Supa cobbles up 10 year jail term for cyber criminals

Supa Mandiwanzira

HARARE – People who abuse social media face 10 years in jail in terms of the refined Cyber Crime and Cyber Security Bill which goes to Parliament soon.

Foreign-based Zimbabweans who cause harm back home using social media or any other computer-based system will be extradited and prosecuted.

Among the targeted crimes are inciting violence, revenge porn, racist/xenophobic material, bullying, causing “substantial” emotional stress, communicating falsehoods and degrading other people.

Phony websites that thrive on pilfering content from reputable publications and other intellectual property rights violators will be imprisoned for five years.

Originally dubbed Computer Crime and Cyber Crime Bill, the proposed law has been re-engineered and renamed to give greater bite to enforcement.

The Bill is with the Attorney-General’s Office and could come into force before year-end as legislators have undertaken to fast track its enactment. ICT, Postal and Courier Services Minister Supa Mandiwanzira told The Sunday Mail: “We have upgraded the Bill in a number of ways, and it is currently with the Office of the Attorney-General for further scrutiny. The changes are in line with Sadc guidelines to harmonise cyber security laws.

“Numerous crimes are being committed in cyber space. It is now time to take action against perpetrators of these offences. We are waiting for the AG’s Office to scrutinise the Bill so that it goes to Parliament as soon as possible. We have done all the necessary consultations to push ahead with the Bill, and now await due process to follow.” Part IV of the Bill says: “Any person who unlawfully and intentionally, by means of a computer or information system, generates and sends any data or message to another person, or posts any material whatsoever on any electronic medium accessible by any person, with the intent to coerce, intimidate, harass, threaten, bully or cause substantial emotional distress, or to degrade, humiliate, harass, threaten or demean the person of another or to encourage a person to harm himself, shall be guilty of an offence and liable to a fine not exceeding Level 10 or imprisonment for a period not exceeding 10 years or both such a fine and imprisonment.”

The Bill provides for establishment of a Cyber Security Centre that will “advise Government and implement Government policy on cyber crime and cyber security”.

The centre aims “to establish and operate a protection-assured whistle blower system that will enable members of the public to confidently report to the committee cases of alleged cyber-crime”.

Regarding “revenge porn”, the Bill states: “Any person who unlawfully and intentionally — by means of a computer or information system available — broadcasts or distributes a data message containing any image of an identifiable person without the consent of the person concerned, causing the humiliation or embarrassment of such a person shall be guilty of an offence and liable to a fine not exceeding Level 10 or imprisonment for a period not exceeding five years or both such fine and such imprisonment.”

Midlands State University law lecturer Mr Esau Mandipa said: “The law is long overdue because the development and growth of technology has led people to commit more crimes using the cyber space. Our Criminal Law Codification and Reform Act had sections on cyber crimes, but these are not comprehensive enough to address the rate at which these crimes are being committed.

“However, even though we need this law, we have to strike a balance and not infringe on human rights and other people’s rights enshrined in the Constitution.” South Africa and Zambia are among Southern African countries with cyber laws, with Tshwane proposing additional regulations in February 2017. In May, Zambia introduced the Cyber Crime, e-government, Cyber Security, Data Protection, e-Transmissions and e-Commerce Bills. -Sunday Mail