Legislator fears social media abuse

By Daniel Chigundu

Matebeleland South legislator and women rights advocate Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga says social media such as facebook and Twitter are full of abusers and that she will not be very active on them anytime soon.

Zimbabwe has been hit by social media frenzy like no other time since independence, thanks to an increase in internet penetration rate and mobile penetration that have been recorded in the last six years.

Social media platforms such as twitter, facebook, whatsapp and Instagram have been the most popular with companies, individuals and some politicians who have taken advantage of the wide reaching platforms to belittle their political rivals in factional fights and to also settle political scores.

Earlier in the year Zanu PF had to call for an urgent Politburo meeting following an exchange of harsh words on Twitter between its members who belong to rival factions.

Fading musician Fungisai Zvakavapano-Mashavave also complained that she is being abused on Facebook after dumping gospel music for the popular dancehall.

In an interview in Bulawayo recently, Honourable Misihairabwi-Mushonga who although has a facebook account, said she fears being added to the growing list of victims of social media abuse.

“The reason I am not very active on Facebook is because I have no patience for abuse and there is also a lot of abuse that goes on Twitter and I don’t I want to be abused.

“So I will not be active there,” said the most theatrical legislator in the Eight Parliament of Zimbabwe.

Honourable Misihairabwi-Mushonga sentiment comes at a time when the ICT, Postal and Courier Services Minister Supa Mandiwanzira has just drafted a Computer Crime and Cybercrime Bill.

According to the draft, the Bill is meant to criminalize offences against computers and network related crime; to consolidate the criminal law on computer crime and network crime; to provide for investigation and collection of evidence for computer and network related crime; to provide for the admission of electronic evidence for such offences, and to provide for matters connected with or incidental to the foregoing.

Although the Bill is still at drafting stage and has not gone through the various stages requires for it to become law, it has already received wide condemnation from various civic society organisations and individuals alike.

Prolific constitutional lawyer Tendai Biti is on record saying he will fight the Bill in court arguing that it violets the freedoms and rights that are enshrined in the country’s Bill of Rights.

Biti also says there is no justification for introducing such kind of a law in Zimbabwe adding that the draft Bill was copied from the Lesotho ICT Bill and has no relevance to the situation in the country.

Zimbabwe doesn’t currently have a distinct ICT Act and mainly relies seven Acts, namely the Postal and Telecommunication Act, Interception of Communication Act, Criminal Law Codification Reform Act, Censorship and Entertainment Controls Act, Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, Consumer Contracts Act and the Copyright Right and Neighbouring Rights Acts.

However in a research on Internet Governance in Zimbabwe published by Misa Zimbabwe, lawyer and researcher Otto Saki says the current laws and policies are not concerned with facilitation, access, content, net neutrality, use and furtherance of fundamental rights and freedoms as enshrined in the constitution or other international norms that Zimbabwe has ratified and acceded.

Saki added that the current framework is more concerned with control, security and restrictions arguing that these regulations and measures have been adopted as part of the ordinary laws on access to information, regulation of communication or ordinary setting up of communication and internet infrastructure.

There are fears that the new draft might be a reaction to the popularity enjoyed by the Hashtag movements that have been able to mobilize for various protests and demonstrations across the country using such social media as Whatsapp, facebook and Twitter.

Hashtag movements that quickly come to mind include #ThisFlag of exiled Pastor Evan Mawarire and #Tajamuka among many others.

POTRAZ has already threatened to confiscate gadgets and prosecute Zimbabweans found to be on the wrong side of the law with regards to use of social media.

It however waits to be seen if the draft Bill will get the green light and be passed into a law.

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