Tendai Biti – image credit VOA Zimbabwe
Tendai Biti, the president of Zimbabwean opposition party People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the country’s fomer finance Minister has said that he is going to fight the proposed Computer Crime and Cybercrime Bill in court.
According to reports, Biti mentioned this at a press conference where he also criticised the draft legislation for infringing on Zimbabweans’ constitutionally given right to freedom of communication, expression and speech.
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His challenge of the draft Cybercrime Bill is centred on its attack on the right to expression and the freedom of media. He was quoted as having said,
And the new Zimbabwe constitution which we have is unique, for the first time it has another freedom, the freedom of the media. I consider the right to communicate as part of human dignity, its part of our own dignity that we able to communicate in the way we are able to do.
There are two rights in the Zimbabwe constitution which cannot be infracted number one, it’s the right to dignity, and number two the right not to be subjected to torture, so I don’t believe that a Constitutional Court will uphold an infraction on the right to human dignity, right to communication, which is why I stated that there would be a legal challenge upon an attempt to encroach on our values and our rights.
The draft cybercrime bill has attracted a lot of criticism from the public because of its clauses that would empower the state to seize communication devices and act against any suspected misuse of any online platform including social media.
This has raised questions about the government’s plans to introduce it now as Zimbabwe has over the past few months experienced a surge in online political expression and citizen activism.
A lot of people view new legislation like the cybercrime bill as a way to stamp out these online campaigns that include #ThisFlag and #Tajamuka.
The government has denied this, despite issuing a series of warnings against social media abuse.