Transport and Communications Minister Brian Mushimba says he has commissioned a crack squad comprised of government agencies to investigate, prosecute and sentence individuals who abuse the cyber space.

In a statement, Mushimba said the move was aimed at addressing the increase in abuse of cyber space and spreading of fake news.

“Beyond this, I have sat with ZICTA and invited other collaborative agencies and the task that I have given them now is to enhance their methodologies. They have since created what is called a crack squad for lack of a better word and it’s a combination of all the relevant agencies of government wings, Zambia Police, ZICTA and other specialised agencies and you are going to see a more concerted enhanced presence online to track down, fish out, thrash out, prosecute, name and shame, arrest, sentence people for criminal activities, spreading of fake news, spreading of criminal activities using ICT’s or cyber space or social media. This crack squad has been commissioned, has been blessed by me, it’s an initiative that I am fully supporting representing government on this to make sure that the presence of government in terms of curbing online and on social media is felt immediately,” he said.

“And my warning to the people out there that are hell bend of doing these activities, they need to stop immediately because tomorrow they will be arrested, and the book will be thrown at them and they will be quickly prosecuted and sentenced, and the keys will be thrown away. This is a sound warning, they need to heed this warning, or they will regret. ZICTA is already putting the finishing touches to this squad that is commissioned and ready to combat these activities in our cyber space.”

Mushimba observed that digital literacy was low in Zambia.

“These are pertinent questions, many of them are about our ability to combat bad elements that are cropping up in our cyber interactions. Many of them driven by the fact that our digital literacy is not where it needs to be as a country. And therefore, we are suffering from people that don’t know enough to differentiate between credible and what is not credible. Beyond that there are criminal activities obviously that have been happening. Speaking for ZICTA (Zambia Information Communication Technological Council) they have tried their best. There are several people that are saving time right now, that have been prosecuted and sentenced based on ZICTA’s ability to trace and track them using the equipment and the intelligence that they have and their capabilities that they have,” said Mushimba.

“The law the way it is may also be a hindrance in way because people have to complain sometimes through Zambia police who are the only agency of government that have the power to arrest and investigate beyond a certain limit. Zambia Police when they get a complaint, they go to ZICTA when its in the ICT space for ZICTA to deploy their tools. But ZICTA has passive and active monitoring technologies so, when Police usually go to them, ZICTA is always aware of what they are going for and they quickly produce evidence, that why some of these people are saving time.”