By James Muonwa
PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government has reportedly invoked the newly enacted Data Protection law to silence detractors, including Diasporans, using social media to express their concerns over his misrule.
A representative of Diasporans living in the United Kingdom, United States and South Africa, says Zimbabweans critical of government feared arrest and torture upon returning home.
The representative, who requested anonymity for security reasons, said while the new legislation appears progressive in strengthening data protection, consolidating cyber-related offences and promoting a technology-driven business environment, it contains provisions that undermine the freedom of expression and freedom of the media that are codified in Section 61 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe.
Said the source: “Of major concern is Clause 164C, which criminalises the spread of what the government classifies as false information online, punishable with a jail term of up to five years, or a fine, or both. Sadly, we have ED (Mnangagwa) and Zanu PF using ghost accounts denigrating opposition parties and individuals.
“The flurry of incendiary posts was part of a spirited campaign by President Mnangagwa’s Varakashi (online bashers) who lurched on George Floyd murder to take the war to America’s doorstep, saying the US has never liked black people whether in America or elsewhere.”
Zimbabwe was named by US National Security adviser, Robert O’Brien, among countries inciting violent demonstrations in the USA connected to Floyd’s murder by a police officer, further said the Diasporans’ representative.
He said in light of the upcoming elections season, the Mnangagwa administration has upped its ante against real and perceived enemies of the state.
In Poland, Zimbabweans who have been part of Tajamuka and MDC Alliance have received threats and many now believe they are on the so-called “death list” of wanted people.
He singled out activist Hilda Makechemu, whom he said cannot be guaranteed safety upon return to Zimbabwe.
Following the South African government’s recent decision to cancel permits, Patuma Sitima is in genuine fear of being sent back and face a five-year jail term for posting disparaging content that went viral.
The number of wanted activists in UK has reportedly increased.
Among them is Kila Kila T Chirandu, a prolific content creator, who has expressed fear after he found that his previous solicitor was a member of the dreaded Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) that has allegedly been hired by the government to head the propaganda machinery and identify cyber terrorists in the UK.
The source said the “death list” now included names such as; Shepherd Mhungu, Sexton Musvoriwa, Denis Gwasira, Ketiwe Nyamweda, Givemore Chindawi, Chief Ndiweni, Malvern Rutsito, Archford K Manyeza, Lawrence and Manfred Manyeza, journalist Gloria Tafadzwa Machakaire, and Tambudzai Gezani.
Added the source: “The government has vowed to investigate arrest and torture all those that disseminate information on different platforms.”
Efforts to get comment from presidential spokesperson, George Charamba proved fruitless by the time of publishing.