Senators have approved Zimbabwe’s Cyber Security and Data Protection Bill without debate, though opponents say it violates fundamental rights such as privacy, freedom of speech and access to information.

The proposed legislation, which needs President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s assent to become law, is intended to regulate use of the internet and social media to curb online fraud, other computer-related crimes and the spread of pornographic content.

Reacting to the Senate’s decision, Zimbabwe director of the Media Institute of Southern Africa, Tabani Moyo, said the organisation was worried about the bill’s pro-security approach without regard to human rights.

Issues of concern include the proposed merging of the cyber security centre, data authority and postal and telecommunications regulatory authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz) into one organisation.

“This compromises the security of data and creates a massive surveillance in a society,” Zimbabwean newspaper Newsday quoted him saying.

“Keep [the organisations] separate so that you don’t make people’s data vulnerable. Of course, the cyber security centre is a military arm and you cannot lump it together with Potraz because it has access to the back end of mobile network operators which have conventional data for everyone in the country.”

The bill was earlier much debated by the lower house, the National Assembly. Arguments raised there included the new law would remove the right to protect one’s health information.

The bill’s supporters say it will deal with cyber threats which affect governments, individuals and organisations.


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