Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition has noted with great concern, plans by the government to restrict freedom of speech and expression through the deployment of a cyber team to monitor citizens on social media.
On November 4, 2021, Information Minister, Monica Mutsvangwa announced that the government had set up a cyber team to “monitor what people send and receive”.
The announcement comes at a time the Cyber Security and Data Protection Bill which passed through the Senate in July 2021 is awaiting Presidential assent. Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition is on record criticizing the proposed law for seeking to snoop on citizens thereby violating the right to privacy, freedom of speech as well as access to information.
The recent move by the government to set up a cyber security team to monitor citizens on social media amounts to invasion of privacy and is basically meant to instill fear in the public while limiting freedom of speech and expression.
Minister Mutsvangwa’s sentiments that the move does not amount to regulation of social media are simply meant to cover up for the government’s real motive to limit fundamental freedoms and clampdown on dissenting voices.
Over the years, human rights defenders, journalists and opposition activists have been victimized based on their posts on social media and the latest move by the government will only serve to further fuel victimization of dissenting voices.
We note with concern that the ruling party, Zanu PF continues to use harsh cyber laws to entrench political power while at the same time coming up with a raft of measures to restrict free speech, right of privacy and access to information.
Massive surveillance by the government will certainly infringe on fundamental human rights and lead to an upsurge in cases of clampdowns on pro-democracy activists.
We are concerned that the move by the government lacks a pro-human rights approach and is essentially meant to entrench political power through snooping on citizens and clamping down on dissenting voices. The move is thus part of efforts by the government to further shrink the democratic space and violate citizens’ fundamental rights.
Social media has proved to be an effective tool in exposing rights abuses as well as corruption and the government’s recent move must be seen as an attempt to instill fear and silence whistleblowers.
We implore Zanu PF to draw lessons from the pre-independence pledge by the then party’s Spokesperson, Edson Zvobgo who said, “…we do not want to recreate Rhodesia where citizens get petrified in fear of the State…”.
Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition is perturbed by the fact that present day Zanu PF is preoccupied with power retention (at all costs) even without legitimacy.
Given the government’s bad human rights record and cases of victimization of activists based on their posts on social media, we reiterate the need for a truly independent body to monitor activities on social media rather than making it the sole responsibility of the government.
Source: Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition