he was the brains behind the faceless, but notorious Facebook character, Baba Jukwa.

The case has taken a political tone after Moyo and Savior Kasukuwere’s grilling by police which came after the Zanu PF leader had savaged Moyo as a “devil incarnate and weevil” out to cause divisions in the party, but effectively left him hanging to dry as the factional-driven Baba Jukwa saga continues to play out.

At the time that Mugabe fired the successive salvos about three months ago, the nonagenarian president also said Moyo had bungled by hiring State editors who were largely opposed to
his rule and sympathetic to the opposition Movement for Democratic Change.

As the Baba Jukwa and Amai Jukwa court case stripped away the cloak of anonymity which shielded Kudzayi, accused of peddling lies and engaging in vicious smears, victims of the
cyber-bullying believe Zimbabwe now needs laws to bring to an end the injustice of victims being subject to sickening online abuse — often from those they have never met — with little chance of finding out who is responsible.

There are mounting calls for the enactment of a Malicious Communications Act, or a Cyber-Bullying Act.

Kudzayi denies he is Baba Jukwa, whose page had over 409 260 followers as of yesterday, but has since admitted that he is Amai Jukwa.

Baba Jukwa terrorised and insulted Zanu PF administration secretary and minister of State in the President’s Office, Didymus Mutasa, Vice President Joice Mujuru, retired Reserve
Bank governor Gideon Gono, among other top officials. They were tormented for months by the then anonymous bully.

As the law stands, individuals can be the subject of scurrilous rumour and allegations on the web with little meaningful remedy against the person responsible.

Zimbabwe’s current anti-bullying statute does not go far enough.

The Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act provides for computer-related crime, but experts say the code is “too narrow, thin and grossly inadequate” to deal with the dynamic changes in cyber crime.

Section 162 to 168 of Chapter 8 of the Criminal Code tries to deal with unauthorised access and use of computer-related manipulation, but fails to deal with issues of bringing tormentors to book or bring a prosecution for libel.

The increasing prevalence of bullying — and cyber-bullying in particular — is due in part to the rapidly expanding number of Zimbabweans with access to mobile devices. Almost all Zimbabweans citizens now use a cell phone regularly, making it the most common medium for cyber-bullying.

A Q1 report by Zimbabwe’s telecommunications regulator, Potraz, says the country’s mobile penetration rate is now 106 percent. Mobile penetration rate measures the number of active
mobile sim cards on the market, as a percentage of the 13 million total population of Zimbabwe.

One victim of the Amai Jukwa Internet troll, who declined to be named, said he lodged numerous complaints with Facebook against the anonymous blogger, and felt “helpless” after
finding hateful texts posted on the popular social media page relentlessly, including against his family.

Gono, for instance, in May said he would go after the Internet troll Amai Jukwa and is reportedly pursuing a civil suit.

There have been a string of cases of “trolls” posting lies against ordinary citizens as well — such as making accusations of prostitution — on social networking sites.

In 2012, the State struggled to prosecute Elton Makumbe, a 17-year-old Chiredzi boy of 1817 Gudo Road in Tshovani township who posted a picture of Sharon Mutsetse snapped using his cell, and captioned it, “Ndomahure emuChilaz” or “This is a typical Chiredzi prostitute.” State prosecutor Prosper Chipangura told the court that on February 2, 2012, Makumbe called Mutsetse telling her that he had posted her picture on Facebook, and Mutsetse lodged a police report.

Because the law is woefully inadequate to deal with such crimes, Magistrate Tinashe Ndokera eventually convicted him for violating the Criminal Codification and Reform Act after the
prosecution struggled with the case.

It was the first cyber-bullying case handled by Zimbabwean courts.

Free speech advocates, however, say new laws must be balanced by proposals to stop people falsely claiming critical articles are defamatory simply to get them removed.

A former MDC MP for Insiza, Siyabonga Malandu-Ncube, in August 2011 pressed charges against a female reporter for allegedly insulting him on Facebook that he had infected the B-
Metro newspaper writer Simiso Mlevu with HIV, the virus which causes Aids.

Mlevu alleged on Facebook that the MP was a man of lose morals who goes around bedding women and infecting them with HIV virus. Malandu-Ncube died in April, as the State struggled to prosecute his $1,5 million civil suit against the journalist.

Free speech advocates however say the new law should not be used to inhibit responsible free speech of public figures such as bloggers, government critics and journalists.

But as it is, there are no remedies or relief to aggrieved parties, no preventative and curative relief to deal with the issue of cyber-bullying under Zimbabwean laws.

Privacy advocates and cyber-bullying victims have proposed fresh laws saying they have a right to know who is behind malicious messages and prevent false claims such as those
allegedly made by Kudzayi.

The State alleges Kudzayi took part in an offensive against Zanu PF, with most of the posts anchored on salacious gossip than whistle blowing, and include what it claims are exposés by well-connected insiders of Mugabe’s health secrets, murder, assassination and corruption plots, and intimidation and vote-rigging in the elections won by Mugabe and his ruling
Zanu PF.

As it is, anyone can post scurrilous rumour and allegation online without fear of adequate punishment. The Zimbabwean criminal code does not, at any point, mention computer aided crimes or cyber criminology directly as a crime.

Legal experts say there is a lacuna, or a policy and legal vacuum, which is also giving the police nightmares in adequately prosecuting the now ubiquitous cyber-bullying crime.

The legal vacuum has also left companies and banks exposed to cyber crime.

The criminal code covers things such as unauthorised use of password or pin, and other mundane issues.

Advocates want a libel regime for the Internet that makes it possible for people to protect their reputations effectively.

Nelson Chamisa, chairman of the parliamentary portfolio committee on ICTs, told the Daily News that there were consultations being done to bring a Bill before Parliament to deal
with cyber crime.

“We are pushing, we are completing a report of the factors, we were gathering information from Econet Telecel, NetOne, Potraz, etc,” he said.

Telecom firms have expanded rapidly over the past five-and-half years in Zimbabwe, where mobile phones lagged well behind other developing countries.

Econet, run by exiled Zimbabwean entrepreneur Strive Masiyiwa, is Zimbabwe’s largest mobile operator by subscribers and revenue ahead of Telecel, the Orascom unit, and State-owned NetOne.

“Government must move with speed to cover and protect people of Zimbabwe from cyber bullying and other cyber crimes,” Chamisa said.

He claimed there was no interest from the executive to sponsor a Bill before Parliament by Cabinet. He claimed this was caused by “techno and security phobia.”

“We observe palpable inertia on the part of executive to move with speed in bringing a Malicious Communications Bill or cyber bullying Bill,” Chamisa told the Daily News.

He said lawmakers were mulling introducing a Private Members Bill, and said they had engaged their colleagues in Zanu PF to ensure that it was a “bi-partisan effort.”

“We are trying to get both sides of the legislature to effect reform,” he said.

The Internet has become a lawless jungle, and domestic laws have become slow to be developed against the supersonic and dynamic developments in technology, IT experts say.

Chamisa said: “We are really exposed as a country. We have not sufficiently put legislative clothing to protect everyone, including government officials, ordinary citizens against cyber bullying.”

He admitted that there was inertia from the executive in pushing for legislative reforms to deal with online harassment.

“The sure recourse is to have a comprehensive cyber crime law urgently taken to Parliament,” Chamisa said.

Regional blocs Sadc and Comesa have both come up with model bills that could help Zimbabwe deal with cyber crime.

Harassment is already a crime in Zimbabwe but the law is unclear about online harassment. Victims are pushing for new laws to give more protection to the ordinary Zimbabwean
Internet-user, including children.

Cyber bullying or cyber-harassment victims must be able to use the law to ensure stalkers desist from causing them any further harm, one victim said, as well as remove any offending content that constituted online harassment.

Lawmakers are agreed that everyone should be made accountable for causing harm to another by making hurtful statements and uttering falsehoods in the physical world, and should not obtain a free pass because he does it online, and anonymously.

Critics, however, worry that the mooted legislation may have a chilling effect on free speech.

Chamisa said there were fears in government but called on officials to agree to rules over how to deal with libellous comments posted against defenceless individuals.

“There is encyclopedic techno-phobia in government to respond to this,” he said.

“There is also security phobia. But, we need cyber-specific clauses to deal with those issues.”

Comments (2)

I love reading through an article that can make men and women think. Also, thanks for allowing for me to comment! Software World

stave - 1 September 2014

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