Cyber Bill to Undergo Amendments

Government is set to make amendments to the Cyber Security and Data Protection Bill after it acceded to reservations expressed on some clauses during debate in the National Assembly last week.

Information Communication Technology, Postal and Courier Services Minister Jenfan Muswere said he will look at the clauses which raised concern from legislators with a view to adjust them.

He said the Postal and Telecommunication Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe remained as the best placed to deal with cyber security and data protection and will not acceded to calls for the removal of that role as suggested by lawmakers.

In his response to debate from backbenchers, Minister Muswere acceded to relook at Clauses 13, 17, 23 and 164 of the Bill with a view to amend them.

Section 164 criminalises the sending of data messages to any person, group or the public with the intention to incite violence or damage of property.

The clause provides for the imposition of a fine not exceeding level 10 or imprisonment of up to five years.

In his submission, Binga North MP Mr Prince Sibanda (MDC Alliance), who has since been recalled by MDC-T, said the level of liability that the Bill placed on a person, given the heavy sentence, was a strict liability where an offence is created by simply sending a message notwithstanding that there might be no criminal intent.

“In my view, Hon Speaker, we need to cure this clause,” he said. “We can cure it either by reducing the punishment that is proposed to something that is lesser or else we put in more measures to ensure that the burden of proof on the part of the State becomes as heavy as possible.”

In his response, Minister Muswere noted the concern and promised to make adjustments.

“Hon Sibanda also contributed to the distinction between illegal hacking and ethical hacking, that we have taken note Madam Speaker and will be amended,” said Minister Muswere.

Harare East MP Mr Tendai Biti (MDC Alliance) said access to certain information of a personal nature in the manner proposed in the Bill might violate a Constitutional clause providing for one’s right to privacy such as one’s health.

Mr Biti said authorities, employer and or any entity could not have certain personal information without due processes like a court order.

In his debate, Mr Biti said Section 17 of the Bill allowed Potraz or anyone it might nominate to process data acting on its behalf, something he said was unconstitutional.

In response, Minister Muswere said while he did not agree with observations by Mr Biti to unbundle roles to different entities he had no problem with amending certain clauses as suggested.

“Hon. Biti’s contribution related to the basic rights which will not be liquidated by this Bill as it will protect the citizenry and also ensure the technological advancement in the country in terms of technology since we are in the fourth industrial revolution,” he said.

“In terms of the structure of the Bill, I do not think it is necessary to unbundle the Cyber Security and Data Protection because it is closely related.

“Clauses 13, 17 and 23, we will look into Madam Speaker and obviously adjust accordingly. Section 2, we have taken note of it and the points from Hon. Biti and we will also make some adjustments.”

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