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Mixed emotions over Cyber Security and Data Protection Bill

A series of conflicting sentiments were raised during a public hearing on the Cyber Security and Data Protection Bill which was held at Pumula South on 06 July 2020.

There was a general consensus amongst most residents that enacting the bill as a law will benefit the nation as a whole. However, some residents cited that it would strip citizens of their rights to privacy and freedom of speech.

By Minenhle Moyo

The public hearing was conducted by the Parliamentary Portfolio Thematic Committee on Peace and Security, Portfolio Committee on Media, Information and Broadcasting Services.

Skhethabahle Ndlovu, shared her sentiments by stating that the bill should be passed as law in order to monitor social media communication that causes public disorder.

She said as a parent she welcomes all the provisions of the bill as it will protect their children from consuming false messages passed on social media platforms.

“As a parent, I welcome this move by the government because a lot of false information causing havoc and unrest among communities is sent through social media platforms such as WhatsApp, Facebook and other platforms,” said Ndlovu.

A resident from Pumula South who identified himself as Tendai Mazonde said the bill was critical in monitoring circulation of information and safeguards people’s interests online.

“This bill will be very useful especially for the circulation of data that is meant for private use,” said Mazonde. “Scholarly work such as research projects will be protected and not fall prey to plagiarism because of the provisions of the bill.”

Mazonde added that the government should assign one independent entity that will manage, and ensure that all communication done online is protected.

“I think that the government should assign Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) the mandate to keep and monitor all communications,” added Mazonde. “We do not want second or third parties to be involved.”

As some supported the Cyber Security and Data Protection Bill, a few citizens dissented suggesting that the bill will strip them of their rights to privacy and freedom of speech as it increased surveillance of citizens.

Mr Masai Ncube said the laws are meant to protect human kind and not expose them to possible dangers emerging from monitoring of private conversations.

He said information communicated on mobile telephones between two people should be respected and kept private as it is basic human rights.

“The messages that I send to another person should not be seen by anyone else unless I would have consented,” he said. “This is the reason why I am against this bill as I will not enjoy my privacy any more knowing that there is someone else who has access to my private information.”

Senator David Pagwesese Pararinyatwa urged government to provide these bills in local languages upon realising that the government often sends bills written only in English, which for years has proven to be a hindrance for some locals to contribute views from an informed position, the Chairperson of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Information Communication Technology (ICT) and Courier Services.

“I urge the government to forewarn the people about such hearings and provide these documents in their local languages so that they all understand, then we will realise fruitful results”, he said.

Similar hearings are being conducted in other provinces across the country as these began yesterday and will likely draw to an end on the 10th of July 2020, with Bulawayo having hosted them in Luveve and Pumula South, respectively. An alternative Zoom meeting will be conducted on the 10th of July between 2 pm and 4 pm.


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