TRANSPORT and Communications Minister Mutotwe Kafwaya says no search of any cyber information will be done without legal excuse if the Cyber Security and Cyber Crimes Bill is enacted into law.

And Kafwaya has stressed that there is no provision within the Cyber Security Bill that aims to shut down the Internet in response to social media abusers who were fond of slandering others.

According to Article 11 (1) of the Cyber Security and Cyber Crimes Bill, 2021, a cyber inspector may, in the performance of the 20 cyber inspector’s functions, with a warrant, at any reasonable time and without prior notice, enter any premises or access information system and search the premises or that information system; (b) search any person on the premises if there are reasonable grounds to believe that the person has possession of an article, document or record that has a bearing on an investigation; (c) take extracts from, or make copies of any book, document or record that is on or in the premises or in the information system and that has a bearing on an investigation.

But speaking on Diamond TV, Kafwaya said no cyber inspector would be allowed to enter any premises or access information system without legal excuse or warrant.

“You see, when you are an inspector; you are certainly delegated authority. There is somebody senior; this is why you are not going to search without a legal excuse. You will not be able to search anyone without a permit to do so. Now, before you do so, there is a whole range of senior people who will have looked at the merit behind the case you are investigating such that if there is no merit, you won’t even get that merit. Because you don’t give yourself that permit, a permit is given by another person having powers. This is why even today, your home and mine cannot be searched without a search warrant because a judge should be able to access the case for which my home should be searched. The judge should be able to access for which your home should be searched,” Kafwaya said.

“If it is found at all that the process is reasonable for you to be searched or me to be searched, then let me be searched and I shouldn’t be worried because I may not be holding anything that would be problematic, except I think that I could have that. There is no one who will do so without a legal excuse; everybody must have the permit, that is what the law provides for. There is no provision in this Bill, which is saying, ‘you could be searched without that authorisation.’ A person who is searching another person must have the provision.”

Kafwaya added that the Bill provided for punishment for law enforcers who acted outside the provisions of the Bill.

“This Bill seeks to enhance security of citizens in terms of cyber security. This Bill is aimed at sanitising the cyber space. So, it is for the Zambian people, it is not for the Civil Society Organisations (CSOs); it is not for political players. That Bill is for the Zambian people. The winners at the end are those who are abused over the Internet. The Bill provides for excesses, if you indulge in excesses, you will be dealt with even as a law enforcer. The Bill provides for the conduct of law enforcers and if you misconduct yourself, you will be sanctioned by the provisions of the same Bill. You must read comprehensively and not just in part, so that you can understand what the Bill is providing for. If I am a law enforcer based on the provisions of the Bill and I act outside of the provisions of that law, I will be sanctioned by the provisions of that same law. So, clearly, that is settled in that Bill,” Kafwaya said.

“However, I must be quick to say the Bill is not yet a law, it is the process of enactment, for serious representatives of the people; we need people with serious concerns, you should quickly submit to the Parliamentary Committee a consolidation of two Parliamentary Committees, who are scrutinising the Bill right now. If you are seriously concerned about certain provisions, you should actually propose those amendments now so that when the Bill comes up for the Committee Stage, we should be able to push through those amendments. Otherwise, to stop people from having the security of their property, security of their bank accounts, security for transactions now, you don’t mean well for the people. Clearly talking based on hearsay won’t help anyone.”

And Kafwaya stressed that there is no provision within the Cyber Security Bill that aims to shut down the Internet in response to social media abusers who were fond of slandering others.

“People should be concerned; if you are aiming at their rights, but when you are enhancing their rights, people should be happy. Because the things that have been happening where we have this indiscriminate abuse of cyberspace, because we don’t have sufficient safeguards, should be eliminated. Show a provision, which even has a suggestion that this law could be used for shutting down the Internet? There is completely nothing. Why is it, the same people who spoke against Bill 10, why is it that it is the same people who spoke against the Bill of Rights and yet the Bill of Rights was for the people, it was to enhance these rights, why is it that it should be ‘that same lawyer’ who is based abroad, why is that it can’t be another group of people pursuing this matter? Listen, Bill 10 meant well for the youths; Bill 10 meant well for women; Bill 10 meant well for retirees; Bill 10 meant well for the Church; Bill 10 meant well for politics, it was stopped! By which group of people? Is it the same group talking against this, which is again good for people? Because you and I have seen people who have suffered at the hands of others on the Internet,” Kafwaya said.

But when asked why government was trying to enact the Bill conveniently before the August 12 election, Kafwaya said discussions surrounding the Bill began a long time ago and that the Bill was now ready for presentation.

“So, this is not a new thing, when we were considering all these matters; these are things that began a long time ago. By the way, there will be other elections after the 2021 election so, why now? Because these Bills are ready now that is the reason why now,” said Kafwaya.

Article 11 of the proposed piece of legislation include allowing a cyber inspector access and inspect the operation of any computer or equipment forming part of an information system and any associated apparatus or material, which the cyber inspector has reasonable cause to believe is, or has been used in, connection with any offence, among several other draconian measures.

The Bill contains 11 parts, including details on how government intends to use State institutions to intercept all communications among the citizenry under lawful order.