Mwiimbu opposes intrusive cyber law

LEADER of the opposition in Parliament Jack Mwiimbu says the PF government seeks to enact the cyber-security and cyber-crime bill for nothing but intruding into citizens’ privacy.

He was debating the passing into law of the cyber-security and cyber-crime Bill No. 2 of 2021 in Parliament yesterday.

Mwiimbu, who is Monze Central UPND member of parliament, opposed the passing into law of Bill No. 2.

The government is proposing to break into two pieces of legislation the electronic communications and transactions (ECT) Act No. 21 of 2009.

The two pieces of legislation are known as the ECT Bill No. 29 of 2020 and the other one is the cyber-security and cyber-crime Bill No. 2 of 2021.

The current governing legislation, concerning cyber security and cyber-crime in Zambia, is the ECT Act No. 21 of 2009.

The other one is Act No.15 of 2009 – the Act that creates the Zambia Information and Communications Technology Authority (ZICTA).

He said the cyber security and cyber-crime bill was one of the most controversial bills since independence.

“There has never been any controversial bill compared to this one,” Mwiimbu said. “Members of the public and even the stakeholders who appeared before your committee and those who could not appear before the committee and had the privilege to make comments in the public domain over this particular bill have raised very serious issues relating to the violation of the rights of Zambians.”

The lawmaker noted that the bill had given the mandate to officials and other institutions to intrude in the private lives of Zambians.

“This particular bill enables the institutions to listen to conversations of individuals. This particular bill will take away the rights of Zambians to privacy,” Mwiimbu said. “It’s a fact that the institutions of government – the security wings and so on – have been mandated to ensure that if there are issues, they will listen, monitor conversations, correspondence. As a result of the law that is being proposed to be passed, there’s a danger that the privacy of the individuals will be violated.”

He debated that the concerns that have been raised by members of the public were genuine.

He told the House that it was for that reason that the parliamentary committee recommended that the bill be deferred for further consideration.

Mwiimbu noted that it was common knowledge that similar laws had been applied in Africa and that usually those laws of such nature had been applied by dictatorial governments to suppress the rights of individuals.

“We should not allow a situation where Zambians will be violated, in terms of their rights. We have no problem if it’s a genuine concern, in terms of security, which the government will want to pursue,” Mwiimbu said. “The law is already there; even now we know that the government has been pursuing those who have been said to breach certain laws using technology. But this particular bill, especially that it is being brought towards the end of this [parliamentary session], and considering that we are having elections, we in the opposition and other stakeholders are apprehensive that this particular bill is targeted at the rights of opposition members. That’s the intention of this particular bill!”

He continued his debate saying, “we have always said if you have a genuine concern over issues of security and so on, these issues can be discussed and proper laws passed, which should not violate the rights of citizens.”

“We are going back to the days of the one party state where even a husband was fearing his own wife, that my wife will report me to the State. This is what is going to happen; people will be listening to conversations and report,” Mwiimbu said. “Why should we allow a situation like this to happen? Through this system…We have evidence [of] how this has been applied in other countries where, during elections, the government of the day will use this particular system to stop the transmission of any communication and results, jam the internet for the benefit of the ruling parties.”

He insisted that evidence to what he was saying was abound in Africa.

“I hear you when you say ‘this is a result of the AU treaty’. We know that African leaders are birds of a feather – they will never condemn wrong things happening in other countries. That is the tragedy of Africa,” Mwiimbu noted. “We have where violations of human rights are so serious. But African leaders are so quiet because they do similar things in their own countries. So, it should not be the basis that because the African Union has agreed we should be agreeing to what they are proposing.”

He emphasised that Zambia should be agreeing to enact laws which are progressive for her people.

“I know that our colleagues have made up their minds that this law must be passed. But the people of Zambia must know that once this law is passed, your rights will be violated,” said Mwiimbu. “You should know that the ones who are violating your rights are the PF, through this law. I oppose the passing of this legislation in its current form and I will urge my colleagues to do so.”

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