By Mlondolozi Ndlovu
Harare, August 17, 2016 – GOVERNMENT plans to enact strict legislation to regulate the use of social media have been roundly condemned for its alleged bid to criminalise freedom of expression among Zimbabweans.
Government, through the Information Communication Technology (ICT) Ministry, has crafted the controversial Computer Crime and Cyber Crime Bill that would see social media abusers prosecuted.
The government insists this is meant to curb rampant cyber bullying and to stop the activities of individuals and activist groups that have taken to the convenient platforms to call for anti-government protests.
But Zimbabweans feel the law was too draconian and have roundly rubbished it for being too harsh.
The People Democratic Party (PDP) said the law was proof the Zanu PF led government was authoritarian as was shown by its apparent bid to stifle the activities of social movements.
“It is only authoritarian regimes like Zanu PF that fear the people,” said party spokesperson Jacob Mafume on Wednesday.
“Zanu PF should know that social movements such as, #Tajamuka, #ThisFlag and #Thisgown are not terrorist organisations. These social movements are not committing any crimes against the regime for speaking on behalf of every Zimbabwean. They are ordinary citizens who want to change and improve the lives of the people.”
Mafume said this was tantamount to attempts to muzzle citizen voices.
“These social movements have used platforms such as; Facebook, Twitter and Whatsapp to rally Zimbabweans to peacefully demonstrate against the ruinous leadership of Robert Mugabe.
“As the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), we strongly condemn the behaviour of ministers, Christopher Mushowe (Information Minister) and Supa Mandiwanzira (ICTs) who want to use repressive and unconstitutional methods against ordinary citizens for using social media platforms.
“For Supa, a journalist, disc jockey and owner of a radio station to make an unconstitutional proposal and attempt to push through Parliament the Computer Crime and Cyber Crime in order to infringe on the people’s lives boggles the mind,” Mafume said, adding that the two Zanu PF cabinet ministers were conniving to deny journalists their rights.
“Mushowe and Mandiwanzira want to deprive the people their rights and freedoms. However, it is sad that the attitude of Mushowe and Mandiwanzira is a reflection of the calibre of all the ministers in Zanu PF.
“As right thinking Zimbabweans, we wonder why the government wants to spend its energy on controlling the use of social media when the country currently faces significant challenges.”
MDC-T youth secretary general Lovemore Chinoputsa described the move as a desperate ploy by a “failed government cornered by angry citizens” adding this will not succeed.
“That’s hogwash. It’s only meant to criminalise people’s concerns and grievances and that’s the last resort that all dictators have gone to before they finally go,” he added.
Journalist Tafadzwa Muranganwa said the proposed law threatened to take the country few steps backwards after the enactment of the new constitution had helped free the media.
“It is very sad because people had opted to use social media to express their frustrations against the government because of lack of a free media.
“By trying to stifle social media, it shows that government cannot stand criticism,” said the RadioVOP presenter.
Journalist Watmore Makokoba said the government needed to embrace globalisation and not threaten its citizens who are adopting new technological forms of communications.
“This is exposing the government’s failure to embrace globalisation for we live in a global village where it must embrace ideas especially through technology. They must engage the citizens who are aggrieved rather act carelessly for this will affect the spirit of dialogue,” said Makokoba.