HOME Affairs Minister Stephen Kampyongo says government is not going to defer the Cyber Security and Cyber Crimes Bill No. 2 of 2021 because the country needs it to stop abuse of social media.
But Leader of Opposition in Parliament Jack Mwiimbu says this is one of the most controversial Bills since independence, arguing that it endangers individuals’ privacy.
The Cyber Security and Cyber Crimes Bill No. 2 of 2021 came up for the Second Reading on Friday morning.
Martin Malama, the chairperson of a joint committee on National Security and Foreign Affairs and Media Information and Communication, informed the House that most of the stakeholders who appeared before the committee were in support of the Bill, but they raised a few concerns.
“The joint committee was tasked to scrutinize the Cyber Security and Cybercrimes Bill No. 2 of 2021 referred to it on February 9, 2021. Mr Speaker, most of the stakeholders who appeared before the committee were in support of the Bill. However, they raised a few concerns. Some of which I will now highlight. The stakeholders observed that some of the governance structures established in the Bill were not listed among the objects. These include the establishment and definition of functions of the following institutions; the Zambia Computer Incident Response Team (ZCIRT), the Central Monitoring Center, and the Cyber Security Coordinating Council. The committee therefore recommends that the establishment of these institutions and definition of their functions be listed in the objects of the Bill. There was also need to insert as an object the prevention, detention, investigation, Prosecution and punishment of cybercrime,” he said.
“The other matters of concern are clauses 4 and 5 which provide for the establishment of the Cyber Security Regulator and of the authority and its functions respectively. The committee recommends that an independent Cyber Security Regulator be established.”
Malama who is also Kanchibiya PF member of parliament, said the committee acknowledged the concerns raised by the stakeholders and therefore recommended that the Bill be deferred in order to allow the Ministry of Transport and Ministry of Justice to attend to the concerns raised.
“While noting that the Bill is a progressive one given the threats of terrorism and other cyber crimes, the committee acknowledges the concerns raised by the stakeholders and therefore recommends that the Bill be deferred in order to allow the Ministry of Transport and Communication as the sponsor of the Bill, and Ministry of Justice to attend to the concerns raised,” said Malama.
Debating the Bill, however, Kampyongo said government was not going to defer the Bill as there was enough space for the Ministries of Justice and Communication to attend to the concerns and proposed amendments that had been raised by the committee.
“We are not going to defer this Bill because we shall have enough space for the Ministry of Justice and the sponsoring ministry to attend to the concerns and proposed amendments that have been raised from the committee. Otherwise, we have to conclude this Bill as scheduled. The matters we are debating today are global concerns. All these providers of services including Facebook who are working closely with law enforcement have recommended that we have a robust legal framework which we can utilize for them to help nations track down culprits who are abusing cyber space. Sir, here in this country which institution has been spared? The judiciary is equally not spared,” he said.
Kampyongo said the only people who should be worried about the Bill were those who were subscribing to notorious platforms like Koswe.
“The only people who should be worried today are those subscribing to platforms like Koswe, notorious platforms. And they will be writing the last libelous articles for the last time. And those who subscribe to other platforms that have got their servers elsewhere. We have an idea of who these culprits are and we cannot allow them to continue terrorising citizens in the manner they have been doing. So this law has come at the right time and we in government are not going to defer it to any other time but we shall conclude it within the framework of our schedule,” said Kampyongo.
Adding to the debate, Justice Minister Given Lubinda said his Ministry was on top of things and would take into account the concerns raised by stakeholders.
“All those who have been debating in favour of deferment have been saying ‘the committee has suggested deferment’ but without referring to the reasons why the committee suggested deferment. The committee no where in the report does it say, ‘we did not consult’. What the committee says is ‘defer so that the concerns expressed by stakeholders are addressed by the sponsoring minister and the Minister of Justice. Sir, I concede, there are matters that need to be considered. However, I want to allay the fear that ‘we don’t have the time in which to consider those concerns’, because we do. And even without deferring the consideration of this Bill, the Ministry of Justice is on top of things and we shall take into account the concerns raised by stakeholders. I shall address all those concerns that have been raised,” said Lubinda.
But Mwiimbu said the bill violated citizens’ rights and privacy.
“I have noted with concern that the government has brought one of the most controversial Bills since independence, the Cyber Security Bill. There has never been any controversial Bill compared to this one. Members of the public and even the stakeholders who appeared before your committee and those who could not appear before the committee and had the privilege to make comments in the public domain over this particular Bill have raised very serious issues relating to the violation of the rights of Zambians. This particular Bill has given the mandate to officials and other institutions to intrude in the private lives of Zambia. This particular Bill enables the institutions to listen to conversations of individuals. This particular Bill will take away the rights of Zambians to privacy. As a result of the law that is being proposed to be passed, there is a danger that the privacy of individuals will be violated,” said Mwiimbu.
“Especially that (this Bill) is being brought towards the end of this session, and considering that we are having elections this year, we in the opposition and other stakeholders are apprehensive that this particular Bill is targeted at the rights of opposition members. That’s the intention of this particular Bill. I know that our colleagues have made up their mind that this law must be passed. But the people of Zambia must listen and know that once this law is passed, your rights will be violated and you should know that the ones who are violating your rights are the PF through this law. I oppose the passing of this legislature in its current form and I will urge my colleagues to do so.”
Also opposing the bill was Liuwa UPND member of parliament Dr Situmbeko Musokotwane who said the committee’s deferment recommendation should be upheld.
“I fully support the recommendations of the committee which is that this Bill must be deferred back for further consultations. As members of the opposition, there are so many bills here that we have gone along with. So for the very few [Bills] such as Bill 10 and this one where we say ‘let’s do further consultations’ I think it’s necessary that the executive must listen very carefully. Especially that stakeholders, members of public have also indicated that they are uncomfortable with the provisions that are being proposed. This Bill finds itself in the category of the bills where we are saying ‘let it go back for further consultations’. It’s very important that government listens to what the people are saying. We are not rejecting the bill, all we are saying is that let us consult further,” said Musokotwane.
Sioma independent member of parliament Mbololwa Subulwa, on the other hand, said the Bill was very progressive.
She added that this law was very cardinal as it safeguarded the freedoms of citizens as they performed online activities.
Debates on this bill will resume on Wednesday.