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Zimbabwe Digital players petition parliament to re consult on cyber security bill

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Zimbabwe Digital players have petitioned parliament to re-consult on the cyber security bill before it is passed into law after Senate amended some sections.

The Media Institute of Southern Africa (Misa) Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe Online Content Creators, Content Creators Network of Zimbabwe, Internet Society of Zimbabwe, Media Alliance of Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe NGO Forum, Zimbabwe, Human Rights Association, Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights is amongst many other players who nudged for the recomittal of the Cyber Security and Data Protection Bill in the Senate. They recommended that the Bill be disintegrated into three separate laws on Cyber Security, Electronic Transactions and Data Protection.

In its submissions to Parliament on the Cyber Security and Data Protection Bill, Misa Zimbabwe and the players, said the proposed law constituted several complex issues that could not be addressed as a single law.

Opposition MPs in the National Assembly had also opposed it saying it would infringe upon the right to privacy, for example, health information.

The Cyber Security Bill, which was passed without debate in Senate last Wednesday, was revoked after it was discovered that it had an error.

The law seeks to regulate the use of internet and social media in order to curb computer crimes such as distributing pornography and electronic financial fraud.

In a letter dated today 4 August 2021 Misa Zimbabwe wrote the following to the Speaker of the National Assembly Advocate Jacob Mudenda,

”Honourable Advocate Jacob Mudenda
Speaker of the National Assembly
Parliament of Zimbabwe
Nelson Mandela Avenue
HARARE
Dear Honourable Speaker

Re: Recommittal of Cyber Security and Data Protection Bill in the Senate
MISA Zimbabwe by virtue of this letter, together with the undersigned organisations, writes to you to humbly highlight and express our concerns on developments arising from the recommittal of the Cyberscurity and Data Protection Bill to the Senate.
It is our humble submission that this development is undoubtedly of national significance and interest which deserves your esteemed attention and all the necessary due processes in line with the constitutional role and obligations of the Parliament of Zimbabwe.
The Cyber Security and Data Protection Bill which was gazetted in May 2020 and subjected to public hearings in July 2020, has now been recommitted in Senate following its passing in the National Assembly.
This recommittal is a clear indication that there are significant errors that have been noted necessitating substantive amendments to the Bill.
In light of the above, we, the undersigned organisations, hereby petition Parliament and the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Information Communication Technology, Postal and Courier Services to subject the amended Bill to public hearings.
Our position, through this petition for purposes of fostering and entrenching Zimbabwe’s constitutional democracy, is informed by the following reasons:
Section 141 of the Constitution stipulates that Parliament must facilitate public involvement in its legislative and other processes and in the processes of its committees.
In addition, Parliament should ensure interested parties are consulted about Bills being considered by Parliament, unless such consultation is inappropriate or impracticable.
The Cybersecurity and Data Protection Bill has clearly been subjected to significant changes and varied substantively from the gazetted Bill that was subject to public hearings.
Passing this Bill into law, in its amended form without public consultation on the various changes is tantamount to violating the constitutional rights of citizens to participate and influence the law making process.
In light of the errors of a material nature that have been noted and acknowledged by the Senate, there is a need for extensive review of the Bill with further input from the general public as well.
To act and proceed otherwise, would be tantamount to Parliament undermining its duty to consult the public on key legislative developments.
A law that addresses issues relating to cybersecurity, data protection and data privacy, affects every citizen, hence the need for a multi-stakeholder approach in its framing.
Following the public hearings in July 2020, a Parliamentary Committee report was produced, which proposed recommendations as collected and compiled from the public consultations carried out.
These recommendations should have informed and guided the changes made to this Bill. If significant changes outside the proposed recommendations have been further made, resulting in the substantive deviation from the original Bill, it is only reasonable, necessary and justifiable that the Bill, in its current state, be subjected to public hearings.
We are therefore appealing to you Honourable Speaker, the Clerk of Parliament, and Chairperson of the Parliamentary Committee on Information and Communication Technology, Courier and Postal Services, by virtue of the authority vested in you, to again subject the Bill to scrutiny by the people in the spirit of promoting, respecting and upholding the tenets of democracy.
The Cyber Security and Data Protection Bill is a key piece of legislation as it impacts the social, political and economic landscape of Zimbabwe.
A strong cyber security and data protection framework is critical for the exercise and enjoyment of human rights, trade, increased investments and Zimbabwe’s socio-economic development.

Thank you for your kind consideration.

Content Creators Network of Zimbabwe
Internet Society of Zimbabwe
Media Alliance of Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe Online Content Creators
Zimbabwe NGO Forum
Zimbabwe Human Rights Association
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights

Last Thursday, deputy president of the Senate, Michael Nyambuya, announced that the Bill had been referred back to the Committee Stage in the Senate for further debate as there was an error.

“I wish to inform the Senate that there is an error on the Cyber and Data Protection Bill [H B 18A, 2019] and that the Bill will be recommitted in terms of Standing Order Number 158.” Nyambuya said.

“The Bill will again go through the Committee Reading Stage and the Third Reading Stage in the Senate to correct the error before it is passed.”

Legislators and rights defenders who include Content Creators Network of Zimbabwe, Internet Society of Zimbabwe, Media Alliance of Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe Online Content Creators, Zimbabwe NGO Forum, Zimbabwe, Human Rights Association, Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights and Misa have criticised the Bill, arguing that it violates fundamental rights such as the right to privacy, freedom of speech and access to information.

Ross Moyo

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