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SADC region urged to rethink its stance on cyber security legislation

By , ITWeb’s Zambian correspondent.
Africa , 25 Oct 2021

A new report Cybersecurity and Cybercrime Laws in the SADC Region: Implications on Human Rights has revealed that most countries in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) have drafted and enacted cybersecurity laws which infringe on citizens’ freedom of expression.

Zimbabwe has been singled out for drafting strict cybersecurity legislation that awaits ratification by the country’s President.

The report said countries like Botswana, eSwatini, Malawi, Tanzania and Zambia have already passed cybersecurity and cybercrime laws, while other countries such as Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe have gazetted draft legislation on cybersecurity and cybercrime.

The report said while most of the enacted and proposed laws in the SADC region attempt to balance cybersecurity with human rights frameworks as espoused in national constitutions, there are still restrictive laws dealing with interception of communication, data protection and electronic transactions.

In countries such as Malawi, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe, the report said that there is deep-seated fear that the existing and new legislations are already used for surveillance purposes.

For instance, the report said South Africa uses the RICA Act to regulate the interception of communications and Zimbabwe has Interception of Communications Act, while Zambia deploys the Electronic Communications and Transactions Act of 2009.

According to the market research there are also concerns around broad and vague definitions of criminalised offences and key terms such as keystroke, false news, race and xenophobic-related crime, modification, unauthorised access or asymmetric cryptosystem, cyber terrorism, child pornography and cyber extortion among others.

“Inadequate oversight or accountability mechanism over the functions of cyber inspectors, data controller and internet service providers pose serious threats to the integrity and effectiveness of the legislations,” the report stated.

Commenting on the report, Tabani Moyo, director of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA Zimbabwe) said Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa should rethink Zimbabwe’s Cyber Security and Data Protection Bill and its promulgation.

Moyo was quoted by Voice of America (VOA) saying, “The Bill provides security forces the power to snoop into our communications through the Cyber Security Centre (Zimbabwe’s cyber security agency).”

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