Zimbabwe wants to work with South Africa to fight elements using the cyber space to sabotage the economy, President Mugabe has said. President Mugabe, who returned home yesterday, made the remarks at the high level Zimbabwe South Africa Bi-National Commission (BNC) held at the Sefako Makgatho Presidential Guest House in Pretoria on Tuesday.
His comments follow panic buying witnessed recently in the country after people believed a false social media message warning of an impending shortage of basic commodities like cooking oil. Diverting from his prepared speech at the BNC, President Mugabe said the cyber space offered a new threat that could cause “subversion” of the economies of both Zimbabwe and South Africa.
“We have discovered the bitter lesson that there was abuse, unlimited abuse of our cyber technology by those who wanted to undermine our economies and I think together we should look at how we can protect our economies from those who would want to destroy them using ICT technology.
We do not have the means yet and I do not think you have adequate means yet, but I am aware that some of our friends have, let us try to borrow these means and protect our economies from subversion,” said President Mugabe.
He said agreements signed in the Information and Communication Technology sector between the two countries should allow for greater cooperation to fight cyber-crimes.
“I invite our respective public and private sectors not to miss out on these opportunities,” he said.
In an interview with journalists following President Mugabe’s remarks, South Africa’s Minister of Telecommunications and Postal Services Mr Siyabonga Cwele said digital offences had become a serious predicament that needed to be tackled at the international level.
“Recently, we had discussions at Sadc in Durban, where we said there should be cooperation at a bilateral, regional and multilateral level because internet is important we cannot shut internet down but we must protect our citizens.
Minister Cwele said South Africa had adopted extensive home-grown strategies to fight computer-generated offenses.
“In South Africa, we have what we call a cyber-hub, where we are working very closely with our banking system, because most of the bad guys try to get into the bank accounts. Where we detect threats early, we are able to advice and also because we have this alliance with social partners and business partners, we are able to advise other entrepreneurs to warn them. But we are not only dealing with business, we are also dealing with ordinary citizens. The aim is to protect our citizens and protect our systems while at the same time encouraging our citizens to use the internet for their own socio economic development.”
Minister Cwele said young people endowed with technological capacities should help to fight cyber-crimes. President Mugabe’s visit to South Africa was highly successful as the two countries firmly committed to revamp Beitbridge Border Post.
Zimbabwe and South Africa also signed five bilateral agreements in cross border trading cooperation, energy, environment, Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) and Sports and Recreation to boost economic prosperity for people on both sides of the Limpopo.
Vice Presidents Emmerson Mnangagwa and Phelekezela Mphoko, Cabinet Ministers, senior Government officials and service chiefs welcomed President Mugabe on his return at the Harare International Airport yesterday.