NewsSouthern AfricaZimbabwe moves in to clamp online dissent


Posted on Tuesday, 09 August 2016 15:05

Zimbabwe moves in to clamp online dissent

By Nqobile Bhebhe

File photo©STR/AP/SIPAZimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T) has been accused of working with "cyber terrorists" to issue "subversive and inflammatory messages on social media".

The cyber terrorists plan to topple President Robert Mugabe's government, the state-controlled Herald newspaper reported Tuesday. The southern African nation claims Western embassies — principally the United States, Britain and France — are funding the social media abusers.

we are training our officers to be able to deal with this new threat we call cyber warfare

On Tuesday, the Herald said three Zimbabwean "cyber terrorists" based in South Africa and Australian had been identified.

"The trio, believed to be working with MDC-T officials, has been sending messages containing threats of violence, murder as well as armed and landmine attacks against ordinary Zimbabweans and government officials," reported the Herald.

MDC-T spokesperson, Obert Gutu told The Africa Report that the allegations are "absolute nonsense. Pure, unadulterated lies".

Over the past few months, online activism has gained traction in Zimbabwe, as campaigns such as the Pastor Evan Mawarire led #ThisFlag movement and the Tajamuka campaign have inspired civil participation and political protest.

The Zimbabwean government, worried by what it terms social media abuse, is moving swiftly to updating its cyber laws, ostensibly to strengthen its spying activities on citizens.

The Computer Crime and Cybercrime Bill seeks to impose stiff jail sentences on offenders.

"Any person, who unlawfully and intentionally generates, possesses and distributes an electronic communication with the intent to coerce, intimidate, harass, threaten, bully or cause emotional distress, degrade, humiliate or demean the person of another person, using a computer system or information system shall be guilty of an offence and liable, on conviction, to a fine not exceeding level 10 or imprisonment not exceeding five years or both," the bill reads in part.

Recently, the commander of the army, Lieutenant-General Philip Sibanda stepped in, saying the military is ready to deal with anyone using electronic means to mobilise people to do anything unlawful.

"As an army, at our institutions of training, we are training our officers to be able to deal with this new threat we call cyber warfare, where weapons — not necessarily guns, but basically information and communication technology — are being used to mobilise people to do the wrong things," he was quoted saying last week.

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