BY MIRIAM MANGWAYA
CIVIL society organisations (CSOs) have accused the ruling Zanu PF party of pushing for enactment of harsh cyber laws to hide its human rights violations and consolidate power.
Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition (CiZC), a conglomerate of more than 80 CSOs, yesterday said the Cyber Security and Data Protection Bill sought to violate citizens’ right to privacy, freedom of speech and access to information.
The Bill passed through the Senate in July and now awaits presidential assent.
“We note with concern that Zanu PF continues to use harsh cyber laws to entrench political power at the same time coming up with a raft of measures to restrict free speech, right of privacy and access to information,” CiZC said in a statement.
“We implore Zanu PF to draw lessons from the pre-independence pledge by the then party’s spokesperson, Edson Zvobgo who said: ‘…we do not want to recreate Rhodesia where citizens get petrified in fear of the State…’. CiZC is perturbed by the fact that present-day Zanu PF is preoccupied with power retention even without legitimacy.”
But Zanu PF acting spokesperson Mike Bimha dismissed the accusations, claiming that what was passed in Parliament represented the views of the country’s majority.
“The Bill was passed in Parliament and the ruling party has no powers to challenge what was passed in Parliament,” he said.
Government earlier this week also announced that it had set up a team to monitor what people send and receive on social media, but CiZC said the move was an invasion of privacy meant to instil fear among citizens.
“CiZC has noted with concern, plans by the government to restrict freedom of speech and expression through the deployment of a cyber team to monitor citizens on social media,” CiZC said.
“The move is thus part of efforts by the government to further shrink the democratic space and violate citizens’ fundamental rights.
“Massive surveillance by the government will certainly infringe on fundamental human rights and lead to an upsurge in cases of clampdowns on pro-democracy activists.
“We are concerned that the move by the government lacks a pro-human rights approach and is essentially meant to entrench political power through snooping on citizens and clamping down on dissenting voices.”
CiZC called for an independent body to monitor activities on social media rather than making it the sole responsibility of the government.
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