Yesterday, #MondayBlues hinted that the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz) could migrate to the newly formed ministry called Cyber Security, Threat Detection and Mitigation. PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe last week effected a Cabinet reshuffle which is aimed at “ridding government of dead wood and Non performing ministers” according to the President.
Some fell on the way side while others were recycled from the political dustbin as in the case of Cde Webster Shamu who had been booted out of government and the party. Environment minister Oppah Muchinguri Kashiri’s ministry was swallowed by Mbwebwe’s tourism and environment ministry.
Of all the ministries, it is however minister Patrick Chinamasa’s of Cyber Security, Threat Detection and Mitigation ministry which has attracted local and global attention.
According to political analysts, Chinamasa’s new portfolio is just meant to act as a watchdog over social media and Internet use among citizens ahead of the 2018 elections.
Before President Mugabe announced the new ministry, minister Mandiwanzira and a bunch of other technocrats and legal experts were working on a New Computer Crimes and Cyber security law which is set to monitor the use of Internet services in a bid to curb Cyber crimes and spread of dangerous information through various social media and Internet platforms.
Mandiwanzira’s ministry also plays oversight role over operations of Mobile Network Operators and the Telecommunications sector at large. However, considering that most communications takes place over MNO platforms like Econet, NetOne, and Telecel, Mandiwanzira’s powers could be trimmed and handed over to Chinamasa, who now heads a ministry which directly deals with information and how it is distributed on various channels.
Though on paper it appears more like a power sharing deal between the two ministries, truth of the matter is Chinamasa’s ministry will soon become the most powerful ministry on Zimbabwean soil as it has the tentacles to encroach into other ministerial portfolios.
Social media abuse has necessitated the creation of this new ministry, which may suggest that Supa failed in creating a government-friendly social media environment in Zimbabwe. But there is little one can do in that regard without proper legal framework, something Chinamasa could do.
With his legal background, Chinamasa seems a perfect candidate for this ministry as the government plans to crackdown social media use with more stringent laws governing social media use, something a technocrat wouldn’t be qualified to do. While at the same time, Chinamasa cannot head the ICT ministry in its current capacity, given his lacking skills in technology. In that regard, these two ministries seem to compliment each other.
But simply looking at the legal background makes this ministry more of a law and enforcement kind in the cyber warfare, which it may be and needs to be, but still that doesn’t mean that the ministry of ICT couldn’t tackle it. The Ministry of ICT already has a legal department, surely they could have expanded on its roles so that it can take more of this cyber policing role, which they were already doing with the cyber bill they were working on. Which brings another question, what will happen to the cyber bill now and who will head it, Chinamasa or Supa Mandiwanzira? Will we see a power struggle on this one?
It is important to note that social media threats won’t always persist, and maybe after the forthcoming elections, the government won’t have use for the Cyber Security, Threat Detection and Mitigation ministry, at least in seeing social media as a villain, which may actually mean that the ICT ministry will take over the roles currently being carried out by Chinamasa, making his appointment more of a temporary one, hence, less powerful in the longrun as he cannot be given a lot of responsibilities if there won’t be any use for him in the longrun.
But as power goes, its not always about what one’s roles and responsibilities are, its about what he or she gets to do with it. We will see who will shake the cyber community in Zimbabwe more, Chinamasa or Mandiwanzira. As they watch our social media communications, Bee Sting will be watching them too, and reporting on any developments.