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Zimbabwe takes aim at social media

By , Zimbabwe correspondent
Zimbabwe , 08 Nov 2021

The Zimbabwe government has appointed a task team to monitor posts on social media as it intensifies its crackdown on what officials describe as dissention.

The country’s Minister of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Monica Mutsvangwa said her government has established a cyber team that is constantly on social media to monitor what people send and receive.

However, when contacted for comment, the Minister said the government had no intention to regulate social media, but added that “all social media posts should promote and not demonise the country.”

Zimbabwe’s Cyber Security Bill and Data Protection Bill is awaiting ratification and are expected to have far-reaching implications on freedom of expression and the right to privacy.

Media watchdog Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) expressed concern and said the legislation criminalises the publication of falsehoods online and further entrenches surveillance in the country.

The organisation has appealed to President Emmerson Mnangagwa to postpone signing the Bills before these issues are addressed.

Allen Munorayirwa, a lecturer of communication and media technology at the University of Johannesburg said, “It is evident that we are drifting further into authoritarianism. It’s a government that has failed. Now it wants to scare away criticism of its failed policies by surveillance on social media.”

Trust Matsilele, ICT expert at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology concurred and added: “It is rather embarrassing that Zimbabwe wants to claim to be on some path to becoming a truly democratic nation while on other hand the country confirms every day that it is not different to Russia, Venezuela and other tinpot dictatorships.”

New Company Act

The government has also enforced the New Company Act makes domain registration and company emails mandatory. According to the Act, a company needs to have a domain, email addresses and a website.

The law now stipulates that emails are mandatory for company registration and businesses have to register a domain, have email in place, including specific addresses for senior executives.

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