Cybercrime in Zimbabwe – there’s need for law reform
23 Jun 2016
There is no doubt that the world of technology is upon us. The traditional ways of communication have since been overtaken by the use of the internet. The world is now connected through the use of information communication technology. However, the dark side of internet is the vice of cyber-crime. In general terms cyber-crime refers to crimes committed via the internet or other computer networks.Additionally, cyber-crime also includes traditional crimes conducted through the internet. They are various forms of cyber-crimes which include but are not limited to defamation, bullying, harassment, fraud and pornography.
The use of social media platforms such as WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter among others has also resulted in the escalation of cyber-crime.
Many have fallen victim to cyber harassment through the use of social media. Examples are awash of people’s pictures, false information and other obscenities being pushed through the internet.
This has resulted is instances of loss of life through suicides.
However, the fast development in technology has not been met with legislative intervention.
In Zimbabwe we do not have specific cyber related laws.
This has seen most of the cases going unpunished with victims left with no legal redress for violations suffered.
Calls have been made from various circles for government to put in place the legislative framework for cyber security but the government has not done so as yet.
Other regional African countries like South Africa and Zambia have passed laws that promote cyber security and specifically dealing with cyber-crime.
They have also set up critical infrastructure for the fight against cyber-crime like the setting up of computer incidence response teams (CIRTs) and the establishment of forensic laboratories for processing and preservation of evidence.
Our own Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act (Chapter 9:23) deals with computer related crimes.
However, the crimes that are covered are limited in scope hence a very minimum number of cases have been successfully prosecuted.
Sections 162 to 168 of Chapter 8 of the Criminal (Codification and Reform) Act tries to deal with unauthorised access and use of computers, passwords and manipulation, but fails to deal with issues of bringing tormentors to book or bring a prosecution for defamation.
Under the Postal and Telecommunication Act (Chapter 12:05) it is an offence to send through a telephone any threatening message or series of messages which are grossly offensive, annoying, false, indecent, obscene or of threatening character.
It is noted that the Act is crying for amendment as the use of the word telephone in this era of converged electronic communication has since become irrelevant and will result in perpetrators of cyber-crime escaping liability for their actions.
At an international level, the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) has developed model policies and bills for cyber security, cyber-crime and electronic commerce among other information technology policies in line with guidelines from the international telecommunications union.
Zimbabwe is also developing its bills along the COMESA models.
In Zimbabwe, the situation is further worsened by the slow uptake of technology within the key Government institutions such that the prosecution of the offences even where same fits within the traditional laws becomes very difficult.
With the rate at which technology has been embraced by our people, there is no need to waste further time before creating a framework for cyber security.
It is important to note that the Government through the Ministry of Information Communication Technology, Postal and Courier Services is in the process of coming up with an ICT policy which will inform and give birth to cyber security laws.
There is no doubt that this will go a long way in curbing cyber-crime.
What is needed are specific data protection laws coupled by specific definitions of cyber-crimes and the provisions for gathering and protection of evidence for purposes of prosecution.
Because cyber-crime is transnational there is also need for the government to seek synergies with other countries in the fight against cyber-crime.
Thus there is need for the country to move with speed to come up with computer and cyber-crime legislation which must be used to criminalise and investigate computer and network related crimes.