Zimbabwe has since the advent of the internet been plagued with a growing number of people prosecuted for airing their views and opinions on various social media platforms. While Zimbabwe is currently working on passing the Computer Crime and Cyber Crime Bill, which will address issues like general usage of intelligent devices such as phones, laptops, computers as well as the security of internet users online, Botswana on the other hand, has the Cybercrimes and Computer Related Crimes Act of 2018.
The Botswana instrument focuses on unauthorized access to a computer or computer system or service, access with intent to commit an offence (cyber fraud and/ or extortion, electronic traffic in pornographic or obscene material, unauthorized interference with data and unauthorized interference with a computer or computer system).
The two pieces of law in both countries are expected to govern the publics in both countries to utilize the internet with caution and a higher level of responsibility. “Internet users need to know that they have rights to write and or say what they want but also bear in mind that the next person also has rights,” said Director for Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA), Lillian Nalwoga.
The center, based in Uganda, focuses on research and analysis of information aimed at enabling policy makers in east and southern Africa to understand international ICT policy issues. Its overall goals are to develop the capacity of African stakeholders to contribute effectively to international decision making on ICT and ICT-related products and services, and to build multi-stakeholder policy-making capacity in African countries
Nalwoga was speaking at the CIPESA Civil Society Training on the Internet and the Law held in Harare, Zimbabwe last week. Although no one has been publicly prosecuted and persecuted for internet misuse or misconduct in Botswana, the advent of open speech on the internet has gotten the current President of Zimbabwe, Emerson Mnangagwa to be openly criticized together with his government on the World Wide Web.
Speaking at the three-day workshop, Media Law Specialist and University of Botswana Lecturer, Dr Letshwiti Tutwane warned that the Cybercrimes and Computer Related Crimes Act is one way government will curtail freedom of expression amongst citizens. He said the policy and legislative framework will, if not yet, instill fear and adversely affect how people use the internet.
Tutwane also noted that in the past, and to some extent now, governments control what people say in different platforms by imposing news blackouts and recently, internet blackouts as is the case with some countries such as China. In some cases, he said, governments “reassign” people to higher posts in order to silence them from airing their views, especially about the current government.
On the issue of prosecution, Tutwane said the internet policing platform was a relatively new area in the African continent and there is not much precedent of how rulings often swayed. He said the first world has, however, made strides in providing such examples, citing a number of cases in which employees lost their jobs because of posts they had made on social media.
For his part, Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) National Director, Tabani Moyo said there needs proactive campaigns surrounding advocacy strategies. “Campaigns are predominantly centered on access,” he said, explaining that availability, access and affordability of internet services are the most critical advocacy areas.
Moyo highlighted that the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) launched its concept of Internet Universality in 2013. He explained that the concept was based on the ROAM principle which indicates the internet is based on human ‘Rights’, that it is ‘Open’, ‘Accessible’ to all as well as be nurtured through ‘Multistakeholder’ participation.