The Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) commander Edzai Chimonyo said the military will soon start looking into private communications in a bid to monitor the use of social media which according to him has become a threat to the national security.
Chimonyo made the remarks on Friday while addressing senior military commissioned officers at the Zimbabwe Military Academy (ZNA) who had completed a 25-week training course in Gweru.
He told senior military commissioned officers at the Zimbabwe Military Academy (ZMA) that social media was now a security threat that the uniformed forces should closely monitor.
“As commander of the Zimbabwe National Army, I am happy that the course laid a proper foundation in the areas of cybersecurity which pose a dangerous threat to our national security,”
“Social media poses a dangerous threat to our national security. Social media is one of the tools that is being used for misinformation and I believe that your training has been an eye-opener to the rigors and realities of technological advancements,” he said.
However, the Media Institute of Southern Africa Zimbabwe (Misa) has condemned the plans to monitor social media stating that they are alarming and the issue of regulation should be done in a proper manner.
MISA chairperson Tabani Moyo said,”The issues of regulating the digital space should be done in a structured manner whereby there is a law that comes into effect. In this case, the Ministry of ICT is drafting a Cyber Crime and Data Protection Bill which combines two broad thematic areas.”
“Our position as Misa Zimbabwe is that the whole process of regulation of the digital space should be left to the civilian arm of the government through the Ministry of ICTs. Where there are challenges pertaining to that law when it comes into effect that should be dealt with by the police,” he said.
This social media monitoring move by the military questions the Cyber Crime, Security and Data Protection Bill which was approved last year by the cabinet to combat cybercrime and increase cybersecurity in order to build confidence and trust in the secure use of information communication technologies.
Whilst military snooping on peoples private communication will give government access and an upper hand to information circulating on social media in all its forms.
Social media has been a spectrum in Zimbabwe being used to mobilize forces against the government, in 2016 a social media movement called Tajamuka mobilized to protest against the late former President Robert Mugabe.
Social media has also being used to post pictures of unarmed civilians being shot by soldiers during protests, notably the August 1 shootings triggering alarms from human rights activists.
The fuel protests in January last year were also driven by social media to protest against the failing economy under president Emmerson Mnangagwa and in response, the government shut down the internet preventing access tom social media.
This move will violate Zimbabweans rights to freedom of expression on all social media platforms.