How effective are Cyber Laws?


A few days back, President Robert Mugabe endorsed the Computer Crime and Cyber bill and hinted on government’s intentions to have it tabled before parliament for debating.

The Bill for An Act is meant to criminalise offences against computers and network related crime; to consolidate the criminal law on computer crime and network crime; to provide for investigation and collection of evidence for computer and network related crime; to provide for the admission of electronic evidence for such offences, and to provide for matters connected with or incidental to the foregoing.

By Michael Gwarisa and Eng Cisco Levi Muringi

The legal fraternity has however come out guns blazing questioning the legality of the Bill due to its tendency to infringe on citizen’s right to privacy as well as undermining citizen’s freedom of expression privileges.

Globally, Internet and Computer based commerce and communications cut across territorial boundaries, thereby creating a new realm of human activity and undermining the feasibility and legitimacy of applying laws based on geographic boundaries making it necessary for every country to have laws that govern the Cyber world. This new boundary, which is made up of the screens and passwords, separate the “Cyber world” from the “real world” of atoms. Territorially based law-making and law-enforcing authorities find this new environment deeply threatening and difficult to regulate.

President-Mugabe endorses the Computer crime and cyber security bill at the opening of the Eighth session of Parliament. Image Source:The Herald Online

President-Mugabe endorses the Computer crime and cyber security bill at the opening of the Eighth session of Parliament. Image Source:The Herald Online

In Zimbabwe for example, the recent wave of violence and the famous #ShutDownZimbabwe Mass stay away that was orchestrated by the now exiled Pastor Evan Mawarire through his #ThisFlag campaign raffled feathers within government thus giving speed to the crafting of the Computer Crime and Cyber Bill.

However, the nature of most Cyber laws in particular the Zimbabwean proposed bill makes it legal to access private and confidential material from a gadget they believe might contain harmful material such as pictures, videos and messages (Part 5, Section 29 of the Cyber bill).

This kind of freedom by law enforcers to search and seize gadgets at will might have a ripple effect on the business side of things, in particular E-Commerce as it may lead to people avoiding doing transactions with online sites.

Meanwhile, statistics reveal that no country has fully resolved all the issues such as legal enforcement and prevention of crime. The legislations enacted by different countries cover only few of the classified computer related offences. Due to the dynamics and ever changing trends in technology, the dynamic and fast changing technology, new types of offences may pop-up frequently which renders Cyber Laws somehow ineffective and toothless dogs.

Some of the offences against which many countries have enacted various acts include hacking, piracy, downloading and sharing pornographic material, circulating harmful and life threatening messages amongst a host of others.

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