Computer and Cyber Crime Bill dangerous

HARARE - Media and political commentators have reacted angrily to government’s plans to enact a new law that will empower police to intercept private communications and to search and seize electronic gadgets.

Already Information and Communication Technology minister Supa Mandiwanzira is reportedly gathering stakeholder views on the proposed Computer and Cyber Crime Bill which will target Zimbabweans both at home and outside the country.

While government is arguing that the new regulations will target those abusing social media to instigate violence, banditry and general instability in the country, commentators say the Bill stifles freedom of expression as it seeks to intimidate social media users.

Political commentator Elliot Pfebve said the Computer and Cyber Crime Bill, is a sign of desperation by the government to curtail citizens freedom further.

“It is in response to the recent social media effectiveness that shutdown the entire country and its effectiveness in coordinating, executing and monitoring has brought a shift in political dynamics unknown to a Zanu PF government.

“They didn’t see this coming and hence the desperate move to silence the rediscovered voices of the people.

Pfebve said Mandiwanzira must be told categorically that he is flogging a dead horse; no amount of political muscle will silence the Zimbabwean voices, rediscovered through the social media conduit.

“The time for their propaganda and monopoly of airwaves is over, everybody now is a journalist and everybody is in control of his/her destiny.

“Let the drama begins but to Mandiwanzira, you should be aware that, the problem is not the social media, for this is global in nature but the problem is your master Robert Mugabe and your combined incompetence.”

Pfebve said Zimbabweans are simply using the social media responsibly to voice our anger against your despotic rule and demanding that you resign forthwith to give Zimbabweans the chance to elect a responsible government. “You may force throat parliament to rubber stamp the bill, but that bill will not be worth the paper it is printed on, we will combatively meet you head on!”

Media practitioner Tabani Moyo said the bill shows the never ending appetite to control the thinking and exchange of ideas on the part of the government.

“It speaks of the mindset which seeks to propel hindrances rather than setting an enabling framework.

“There is a misleading musk by the government that it seeks to protect and mainstream moral exchange of ideas when in essence; they want to curb the use of social media ahead of the elections. That is why Chiwenga and Chihuri are speaking out on the social media impact,” said Moyo.

He added that in essence it exposes the fact that social media is topping the cabinet agenda as you hear the security sector, party functionaries and government itself increasingly talking about regulation of the social media.

Media practitioner Rashweat Mukundu said the bill will be pushed in parliament without doubt more so as the government fears the capacity of dissenting voices to mobilize through ICT based platforms.

“The unfortunate issue with any social media clampdown is that it is akin to chasing the wind. Instead of attempting to shut down social media and threaten activists the government must cooperate with technology by allowing its growth and do what governments should do which is to address grievances that society has on socioeconomic issues.

“The best way to shut dissent is to address its root cause which is economic collapse, corruption and poor policies. By trying to shut the net you attract more attention to yourself and more critically you push dissent underground and it becomes even more dangerous. Technology is advancing and cannot be contained even by powerful governments like the USA, the originators of the net as we saw with the Snowden issue,” said Mukundu.

Journalist Tonderai Kwindi said this an attempt by a desperate regime to silence the voice of the people. “It's an assault on freedom of expression which is explicitly guaranteed in the country's constitution. For a longtime the government has somehow managed to silence vocal dissent against misrule by enacting a plethora of pieces of legislation that made it difficult to raise complains. This is not surprising at all because that what this regime has been at since 1980, enacting laws to respond to a particular ‘mischief’.

“Several people have already been taken to courts for posting stuff on Facebook deemed criminal but luckily the courts have dismissed a majority of those cases, a sign that there's no merit in the introduction of yet another repressive law.

“I however have confidence in that people with the help of creators of these social platforms with find ways of going around these hair brain ideas of the regime.

“While Mandiwanzira would not have a problem passing this legislation in parliament it will surely be resisted by the people. This time they've had enough. These threats will not defeat an idea whose time has come,” said Kwindi.

Political commentator Mcdonald Lewanika said the bill is a very dangerous one on two grounds. “Firstly, it poses a serious threat to freedoms of expression and communication in a country where the constitutional safeguards and sacrosanctity of free expression and access to information have not been respected.

“Secondly it poses a serious threat to privacy of Internet users as such bills usually provide governments with permission to snoop , filter information and decrypt internet users communications.”

Lewanika said while the capacity of the state to police the Internet can be a matter of conjecture, the mere presence of such laws has the impact of creating atmospheres of fear and mistrust.

“The bill is a good candidate for resistance in principle, because unfortunately given the fact that Zanu PF has a super majority in parliament if it is presented on the floor of parliament it is likely to pass, unless people in Zanu PF pause to reflect on what the bill also means for them, their own privacy, their own access and their own Internet safety and security.

“Because unfortunately although the motive might be driven by a need to stem the activities of online activists, such a bill affects and impacts on the rights of all Internet users including business, political and socio-economic actors,” said Lewanika.

Playwright Silvanos Mudzvova said first of all Mandiwanzira and company will pass it through Parliament. “That is a given and after that the real war starts. It will never become a success as no one will ever be convicted as the government will need cooperation of Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter as such organisations believe in freedom of speech and they will never hand out critical evidence needed.”

Social commentator Rejoice Ngwenya said this paranoid government, clueless on the basic tenets of democracy, has an unlimited repertoire of anti-civilisation regulations.

“Our national constitution is clear on freedom of expression, this latest madness from Zanu PF attack dog Mandiwanzira will have to be given a tough constitutional test.

“I don't know who he will consult, but they will be such an overwhelming rejection so much that only the fake parliamentary majority will push through the bill.

“It looks like every time Zimbabweans exercise their freedom, the diabolical Zanu PF dragon conjures up some legislative instrument to frustrate us,” said Ngwenya.

Zimbabwe Editors’ Forum acting chairperson Njabulo Ncube said the bill stifles freedom of expression as intimidates social media users.

“Zanu PF has the numbers in the bicameral parliament and what Mugabe wants goes. But it is difficult to curtail an idea whose time has come. Regulating Internet reading and social media is not the same as controlling print and broadcasting as is the case. China, our all-weather friends have tried, but people know how to beat the system,” said Ncube.

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