How safe is Zim after new Cybersecurity bill?

The central theoretical and practical aspect of global security has become
increasingly complex due to breakneck changes in technology.

Governments across the world are currently grappling with security issues. The outbreak of coronavirus which is also known as Covid-19 has also become a global security issue that has laid bare the downsides of globalisation.

While scientists are frantically making efforts to develop a new vaccine for
the pandemic, Zimbabwe’s government this week gazetted the Cybersecurity and Data Protection Bill as part of its measures to create a firewall on internet abusers.

Interestingly, the new bill has generated a lot of debate on the same
platform it seeks to keep an eagle eye on. A few weeks before the Cybersecurity and Data Protection Bill was gazetted, a shadowy group purporting to be behind the Mozambique conflict was active on microblogging site, Twitter, threatening to cause disability in Zimbabwe.

For authorities who still stick to the traditional role of the state in ensuring national security, such threats presented a strong argument for snooping on internet activities.

n Tuesday, outgoing SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security,
President Emmerson Mnangagwa said the region which has generally enjoyed long periods of peace compared to the tumultuous parts of the continent is facing new threats from terror organisations. SADC, he said, should join hands in combating this new threat.

While it is generally accepted that the state should play a role in protecting
its citizenry, the new bill has also brought a new dimension to the ongoing
debate. Media watchdogs argue that the law in its current state is fraught
with irregularities.

The Media Institute of Southern Africa, (MISA) Zimbabwe Chapter hopes
that the crafting and enforcement of this legislation will not be blinkered
or narrowed to entirely prioritise the protection of ‘national interests’ and
the prevention of ‘social media abuse’ at the expense of digital security and
protection of the privacy of internet users in Zimbabwe.

MISA argued that, Section 5 and 7 of the Bill seek to establish the Postal
and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz),
as the Cybersecurity Centre and Data Protection Authority, respectively.
This essentially gives Potraz the roles of potentially three bodies, being the
regulator of the telecommunications industry, the cybersecurity centre and
the data protection authority.

As rightly laid out in the Bill, Potraz is created in terms of the Postal
and Telecommunications Act [Chapter 12:05] and likewise, its roles should
be limited to those laid out in [Chapter 12:05]. It is inappropriate to also
allocate the functions of the Cybersecurity Centre and Data Protection
Authority in their entirety to Potraz. There is no justifiable basis to promote
such monopoly by Potraz as this frowns upon the basic principles of efficiency, before even delving into the nitty-gritties of the independence of this body.

Herein lies the contentious issue. Just like democracy, the concept of
national interest is not universally accepted and in such instances the
country’s supreme law which seeks to promote civil liberties should be the
compass that balances the penchant for state’s perceived heavy-handedness
and promoting Zimbabwe’s nascent democracy.

For a country that has been blighted by past misdemeanours, striking this
balance will continue to be the major talking point.

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