By Hakainde Hichilema
Zambia’s August 2021 elections are on the horizon. The 2016 polls were closely contested despite widespread irregularities. These have been difficult years for citizens. Even before the Covid-19 pandemic hit, spiralling debt and inflation resulted in rising living costs and contributed to underfunded public services.
Progress in advancing sustainable development is being undermined as a result.
Against this backdrop, we in the opposition United Party for National Development (UPND) expect to face the usual obstacles in our fight for a free and fair election.
We will probably face the physical restrictions and obstructions used to prevent our campaigning abilities.
Using the archaic Public Order Act the authorities will probably deny us rally permits, detain our supporters and campaigners without charge and send the police to break up meetings.
As was the case in the recent Ugandan elections, the government can also use the pandemic to justify shutting down opposition and civil society activities.
Opposition voices also have to contend with a government that has consistently opposed the concept of a free media.
In April last year, the Patriotic Front regime shut down independent broadcaster Prime TV after the network refused to air government infomercials for free. The government closed the independent Post newspaper ahead of the 2016 elections.
We also face new threats. We now have a fight on our hands for the digital rights of Zambians. Six months ahead of the elections the government wants to resurrect the oppressive Cyber Security and Cyber Crimes Bill in an apparent attempt to muzzle civil society and the opposition.
The bill was shelved last year after an outcry by civil society. According to the government, the bill, which was approved by the cabinet on February 1, is intended to promote the “responsible use of social media platforms”. But it threatens to erode democracy. If passed, the government will have unrestricted power to listen to people’s conversations without a court order — in particular to citizens who have dissenting views to that of the ruling party.
All electronic communications providers, including internet messaging platforms, will have to provide services that are “capable of rendering real-time and full-time monitoring facilities for the interception of communications”.
Section 27 of the bill establishes the Central Monitoring and Coordination Centre to intercept communications. The centre will be controlled by the department for government communications.
Civil society organisations have already voiced their concerns about the bill. In a letter signed on behalf of 10 organisations, Chapter One Foundation executive director Linda Kasonde highlights the “dangerous provisions in the bill, including those that “have the potential to facilitate and even enhance the wanton surveillance and censorship of members of public through interception of communications.”
For example, section 15 empowers the Zambia Information and Communications Technology Authority (Zicta) to institute investigations upon receiving information regarding an alleged incident or threat.
The bill fails to specify valid sources or define what constitutes a threat. There are also concerns the bill would empower Zicta cyber inspectors to question people, with those refusing to cooperate facing hefty fines of up to 60?000 kwacha (about R50?000) and/or imprisonment.
Those found guilty of harassment, another undefined concept, could face fines of 150?0000 kwacha and/or five years in jail.
As civil society has also pointed out, the bill falls short of several regional and international standards of human rights-aligned laws including the African Union Convention on Cyber Security and Personal Data Protection (Malabo Convention) ratified by Zambia. The UPND shares these concerns.
We and civil society have been able to hold off some attempts to pass regressive and anti-democratic legislation.
Last year we stopped the Constitution Amendment Bill, dubbed Bill No 10, that would have greatly strengthened the hand of an already powerful executive and further increased the government’s ability to contract debt without requiring parliamentary approval.
Bill No 10 required a two-thirds majority to be passed, whereas the cyber bill needs only a majority.
The government’s popularity became even more precarious after the debt default on one of Zambia’s Eurobonds in November and the $17-million healthcare scandal involving the supply of faulty and expired goods. It needs the cyber bill.
The proposed legislation is oppressive and will infringe the dignity and civil liberties of Zambians well beyond the election. It must be stopped.
Only a thief can be scared of this bill.Cyber threat is real,thus we need to control cyber bullying!!
Politicians who intend to cut illegal deals with foreigners by promising them our natural resources once in power must be caged too.Only a criminal can fear such a good bill.Protection from cyber abuse is what any well meaning Zambian wants!!Thus,bo Aikande you’re wrong as usual on this one!Linda Kasonde is a well known UPND cadre just like Chipenzi,so we cannot listen to her organization!!
Let present Lungu sign cyber bill so that it can become law ASAP!!
You need to campaign that you will reverse this law once elected into Office
Why is lungu is a rush to pass major laws before the elections ???
The failed Bill 10 , now this one ?
Can we trust someone who oversaw the gassing of his own people , hoping to have opposition outlawed ????
Unfortunately this Bill requires a Simple Majority. With PF’s arrogance of numbers PF Dunderheads MPs will probably vote for this Repressive Bill. They will fall victim to this Bill should it be passed into law. This law will haunt PF MPs 4 the rest of their lives. All Progressive MPs should vote against this Repressive Bill.
Just look at how evil he looks in that picture. This hyena will start celebrating when the preliminary results from southern province are announced. Then when he realises that he is losing, his small penls will be deflated due to premature celebration like ejaculation. F00lish boy this hh
HOW WILL THE SO CALLED CYBER LAW STOP CORRUPTION AND MONEY LAUNDERING, WHICH HAS RAVAGED OUR ECONOMY, CAUSED UNTOLD STRESS, MISERY AND SUFFERING TO THE MASSES?
The timing may be wrong but there are bloggers who have abused social media peddling lies , maligning others, discrediting , deameaning and outright insults on innocent defenseless people. The situation is getting worse as we go towards elections unfotunately.
All developed countries do control their ciber space and we cannot afford nott too.
The bill is good for the safety of all of us if used without malice or abuse. We need it.
I personally hv no time to abuse anyone either on social media or in person. I only hv time to engage productively with people. I know wht’s happening with my phone number and e-mail address. I wonder wht intelligence value there is in things I get up to on social media and cyberspace. It’s only a useless security apparatus that would want to know wht I do on social media.
Summarize my friend, we don’t have time to read such crap!
aba nabo….HH thinks he knows everything and thats why he will never win an election
Comrade h² is really scared.
He is touched!
Who the cap fits, let them worry.
So iwe Under 5 what have you said here?
March 10, 2021 At 10:13 pm
“So iwe Under 5 what have you said here?”
He says don’t trust any rushed laws from people who gassed Zambians hoping to have opposition outlawed……
So this tribal god is the one benefiting from insults, lies, malice and other crimes on social media and the Internet? People that are scared of cyber law know what they do online. Nothing I do online is illegal so I am not scared of the law that will protect me from being insulted, hacked, identity theft and lies being paddled against people without proof. Some tribal grouping thought this is bill 10 and they have Pizza in new Kasama. The representation in parliament says exactly what % of Zambians feels about the political parties in Zambia.hazaluza nafiti.
He is ranting. His argument is all over the place. May be HH has also started drinking.
@kci if pf government was serious about crime, they would address the killing of inoccent citizens that have been murdered in cold blood without justice. The problem with pf grz their interpretation of crime is one that has been committed by the opposition, while pf criminals are untouchable even when they are well-known to have committed even murders. If you see them rushing such a bill at the last minute a few months from election, it is with Evil intentions to fix the opposition. All those who love Zambia must stand up against such evil manoeuvres, cyber crime is not an emergency right now.
The bill suites p0rn front since they are all dull and can’t use computers, even meno meno can’t use a computer, all they know is stealing and bankrupting a country…. PF is a party of the devil
Very unfortunate to hear that Zambia is not prepared for the covid-19 vacation.
This is a clear indication of lack leadership and wrong priorities. Mean while Lungu is so obsessed with returning power at all cost, to come and waste our time again. What is urgent covid-19 or cyber bill?
The only fear people have of such laws is abuse. We are going to have a bunch of trained hackers to intercept any message at will. Think of intercepted private online transactions. Who is to be trusted NOT to pass privileged info into criminal hands?
He is even talking talking about Public Order Act? Alive nsoni
“Against this backdrop, we in the opposition United Party for National Development (UPND) expect to face the usual obstacles in our fight for a free and fair election. We will probably face the physical restrictions and obstructions used to prevent our campaigning abilities.” This is the farfetched hypothesis. There is not even a single instance when either you or anyone from UPND was stopped from speaking our or doing anything. Don’t spread the lies here.
You have no right to speak on Public Order Act. It was your party that walked out when the government wanted to amend it. You are responsible for what is happening and not the government. When will you stop complaining and actually start talking about your plans and manifesto?
Free media doesn’t mean spreading fake news and using filthy language for others, including President of Zambia. We can’t accept it at all. You can’t have the free run in the name of media. You have no right to abuse people, spread fake news. The government didn’t take any action against the media houses despite whatever they did. They went overboard thinking that government was afraid of them and won’t do anything. In fact, HH, the Cyber Security and Cyber Crimes Bill is the fall out of brazen misuse of freedom by the media houses on your pay roll. They invited this. Now face the music.
Who told you that Cyber Security and Cyber Crimes Bill is oppressive? Have you read the Bill? Have you understood it, if not put that so called team of experts you have, on it. Get it explained from them. There is not even one provision in the Bill as you are claiming.
Whenever any government brings in any legislation, the criminals get upset instantly and start crying foul. Same thing is happening this time. The criminals are making noise about the Bill because it will close their shop. Why are you opposing the Bill, Hakainde Hichilema? Do you support those who abuse and molest women on social media? Do you support those who spread fake news? Do you support the online scams looting people?
If passed, the government will have unrestricted power to listen to people’s conversations without a court order — in particular to citizens who have dissenting views to that of the ruling party. – Can you elaborate how this will happen? How the government would be empowered to listen to my telephone conversation? As far as having dissenting views is concerned, you fall flat, as the government has not taken any action against those who have been openly abusing the government on social media. You must know this, because all of them are your people.
You are misleading about Section 27. It clearly says that all the AUTHORISED monitoring in terms of this Act shall be effected. It says, AUTHORISED monitoring. It means only those people under suspicion and that too after authorisation. This means there would be checks and balances even in surveillance. Stop this drama HH.
This article is full of misinformation and lies. This is a fit case to take action under the Cyber Security and Crimes Bill.
This article tells how Hakainde Hichilema is scared. He is shielding and paying the criminals who abuse women, spread fake news on social media. They are bound to be doomed now. The biggest example that HH protects the criminals is that he has not expelled Chellah Tukuta from his party. He is still his personal photographer. Remember, he is facing the court trials for abusing Dora Siliya on social media! It is up to people now to decide whether they want to support a criminal or a leader who really cares for them.
Every word of the article is overflowing with your desperation. And I can understand that. After all, you and your friends would be at the receiving end of this Bill. You deserve it.
Hahahahahah, Zambia needs an opposition with intergrity not Hakainde who opposes everything as long as it comes from Govt. Surely we can not be a nation of misguided insolent leaders. Hichlema has used so much vulgar language that he is scared and righfully so. This level of desperation is not good for our great nation. Even the debate on the eleigibilty og ECL is filled with so much interest. All interested parties are reading only the part that suits them. The simple interpretation is that the man is eligible, Chapwa. Those new entrants should aim at 2026. Those who have been losing for ever must retire.
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