APC interviewed Nhlanhla Ngwenya, Director of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (Zimbabwe), and a participant in the African School on Internet Governance, which took place between 21-26 November 2014 in Mauritius.
Nhlanhla Ngwenya is the Director of the Media Institute of Southern Africa, Zimbabwe. His job entails daily supervision of strategic interventions in promoting freedom of expression and access to information in Zimbabwe through independent and diverse communication platforms.
APC: Why did you decide to join the African School on Internet Governance?
Nhlanhla Ngwenya: I am interested in acquiring knowledge on the ICTs developments and regulatory principles for the sector. This is key for my work in a leading freedom of expression organisation in Zimbabwe, whose current interventions include advocating around the adoption of a democratic ICTs policies and regulatory framework. This comes in the wake of government attempts to come up with a Bill to stifle freedom of expression on the Internet.
APC: We read about this in the Global Information Society (GIS) Watch Zimbabwe report, entitled “Surveillance under the grab of rule of law.”
N.N: Exactly. The findings show a legislative conflict between the laws needed to protect the right to privacy and what the government is implementing. Laws that were crafted a long time ago are providing ground to erode citizen rights today.
As an example, five people were recently called on by the police on charges of propagating their opinions through Facebook, and this is sustained by old legislation against undermining the authority for the police and calling for violent removing of government. This goes on the opposite direction of free expression.
APC: Tell us more about the upcoming bill to stifle freedom of expression in the country
N.N: The context relates to the increased participation of Zimbabwe’s on the internet, posting critical information around the government. A faceless blogger known as Baba Jukwa, who pre-empted some secretive operations by the ruling party which include murder, assassination and corruption plots, was somehow a catalyst. The bill is an attempt to curtail anonymous commentators. Surveillance exists and everyone knows about it, so this bill tries to legitimize it, justify it, create a legal framework where this is acceptable as part of the struggle against “cybercrime”.