Mnangagwa spooked by social media, turns to Japan for ‘cyber security’

Kazembe Kazembe
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Harare – In post Robert Mugabe Zimbabwe, social media is still viewed by the government as a threat and the administration of President Emerson Mnangagwa has leaned on Japan to procure equipment which many fear could be used to snoop on private citizens communications under the guise of fostering cyber security.

Zimbabwe is additionally tapping into China for facial recognition and will provide millions of facial data for the Chinese to build the software. Former President  Robert Mugabe’s administration sought to criminalise social media users for posts deemed to be offensive to the government and to the leader.

But on Monday, ICT Minister, Kazembe Kazembe said Zimbabwe was finalising the cyber and computer crimes bill which will be backed by cyber security equipment to be procured using a US$3.6 million (R51.7m) grant from Japan.

“Social media is intended to improve communications but we have had challenges of social media being abused. We are faced with serious problems, we are on the verge of finalizing a bill which will be before parliament in an effort to combat cyber-crimes,” Kazembe said on Monday.

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The Posts and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz) said WhatsApp and Facebook accounted for about 35 percent of internet usage in Zimbabwe. Potraz highlighted last month that the growing popularity of Over-the-Top services for communication while “all other uses for the internet” accounted for about 64.3 percent.

The government of Zimbabwe has signed a $3.6 million grant with Japan for the procurement, transportation of cyber security equipment as well as training of police authorities. The equipment will also benefit regional police authorities through information sharing.

Kazembe said social media and cybersecurity was “becoming an issue” in Zimbabwe through fraud and “misuse” of internet. “We would want to use internet to improve lives. Some people will be thinking of how to benefit negatively,” he said.

Zimbabwe Finance Minister, Mthuli Ncube said “there are individuals who abuse technology and in this regard it is pertinent for the government to safeguard the public” against such crimes. Zimbabwe’s internet penetration increased by 2.8 percent to reach 51.9 percent.