By Bevan Musoko
Gwanda residents urged African governments to invest in technology to monitor information collection by satellites that may be used to subvert the sovereignty of independent countries.
The call was made by several residents of the mining town when they made submissions to the joint Parliamentary Portfolio committees on Peace and Security, Information Communication Technology (ICT) and Courier Services and Information, Media and Publicity during a hearing on the Cyber Security and Data Protection Bill. The public hearing was held at Gwanda Municipality Park on Tuesday, 7 July 2020.
Former Gwanda Mayor, Rido Mpofu bemoaned that African countries did not have technological capacity to monitor satellites that were deployed by rich Western countries to spy. As a result, the Western countries were accessing information on most African countries and using that information to interfere in the internal affairs of the African countries. Mpofu said Zimbabwe was a victim of the abuse of cyber-based technologies through theft of privileged information from Government offices. He added that the information was being passed to countries that imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe. In that regard, Mpofu called on African countries to invest in technology to counter the threat of spying.
Another resident, Mjayeli Ndlovu called for stiff penalties on Zimbabweans who use information communication technologies to manipulate the local currency. Ndlovu said “there are people who use their phones and computers to spread false information on the Zimbabwe dollar. When such information is shared in many groups, people lose confidence in the local currency. The Bill should punish such people as they are contributing to the economic challenges we are facing as a nation.”
A Jahunda resident, Similo Mlotswa urged Government to expedite passage of the Bill. She bemoaned that a lot of women had been subjected to public embarrassment and ridicule after their nude pictures were splashed on social media platforms. She said she knew of a woman who committed suicide after her nude pictures had been leaked on WhatsApp by her former husband.
The Bill has excited interest among members of the public due to the fact that almost every Zimbabwean has a cellphone and access to the internet has improved significantly over the past few years. According to the International Telecommunications Union, internet penetration across Africa has risen to around 58 percent. However, this figure was still behind many European and North American countries where the penetration rate was over 80 percent.
Members of the public are voicing support for the Bill. The Committee has so far gathered public views in Bulawayo and Matabeleland South and is set to hold further hearings in Matabeleland North and Midlands provinces. Other committees are also gathering public views across the country.