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The Zimbabwean Cyber Crime Bill, a good way forward

13 Oct 2019 at 23:03hrs | Views
Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his cabinet passed the long awaited Cyber Crime, Cyber Security and Data Protection Bill in what they say is an effort to "protect the country's cyber space",. While the Bill has not been made law as yet, it aims to bring sanity in Zimbabweans' use of social media platforms including WhatsApp, Twitter and Face Book and penalize those who are disseminating "offensive" material. However, detractors are convinced that the Bill is politically motivated and an attempt to censor what kind of information leaves the country. What they fail to understand is that the cyber world if not guided is a stray bullet a misguided missile.  Many first world governments have restricted internet use during terrorist attacks or political demonstrations. In the same way that the governments of Sudan, Egypt, Benin and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have restricted internet access during protests and civil unrest, so by putting aside laws to control internet use Zimbabwe will have fallen in line with the international world on cyber security.

The Zimbabwean Cabinet has considered and approved the Cyber Crime, Cyber Security and Data Protection Bill. Information Minister Monica Mutsvangwa said the bill seeks to combat cybercrime and increase cyber security in order to build confidence and trust in the secure use of information communication technologies.

She said the bill covers data protection with due regard for constitutional rights and public interest; establishment of a Data Security Centre and a Data Protection Authority under POTRAZ; and investigation and collection of evidence relating to Cyber Crime and unauthorised Data Collection.

The bill covers the admissibility of electronic evidence for offences committed under the Act, penalties for the transmission of messages inciting violence and damage to property, and measures to address the production and dissemination of racist and xenophobic material. the law makes it an offence to circulate child phonography and sadistic communications. Zimbabwe had seen a lot of cyber bullying where people have been kidnapped and tortured on line and the bloody chilling videos circulated on media. A lot of cyber porn revenge videos have been sent around with permanent emotional damage to many. Last year a young Norton girl committed suicide after her jilted boyfriend circulated her nude photos around the country. A Zimbabwean model had almost had her life ruined when a fake video made rounds stating that she had infected a child of her boyfriend with HIV.

In Mutare a respected journalist was paraded on social media being rolled in mud accused of having an affair with a married work mate. The list of wrecked homes and destroyed careers is unending. It has taken Hon Ziyambi hundreds graves and mental anguish to come up with such a protection in the form of cyber law. The government is currently carrying out a national cybersecurity awareness month with activities to educate the public about cyber risks. The Cyber Crime, Cyber Security and Data Protection Bill that will see stiff penalties being levied on citizens allegedly generating and transmitting subversive material meant to incite violence and damage to property as well as harm the economy and destroying lives is the way forward in taming the madness. The bill, presented by Justice Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi is set to protect citizens from cyber bullying and harassment a fete which has come right on time for others and too late for some. The Bill seeks to combat cyber-crime and increase cyber security in order to build confidence and trust in the secure use of information communication technologies.

The provision and approval of codes of conduct and ethics to be observed by all categories of data controllers; while data protection with due regard to constitutional rights and public interest will be under the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe.

According to the bill, a data security centre and a Data Protection Authority will be established. There will also be investigation and collection of evidence relating to cybercrime and unauthorised data collection and breaches. The police should be trained on cyber-crime and detecting of the same. The new law should allow the admissibility of electronic evidence for cybercrimes offences and penalties on all offences committed under the act. There will also be measures to address the production and dissemination of racist, tribalist, hatred and xenophobic material using language that tends to lower the reputation or feelings of persons for the reason that they belong to a group of persons distinguished on the grounds set out in section 56 subsection 3 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe. the law ushers in penalties for persons who generate, distribute or broadcast data concerning an identifiable person knowing it to be false and intending to cause psychological or economic harm; and transmission of pornographic material. if this translates to law Zimbabwe will have  inched closer to clamping down on citizens’ use of social media platforms and will likely fish out and penalize citizens who create and share what is deemed offensive or pornographic material over outlets including WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter and any other social media outlet available or yet to come.

The quench for justice has made president Mnangagwa to request a fast-track of the bill to protect Zimbabwe’s “cyber-space”. However, there is a wrong assumption from the detractors that the law is being pushed through to deal with potential uprisings, especially as public anger against the government’s austerity measures.
The law will come with untold advantages which identify standards of acceptable behaviour for information and communication technology (ICT) users; establishes socio-legal sanctions for cybercrime; protects ICT users, in general, and mitigates and/or prevents harm to people, data, systems, services, and infrastructure, in particular; protects human rights; enables the investigation and prosecution of crimes committed online (outside of traditional real-world settings); and facilitates cooperation between countries on cybercrime matters (UNODC, 2013, p. 52). Cybercrime law provides rules of conduct and standards of behaviour for the use of the Internet, computers, and related digital technologies, and the actions of the public, government, and private organizations; rules of evidence and criminal procedure, and other criminal justice matters in cyberspace; and regulation to reduce risk and/or mitigate the harm done to individuals, organizations, and infrastructure should a cybercrime occur. Accordingly, cybercrime law includes substantive, procedural and preventive law. So the action taken by Zimbabwe is plausible and commendable. While others have criticised the bill for infringing on civil liberties if it becomes law and there are fears from rights and democracy campaigners it could also strengthen any government bid to snoop on private communications of citizens. It sets out penalize people for generation and distribution of “data concerning an identifiable person knowing it to be false and intending to cause psychological or economic. Some Zimbabweans are also worried Mnangagwa is pushing the bill to become law so he can use it to deal with potential uprisings fuelled through social media. WhatsApp, Twitter and Facebook have become key platforms for spreading information about protests in Zimbabwe and elsewhere in Africa. WhatsApp in particular, is very well used in Zimbabwe, where it accounts for nearly 50% of all internet use in the country. if it is used safely the nation will progress without problems, but in the hands of careless war mongers social media becomes a danger to society. Zimbabwean government officials have long complained these platforms are being abused to spread false news, most of which is deemed by authorities to be offensive. it should be noted that the Cyber Crime and Cyber Security Bill “seeks to combat cyber-crime and increase cyber security” and to foster “data protection with due regard to constitutional rights and public interest. In support of the bill the Human Rights Forum of Zimbabwe said earlier this year that revenge pornography was a form of gender-based violence, hence its call for laws to regulate the transmission of pornography.

This bill is not a political weapon; it is actually a pointer to sanity in an insane environment. The bill will also attempt to deal with fake news. It’s been confirmed that the bill will provide penalties for distribution of information one knows is false.The Government is committed to safeguard the country’s economy, citizens and making sure it remains open for business and ensuring Zimbabweans are safe online. Cyber-attacks threaten and cost our economy millions of dollars each year. Zimbabwe takes the protection of its businesses and economy from this growing threat seriously. Businesses, both big and small, people in general need to accept that cyber-crime poses an enormous and immediate risk to their bottom line and daily lives. Many sectors of the economy and personnel have become lucrative targets for cyber criminals, The Bill is going to be beneficial to the country because it seeks to protect and serve the correct uses of technology. Situations involving dishonesty, computer-related financial offences and offences against children have to be eradicated. The aim of the Bill is to create a business environment that is driven by technology, the advent of technology has brought about the regulation of the Bill and the main focus is to create the correct utilisation of technology.

Zimbabwe is not the first country to come up with the cyber laws, In the UK there are laws which seek to restrict what can be published in social media. Anything which encourage child porno, terrorism and a plathora of crimes has made it necessary to have a law which protect citizens against abuse.

The government needs to be very clear in stating what is the crime and how is it punished. An illegal act needs to be clearly described in and prohibited by law. Pursuant to the moral principle of nullum crimen sine lege (Latin for "no crime without law") a person cannot be punished for an act that was not proscribed by law at the time the person committed the act (UNODC, 2013, p. 53). Substantive law defines the rights and responsibilities of legal subjects, which include persons, organizations, and states. Sources of substantive law include statutes and ordinances enacted by city, state, and federal legislatures ( statutory law), federal and state constitutions, and court decisions. In the true sense of this law there are levels of criminal capability
There are different levels of criminal culpability (or criminal responsibility) based on the degree to which an illicit act was intentional (purposely or wilfully committed) or unintentional (recklessly and negligently committed) that varies according to legal system. Negligence is the lowest level of culpability. Those engaging in negligent behaviour lack awareness of the negative consequences of an act. In Senegal, "[anyone who, even through negligence, processes or arranges the processing of personal data without having complied with the formalities set out in the Law on Personal Data prior to using such data shall be punished.

perpetrated in cyberspace that are 'hybrid' or 'cyber-enabled' crimes, as well as 'new' or 'cyber-dependent' crimes that have been made possible with the advent of the Internet and Internet-enabled digital technologies. For these reasons, many countries have developed laws that are specifically designed to deal with cybercrime. It is mischievous for anyone to vilify the bill.
We therefore applaud the efforts done by the government
Source - Dr Masimba Mavaza
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