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Mugabe lauds 'protective' cyber security ministry

Mugabe lauds 'protective' cyber security ministry

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe believes the new Cyber Security Ministry, headed by former Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa, is a "protective ministry" aimed at protecting interests of the state and established to fight 'cyber mischief'.

Mugabe's spokesperson George Charamba said the new Ministry has been introduced against the background of "the abuse that you saw not too far back where social media caused excitement in the country, not on the basis of fact but on the basis of generation of copy calculated to trigger a sense of panic and that suggests that it is a major threat to the state security."

Government officials, including Chinamasa, blamed social media for the sharp increase in prices and the shortage of basic foodstuffs, as well as the bond currency's loss in value.

"This is a new ministry and it is our trapping to catch those who get up to mischief using cyber space. He (Mugabe) also wants the new minister to be able to draw from other countries and he specifically made reference from Russia, to China and the Koreas as countries that have done well in ensuring some kind of order and lawfulness in that area," Charamba said.

Chinamasa's appointment has also sparked debate amongst the local legal fraternity.

"This appointment is tantamount to constructive dismissal. But more ominously creating a standalone Ministry to monitor cyberspace also shows Mugabe's penchant for expanding instruments of coercion as opposed to protection of fundamental freedoms," said law expert Alex Magaisa.

However, Charamba said the former Zimbabwe attorney general had been specifically appointed because of his legal competencies.

"He (Mugabe) was clear that this is a new area and it needs law development which is why he thought of no other person with legal competence to do that," said Charamaba.

The Media Institute of Southern Africa (Misa) Zimbabwe Chapter has expressed concern over what is described as a series of veiled threats on the use of social media by local government officials.

"Misa Zimbabwe therefore impresses upon the government that citizens have the right to freely express themselves online and offline. The government should ensure that the country has balanced and effective cybersecurity measures in place to protect public and national interests while observing the country's bill of rights," stated the organisation.

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