The Zimbabwean government has appointed a task team to monitor social media posts as a stepped-up campaign on what officials call dissention. Monica Mutsvangwa, the country’s Minister of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services, said her government has set up a cyber team that constantly monitors what citizens send and receive on social media.
When contacted for comment, the Minister stated that the government has no plans to regulate social media but that “all social media posts should promote rather than demonise the country.”
Zimbabwe’s Cyber Security and Data Protection Bills are awaiting ratification. It is, however, expected to have far-reaching repercussions on freedom of expression and privacy. The Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA), a media watchdog, expressed concern, saying the legislation criminalises the dissemination of false information online and entrenches surveillance in the country.
The organisation has urged President Emmerson Mnangagwa to delay signing the bills until the issues mentioned above are addressed.
“It is apparent that we are moving deeper into authoritarianism,” said Allen Munorayirwa, a communication and media technology lecturer at the University of Johannesburg. It is a government that has failed miserably that now wants to use social media surveillance to scare away critics of its failed policies.”
Trust Matsilele, an ICT expert at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, agreed, adding: “It is rather embarrassing that Zimbabwe wants to claim to be on some path to becoming a truly democratic nation while on the other hand, the country confirms every day that it is no different than Russia, Venezuela, and other tinpot dictatorships.”
The government has also enforced the New Company Act, which makes domain registration and company emails necessary. According to the Act, a company must have a domain, email addresses, and a website.
The law stipulates that email addresses are now mandatory for company registration, and businesses must register a domain and set up email accounts, including specific addresses for senior executives.