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Zim Parliament Passes Restrictive Cyber Security bill, Awaits Presidential Assent

ZIMBABWE’s  parliament has passed a controversial cyber security bill that gives authorities sweeping powers to tackle offences without any amendments.

The bill that has been criticised by several opposing voices particularly the media now awaits the president to assent into law.
The latest legal document for cyber players has many contentious clauses, and digital players and human rights activists have on several times lobbied the law makers to refine the document before passing it into law.

Recently, digital players in Zimbabwe including (ZOCC) Zimbabwe Online Content Creators working with MISA Zimbabwe petitioned the speaker of parliament to intensively consult with the public, debate on highlighted ‘restrictive’ clauses before hurriedly passing the document into law.

The Minister of ICT Postal and Courier Services Muswere acceded to relook at Clauses 13, 17, 23 and 164 of the Bill with a view to amend them but refused to relook into the establishment of Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) as the national data security centre.

Some of the controversial clauses include Section 5 and 7 of the Bill that seek to establish the Postal & Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) as the Cybersecurity Centre and Data Protection Authority.

The clauses give POTRAZ authority over three sensitive roles and or bodies, that is, regulator of the telecommunications industry, the cybersecurity centre and the data protection authority.

In simple terms, POTRAZ has been given power to control data control in Zimbabwe thus defeating the purpose of separation of powers.

Other clauses in the bill criminalizes general freedoms of Zimbabweans and media players in particular.

164C :Transmission of false data message intending to cause harm Any person who unlawfully and intentionally by means of a computer or information system makes available, broadcasts or distributes data to any other person concerning an identified or identifiable person knowing it to be false with intend to cause psychological or economic harm shall be guilty of an offence and liable to a fine not exceeding level 10 or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding five years or to both such fine and such imprisonment.