HARARE – Zimbabwean human rights activists, opposition parties and war veterans say the newly-established Ministry of Cyber Security, Threat Detection and Mitigation is a threat to freedom of expression.
During his recent cabinet reshuffle, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe unveiled a new cyber security ministry.
Mugabe called the abuse of social media a threat to the country’s security and said the new ministry was being set up to control this.
President Mugabe Spokesperson George Charamba says, “This is coming against the background of abuse that we saw not too far back, where the social media causes some kind of excitement in the country, not on the basis of fact, but on the basis of generation copy which is in fact calculated to trigger sense of panic in the economy."
In September Zimbabwe was hit by critical shortages of basic commodities like fuel and cooking oil. This was the result of panic buying which the government blamed on rumours spread via social media.
The leader of Transform Zimbabwe Jacob Ngarivhume says, “They can’t turn Zimbabwe into a North Korea. For your information in North Korea they don’t have social media itself. They can’t pull back social media at this stage, so it’s completely unfortunate and uncalled for."
Last year popular movements like hashtag Tajamuka and hashtag ThisFlag were born through social media. They’ve mobilised Zimbabweans to protest against corruption in government. And to demand change.
There are concerns government has set up the ministry just ahead of next year's elections.
Victor Matemadanda from the Zimbabwe War Veterans Association Secretary General says,“Government is trying to make sure that there is no freedom of communication or freedom of association.”
Meanwhile a government spokesperson has been quoted as saying, the new minister will learn from countries like China and Russia, which have done well to ensure some kind of order and lawfulness in this area.