Zimbabwe’s Cyber and Security data protection bill 2019, Well Explained

The Cyber and Security data protection bill was published on the 15th of May 2020. The purpose of the measure was to consolidate cyber-related offences as well as to provide for data protection, it also seeks to increase cybersecurity and secure use of information and communication technologies. The proposal has a positive impact on society however it also has its negative side. This article will evaluate the positive and negative sides of the act.

Positive effects

The Cyber and Security data protection bill will help curb the spread of fake news in society. The rise of citizen journalism and widespread use of the internet has made it easy for the public to generate and spread fake news. The measure provides penalties for the distribution of false information.  

Furthermore, the act will restore social order, ensure peace and national security as it prohibits the use of data messages to incite violence and damage to property. In 2016 Zimbabwean citizens used social media to mobilise the masses to protest against the ruling president Robert Mugabe, these protests led to violent protests characterised by rampant looting, damage to property and loss of lives. 

The bill also enabled the regulation of and policing of data breaches such as hacking, unlawful electronic transactions and cyber-crimes. Clause (163) of the bill prohibits the unlawful access to data from any technological gadget and the offender shall be guilty of hacking reads that any person who intentionally and unlawfully without authorisation accesses data or information. Local companies will be protected from hackers who access private databases and sensitive and confidential information through hacking. Such companies will be protected from hackers, as offenders face the possibility of serving a 10-year jail term. 

Children are also protected by this new act as it deals with new technology-facilitated social crimes like child pornography. 

The internet cuts across geographical and physical boundaries and this makes it easy for social outcasts like paedophiles, rapists and nudists to abuse young innocent children via the internet. The bill protects children’s rights by criminalising offences such as child pornography and the dissemination of unlawful information to children. Clause (165) of the bill reads that any person who unlawfully and intentionally through a computer or information system, produces child pornography, distributes or transmits child pornography shall be guilty of an offence and can face a ten-year jail term.

Negative effects

The bill may be misused by the government to censor dissenting voices and opposition parties. The Cyber and Security Protection Bill restricts freedom of expression.     

Police and other government law enforcement agents were invested with a lot of discretionary power to access private and confidential information by the new law.