Mugabe tackles cyber attack concerns
Publish date: 11 October 2017
Issue Number: 1704
Diary: Legalbrief eLaw
Advanced South African digital technology is likely to be used by Harare to identify people who allegedly posted messages on social media last week which President Robert Mugabe blames for panic buying and a crash in Zimbabwe’s currency. Mugabe’s remarks have raised the disturbing spectre of a clampdown by his government on social media – and South African assistance to him would raise serious questions about its commitment to freedom of expression. Addressing the second South Africa-Zimbabwe Bi-national Commission meeting in Pretoria, Mugabe said cyber-technology had been abused in both Zimbabwe and SA 'to undermine our economies'. A Daily Maverick report notes that he proposed that the neighbours work together to protect themselves 'against those who would destroy us' with ICT. His spokesperson George Charamba later explained that Mugabe was referring to a 'mischievious' series of social media messages which suggested there was going to be a shortage of basic commodities and that Zimbabwe’s new bond note currency was going to lose out against the major currencies.
Mugabe on Monday reassigned 10 Ministers and replaced eight members of his Cabinet whom he appointed after the last elections in 2013. Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa now heads up a new Ministry of Cyber Security. A report on the IoL site notes that this follows the panic buying of last month, and sparks of inflation which Mugabe claims was engineered by Zimbabwe’s enemies. BBC News reports that Zimbabwe's media laws are repressive, but the government has been struggling to regulate the new news outlets because some of them are based outside the country. Mugabe and his family have accused them of spreading 'fake news' while Chinamasa last month warned that the government would treat social media as a security threat. Chinamasa would be responsible for introducing a cybercrimes Bill to criminalise the posting of false information on the Internet, revenge porn, cyber-bullying and online activity against the government.