The Cyber Security and Data Protection Bill, which seeks to punish those who abuse the social media, internet and communication networks and make the growing financial digital systems and e-commerce more efficient and better protected, has gone through Parliament and now awaits the assent of the President when it will become law.
Government and an ICT expert have welcomed the passage of the Bill, saying it will go a long way in curbing cyber crimes. In particular, it brings together the laws for the necessary protection of personal and commercial data and puts in place the growing body of international standards to prevent cybercrime.
In explaining the objective of the Bill in Parliament, Information Communication Technology, Postal and Courier Services Minister Jenfan Muswere said it seeks to see the evolution of criminal law to take into account fast-evolving technologies and curb the abuse of networks and the internet.
“The current law on computer services is limited in its scope and application due to the technological developments considering the fact that cybercrime is borderless.
“It is of paramount importance that the national laws be harmonised and in the private sense of the financial institutions and other several interventions, the law needs to be strengthened,” said Minister Muswere.
“Zimbabwe is part of the international community. Zimbabwe is a signatory to a number of international and regional conventions and treaties. Like many other countries in the region, Zimbabwe is in the process of harmonising its cyber security with those of the region to increase international cooperation in the fight against cybercrime.
He said the current legislation on computers and ICTs is limited in its scope and application due to technological developments.
“Considering the fact that cyber crime is borderless, it is of paramount importance that the national laws be harmonised with those of the region and international best practices.
“The Bill seeks to deal with issues of data protection as well, the rationale being to control the information age which is ever increasing exchange of information ideas,” he said.
A commercial lawyer and ICT expert, Mr Jacob Mutevedzi said cybercrime was on the increase as criminals and con-artists exploit loopholes in e-commerce.
“The current legal framework for data protection in Zimbabwe was incoherent and inchoate. There was no comprehensive legal framework which regulates data privacy and protection.
Instead, data privacy and protection was being dealt with under an assortment of statutes such as Consumer Protection Act, Criminal Law Codification and Reform Act among others.
“The purpose of this Bill is to consolidate cyber-related offences and provide for data protection with due regard to the Declaration of Rights under the Constitution,” he said.
Mr Mutevedzi said entities which collect and use personal data, be they public or private, must be subjected to strict regulations imposing standards on how to handle any data they process to ensure transparency and accountability.
Misa Zimbabwe director Mr Thabani Moyo, however still believes that multiple laws are needed rather than a single Act. Misa Zimbabwe wanted the Bill to be split into three separate components dealing with cyber security, electronic transactions and data protection.
The approved Bill provides for the investigation and collection of evidence for cybercrime and data breaches, allowing the admissibility of electronic evidence by courts as part of measures to ensure a safer cyberspace for citizens.
The Bill seeks, among other issues, to provide for admissibility of electronic evidence for such offences and will also create a technology-driven business environment and encourage technological development and how it should be lawfully used.
Another provision is the establishment of a Cyber Security Centre and a Data Protection Authority and their functions.
The approved measures consolidate the law on cyber-related offences and provide for data protection with due regard to the Declaration of Rights under the Constitution and the public and national interest.
The Bill had passed through both the National Assembly and Senate early last month but its passage was eventually revoked after it was noted that it contained some errors.
Minister Jenfan Muswere retabled the Bill in Senate where he proposed amendments meant to address the errors. After Senate adopted the amendments, it was referred back to the National Assembly and the amended Bill sailed through without debate.
Minister Muswere tabled the amendments during Committee stage of the Bill where each clause is subjected to scrutiny and can be amended or adopted in its original form.
Before its initial passage, Government had acceded to some amendments following expression of some reservations on the Bill from backbenchers.