By W. E Kamirichiki, PhD
Some aspects of Zambia’s Cybercrimes law such as against Zambia’s runaway pornography industry, cyber-bulling, and other cyber-space enabled crimes have serious merit and deserves applause. In fact, it was long overdue given what is clearly alarming profiles, severity, and intensity of cybercrimes worldwide, according to Cyber Crimes Watch, a cybercrimes watch and analysis site.
Zambia’s new Cybercrimes law even with its supposed positive societal effects will likely encounter challenges in implementation and legal responses from those unhappy with the background legislative manoeuvres attending to its passage. Clearly though, the rest of this law is politically motivated self-serving garbage meant to shield the regime and ruling PF party from righteous criticism of its governance record. That, it has cleverly dressed it under “hate” provision in the law.
Like most irrelevant ruling parties of fading consequence in Africa’s dictatorships such as in Uganda, Equatorial Guinea, Congo-Brazzaville, Gabon, Zambia’s ruling PF party and regime sired this law for supposed political dividends, especially as August political warfare picks steam. Like a copycat dictatorship, the PF regime has now officialised its repression by trafficking and legitimizing it under the cover of the leviathan power of law the regime has arrogated to itself. Given the technical profile of most of the regime’s enablers and legislators, it is anyone’s guess the size of the gap of their (mis) understanding of the cybercrimes law.
With such a background, and with “cybercrime” prevented, the clueless and reckless PF regime then gets to waitress on its own served menu of governance lies and marinated PF violence in Zambia’s physical space.
It is certain that the courts of law will work overtime in the near future to interpret and adjudicate on a boatload of overzealous and bogus cases that regime enablers will paste on their political opponents for alleged cyber-defamation or reputational infractions on regime enablers, including on Mr.Lungu himself.
Cybercrimes law that shields society from legitimately harmful and illegal content, or that prosecutes crimes around misuse and abuse of information technology is welcome. But law which seeks to constrain free exchange of constructive personal views and opinions, or that which inhibits public debate and encroaches on human rights is not welcome and is open to both legal and political resistance. Moreover, it is foolhardy to use law as a tool to persecute protected speech by government critics and silence online media and dissenting voices. A regime that stifles democracy by muzzling means of communication by whatever means, including manipulating the law, is thoughtless. Why? Because once the citizenry is silenced, the regime loses access to instructive sounds of constructive criticism of its aggrieved citizen that could well re-track it back to good governance. Perhaps, the PF regime needs a reminder that history is replete with footnoted cemeteries of dictatorships that denied their people grievance spaces.
But again, law is also political warfare by other means. And that is why regime change in the upcoming August general elections is crucially important as a minimum starting point to undo potential covid-like savage effects of some aspects of this cybercrime law.
Perhaps the future the disgraced PF will walk into is this: One in which they pre-weaved a vindictive and targeted political cobweb against regime opponents disguised as criminal law which, on foresight will entangle them too. Once out of power, the PF regime will find that their otherwise constructive weapons and avenues of political criticism will now be cyberlaw-constrained.
We pray this will be one of the final egregious legal epitaphs that will be emblazoned on the PF grave as Zambians bury them in August Polls.