EDITORIAL COMMENT: Social media real threat to governance

SOCIAL-MEDIA-GRAPHIC2SOCIAL media are as important as they are dangerous to human life. Like the Central Nervous System which helps the body function by processing information from all its parts as well as the outside world, social media connect all humans in various parts of the world. Not all humans were born with social media already invented, but none among the living can imagine life without. Social media are now a part of us, as important as communication itself. Social media are the new institutional memory. All of whom we are. The paradox of our time, however, is that we have mastered the art of turning what is good for us into a weapon that hurts and kills us.

Cybercrime has become the order of the day. Our moral being has not been spared. We loiter on social media, caught up in the World Wide Web (WWW) of moral decadence. Fellow human beings are violated, raped, abused, demeaned and we are the audience. “Reposting”, “liking” and “pinning” the misery of others. So much for a Global Village. (Another paradox of the information age — a village of the immoral)

It is against this background that we welcome President Mugabe’s creation of a Ministry of Cyber Security, Threat Detection and Mitigation. Hard on the heels of three pieces of draft legislation on cybercrime, electronic transactions and data protection, the new ministry, led by former Attorney-General Patrick Chinamasa has a Herculean task ahead. We must be saved from ourselves before it’s too late. Self-proclaimed advocates of human rights and free speech will as expected, “cry wolf”.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights says freedom of expression is the right of every individual to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers. Freedom of expression is not the posting of insults, nudes, sex acts or promotion of public despondency. Cyber bullying is not moral panic: it is real!

We have said it before here that with every right comes responsibility. Social media are here to stay and Government is alive to this: which is why there’s a whole Ministry of Information Communication Technology promoting computer literacy and social media use. Government is also alive to the dangers of social media abuse which is why the new Ministry of Cyber Security, Threat Detection and Mitigation has been put in place. We are also reminded of a timeless quote by Albert Einstein who said: “It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity.” And the Universal Declaration of Human Rights unfortunately preceded social media.

Who will protect the weak? Who will protect the children? Obviously not rights groups. They are also abusing social media. They are so obsessed with regime change through social media; they do not care about the carnage. But if they are half as intelligent as they claim to be, they will know that the new ministry has always been coming. In August President Mugabe lamented cybercrime that is growing rapidly, with the country’s detractors taking to social media and other Internet platforms to peddle falsehoods on the situation in the country.

He was addressing tens of thousands of people during the commemoration of Heroes’ Day at the National Heroes Acre, saying while Internet was good for education and knowledge enhancement, others were using it as a weapon of destruction and immorality. Last week, the President said Zimbabwe wants to work with South Africa to fight elements using the cyber space to sabotage the economy, while speaking at the high-level Zimbabwe-South Africa Bi-National Commission held at the Sefako Makgatho Presidential Guest House in Pretoria.

His comments followed panic buying witnessed recently in the country after people believed a false social media message warning of an impending shortage of basic commodities like cooking oil. And yesterday during the swearing-in of ministers including Patrick Chinamasa, Presidential spokesperson George Charamba told the media that the new ministry “is coming against the background of the abuse that we saw not too far back on the social media where the social media then causes some kind of excitement to the country not on the basis of fact, but generation of copy which is in fact calculated to trigger a sense of panic in the economy.

“And of course to use his (President Mugabe’s) words again, it’s called a protective ministry which means to protect the interests of the State,” Mr Charamba said.

You are spot on Cde President, spot on!

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  • Awayfornow

    Agreed that some aspects of social media are worrying, particularly cyber bullying and pornography.

    The upside is that anyone with a camera on their phone can record corruption and political intimidation.

    Chinamasa’s job is of course impossible as the Chinese, Saudis and others have discovered.

    Blocking out of embarrassing news, such as Grace’s indictment on assault charges in South Africa, Chombo’s exorbitant wealth, Grace’s son in law with Rolls Royces being flown in, buying a ring for $1.3 million, is not possible. When will the Grace assault story appear in the Herald ?

  • Masaisai

    I think your contribution here shows how shallow your understanding of Cyber Criminology is. Social chats and fake news, pornography, jokes and all the trashy stuff that people put on the internet are what is called “Petty Cyber Crimes”. They are simply irritants. They are like mosquito bites. To those, one can simply apply insect repellents or medication in the event one contracts malaria. Cyber crime being considered here is more complicated and massive. It could bring not only a country but the world down. We are talking about crime here, one that has nothing to do with ZANU-PF et al. What is being considered here is not the little nonsense you are worried about. It wouldn’t need a whole ministry to be created. It would simply require a few computer whizz kids bored with life to go sit somewhere and monitor, hack and block certain activities on the internet. I see a lot of comments on the formation of this ministry whining about government trying to muzzle social media activity, freedom of expression, bla bla bla.. This only shows how shallow the understanding of cyber crime is among the ordinary person. Cyber crime is a nuclear bomb waiting to explode and when it does, it will destroy everything and everyone under the sun. It’s not a ZANU-PF project. The whole world is under threat.

    • Rasta!

      Ok, give me an example of a cyber crime that has been a threat to governance in our country. I stand by my earlier assertion, social media provides an alternative narrative that doesn’t fit in to the ZANU PF plan. Prove me wrong with facts.

    • xyz

      Not so long ago this very cabinet believed that diesel was oozing from a rock and you think Chinamasa will be able to deal with cyber crime that is threatening the whole world?

    • Tom

      General chit chat is a crime? Thank heavens the government is too old/incompetent/ill informed/lazy/corrupt to counter such a nuclear menace.

    • musa

      yes that’s cyber crime, but did you read the gvt’s explanation on what this ministry was created for? social media regulation, period.

  • Zithande

    let it be the job of news agencies and news organisations to tell the correct news and give people the information they need to hear. if you really wanted to combat cyber crime you would have policies that promote local products which can be protected from hackers and malware circulating in the internet. you cant call this social media abuse just because the things talked about aren’t favourable to your narrative. do not lie to the people and try to justify the taking away of people’s right to freedom of expression without fear of victimization by making people think that we need to follow your social norms in conversation or else we are considered as subversive or abusive……sit down mr editor you have no idea what the Chinese and the russians did….instead of stifling public discourse in the political arena, they challenged their people to create local alternatives to the social media giants and thus created their own giants. you are scared that ZANU PF is not getting favourable social attention and that gives you sleepless night hence you want to control us in a totalitarian manner as you have always done in the past. we will see crazy and unheard off laws in support of this menace.

    LORD have mercy on you

  • musa