By Andrew Kunambura
President Robert Mugabe has created the Cyber Security, Threat Detection and Mitigation ministry as an instrument to deal with abuse and unlawful conduct in cyberspace, his spokesperson said yesterday.
This comes as the creation of the new ministry has sent shivers down the spines of pro-democracy groups and ordinary social media users who fear it is targeted at suppressing free speech.
The new ministry will be headed by Patrick Chinamasa, who has been the Finance and Economic Development minister for the past four years.
Mugabe deployed his spokesperson, George Charamba, to explain Chinamasa’s new role to the media yesterday.
Charamba said Mugabe wanted Chinamasa to study how authoritarian and communist regimes such as North Korea and China have successfully legislated against “cyber terrorism” and implement the measures here.
“I have just been talking to the president about the role of that ministerial portfolio and the president was very clear in his mind that he is dealing with an emerging threat to the State of Zimbabwe, a threat that is founded on abuse and unlawful conduct on the cyberspace and a threat which is unusual, which is quite new and therefore which needs a development of a new body of law,” Charamba told journalists soon after the swearing-in ceremony of ministers at State House yesterday.
“I want you to say it in his own words. The president said the ministry is like a trap used to catch rats. It is targeted at mischief makers who abuse the cyberspace and it needs law development which is precisely why he thought of no other than a person who is legally competent in that area.”
Meanwhile, Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko appeared in a jovial mood as he teased the new ministers, particularly former Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) director-general, Happyton Bonyongwe and Mashonaland West resident minister Webster Shamu.
“Hello Bonyongwe, you have lost the DG (director-general) position, how does it feel?” said Mphoko, whose remarks were met with a smile by the recipient.
Mphoko proceeded: “It’s back to business Shamu. Ndakanganwa shamu yekurovesa manewcomers aya (I forgot a whip which I would use to beat the new ministers),” exclaimed Mphoko, this time attracting laughter from the small crowd.
At the end of the ceremony, Mugabe turned to Bonyongwe — who has earned his first ministerial role — and said: “I hope you are now ready for this new era.”
Bonyongwe, who until now operated underground as Mugabe’s chief spy, subsequently addressed an eager press corps.
“It is my hope that I will be able to make some positive contribution to my country,” Bonyongwe said. “That is something that has always motivated me.” Daily News