By Kenneth Matimaire
MUTARE – Government has clarified its position on cyber security, saying it is meant to secure online communications, contrary to fears that it seeks to spy on citizens.
Minister of Information and Communication Technology and Cybersecurity, Supa Mandiwanzira, said there was gross misinformation on government’s agenda over cyber security. He said this during the launch of the Zimbabwe National Frequency Allocation Plan (ZNFAP) recently.
Mandiwanzira became the cyber security czar under the government of President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who took over power from Robert Mugabe last November.
Mugabe had created a new cyber security ministry to focus on internet crimes, with many saying it targeted social media users under a planned crackdown meant to contain the opposition.
Mandiwanzira said government will not breach people’s online and mobile communication privacy.
“There was some confusion in the market when people heard that I have been allocated the portfolio of cyber security. I started receiving some very funny messages and they were saying Minister of WhatsApp because there is this confusion that cyber security is finding ways in blocking WhatsApp or finding ways in blocking Twitter. Far from it. In fact, cyber security is about finding ways to ensure that you can use Twitter, you can use Facebook, you can use WhatsApp without interference,” he said.
Mandiwanzira said cyber security was not only limited to online communications but stretches to radio frequency spectrum, which must be secured to avoid interferences. He gave the example of a situation under which the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) had discovered that a radio station in Gweru had interfered with the frequency used by pilots to land in Australia.
This, he said, “demonstrates the need of cyber security to protect that frequency from interference. (That) is what cyber security is all about,” he said.
POTRAZ director general, Gift Machengete, indicated that Zimbabwe nearly sparked a diplomatic tiff with Australia after a ZBC radio station interfered with that country’s airline landing frequency in 2008.
Mandiwanzira said his role was to secure online communication and spectrum frequencies.