Call to expedite Cyber Bill gets louder

By Daniel Chigundu

THERE are fears that the Parliamentary Privileges Committee report on death threat messages to MDC-T Members of Parliament (MPs) might be abused to introduce the Cyber Crime Bill.

After failing to locate the origin of the messages, The Privileges Committee recommended that there is need to expedite the process of bringing into the operation of the Cyber-crimes Bill, which should establish a Cyber Security Office, a Cyber-Crime Special Unit and a Ministerial Committee to deal with cyber-crimes.

According to the committee chairperson Chief Fortune Charumbira, the Bill should also be introduced in Parliament by September 2017.

The Computer Crime and Cyber Crime Bill is one of the Bills that President Robert Mugabe said will be tabled in Parliament in the current Fourth Session.

Debating on the report, Harare West legislator Jessie Majome said she was worried that the report might be abused to tighten freedom of speech in the country instead of focusing on protecting MPs.

Jessie-Majome
Harare West legislator Jessie Majome

“It seems to me that the issue has now become one of lamenting how cyber crime is so difficult and that we must tighten cyber crime investigations.

“I am concerned that instead of taking measures to protect Honourable MPs from expressing and enjoying their political conscience, this report is going to be abused to actually tighten and curtail freedom of speech and access to information in Zimbabwe by saying that if the Cyber Crime Bill comes, everything will be fine,” she said.

The proposed Cyber Crime Bill, whose draft was circulated last year, is widely seen by many as government’s measure to close the country’s cyber space ahead of 2018 general elections.

Seasoned constitutional lawyer and People’s Democratic Party president Tendai Biti is also on record saying the proposed Bill was not relevant for countries such as Zimbabwe and that he will challenge its legality in the Constitutional Court.

Meanwhile, the Privileges Committee has also called for the amendment of the Postal and Telecommunications Act which they say is outdated and doesn’t reflect current situations.

“The Postal and Telecommunications Act must also be amended to reflect the technological changes around the globe and render certain actions as unlawful, for example in the matter before the Committee, the culprit unlawfully accessed the system.

“A bill proposing amendments to the Postal and Telecommunications Act must be brought to Parliament before the end of 2017. There is a need for legislation or bilateral agreements which enable the ease of access of information beyond the Zimbabwean borders.

“This is essential for the facilitation of cooperation between the police and prosecuting authorities in different countries. Ministry of Information, Communication Technology, Postal and Courier Services should facilitate this by December 2017,” said the committee.

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