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Mixed feelings over proposed Cyber Security Bill

Bulawayo residents expressed divergent views on the proposed Cyber Security and Data Protection Bill, as some felt it will address issues of online related crime such as child pornography while others argued it did not have sufficient measures for data protection.

Participants who supported the proposed bill, said it would address cybercrime and increase security, building confidence while those against it noted that the criminal aspects were included to entice citizens for their support as the anti-criminal laws were already existing.

The public hearing on the proposed bill was held at Luveve Hall Monday morning, chaired by the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Information Communication Technology (ICT) and Courier Services led by Senator David Parirenyatwa.

The ICT and Courier Service was also in the company of the Information, Media and Broadcasting parliamentary committee as well as the thematic committee on Peace and Security.

Some residents welcomed the proposed Bill, gazetted May 15, 2020, saying it was long overdue and would safeguard people’s interests online.

“This bill delayed as people used online to mobilise and burn people’s shops and the police were afraid to arrest the criminals. Another factor is child abuse that takes place online. Our children are always on WhatsApp, especially at night and you hear them giggling yet they would be talking to older men who pretend to be young This bill must stop that,” said a Luveve resident, Anna Moyo.

Sidumo Nkomo concurred that the cybercrime bill would bring order to online activity.

“I support the bill because it addresses the concerns we had about online and social media, which are prone to abuse. This proposed bill will stop misuse of social platforms,” he said.

But other participants exposed the gaps in the Bill saying it did not have sufficient safeguards for data protection and citizens right to privacy, as it increased surveillance of citizens.

Nkululeko Dube said the bill must show accountability since it was dealing with collection, use and retention of personal data.

“The regulating authority must have a responsibility to notify concerned parties when that personal data is abused and this must authority must be accountable to Parliament and not the Executive to minimise the possibility of abuse of power,” he said.

His sentiments arose as the proposed cybercrime bill says the Cybersecurity Centre and Data protection report to the Executive through the minister.

Another participant said the bill placed too much power on Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) by making it both the Cybersecurity Centre and Data Protection Authority yet there was a need for an independent data protection authority, answerable to parliament.

Pamenus Thuso said the proposed bill did not provide protection to whistleblowers.

“There should be sufficient provisions for protecting whistleblowers, which is critical in fighting corruption in the country,” he said.

It was noted that the proposed bill fell short of the ambits of International Standards and Good practices.

“There is a law to deal with for example child pornography or any pornography for that matter. Citation of the same as useful in enacting the bill is therefore superfluous. The bill should respect the Bill of Rights in the Constitution of Zimbabwe since our constitution was voted for by Zimbabweans after a nationwide referendum.

“Its intrusive aspects, once enacted, are therefore a negation of the people’s consent. The Bill will if enacted not protect data subjects from abuse of the same information by data controllers,” said Swithern Chirowodza.

The public hearing in Luveve was divided into two sessions as there were more than 50 people while another meeting was to be held in Pumula South.

The ICT and Courier Services Parliamentary Portfolio is expected to proceed to Gwanda and Nyamandlovu before winding up the hearings in Matebeleland.

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