By Daniel Chigundu
The much awaited Cyber Crimes and Cyber Security Bill which is meant among other things to regulate the use of internet and protect users is reportedly being finalised at the Attorney-General’s Office (AG) before being sent to Cabinet for approval.
The proposed 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.
Most opposition parties, civic society organisations and individuals have been taking to the social media to register their displeasure on the state of affairs in the country as well as to mobilise.
Rights groups such as Tajamuka and #ThisFlag have also been able to communicate their messages to a wider audience via social media, a development which has not gone down well with government ahead of the all important general elections.
Legal watchdog Veritas Zimbabwe in its Constitution Watch series revealed that the Bill is at the AG’s office but is not sure how long it will be there.
“The final legal draft of this long-awaited Bill is being prepared by the drafters in the Attorney-General’s Office.
“Once agreed between the Attorney-General’s Office and the responsible Ministry, the Bill will go to the Cabinet Committee on Legislation for final approval. We are not able to predict when the Bill will eventually reach Parliament,” said Veritas.
The AG’s Office is reportedly short-staffed and has been castigated on countless occasions for delaying drafting of important bills such as the Public Health Bill which took forever to be finalised.
President Robert Mugabe had set the Bill as part of the legislative agenda for the ended Fourth Session of the Eighth Parliament of Zimbabwe but the Bill failed to come through and expectations are that he will put it on the agenda of the Fifth Session which he will officially open on the 12th of September.
While there is a general agreement that there is a need for a Cyber Bill of some sort, there are however fears that the opportunity might be abused to infringe on humans rights.
ZimRights has reportedly warned the government against infringing on human rights during the drafting stage or application of the Bill should it come into force.
Another school of thought to the Cyber Bills is that government has reportedly been looking for justifications to make the Bill stricter and is likely to use the death threat messages received by MDC-T legislators, hacking of Zanu PF website and Katswe Sistahood petition on revenge porn as some of the justifications.
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.