Zimbabwe – President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu-PF government has upped its game in the fight against cyber security issues with the creation of a fully-fledged Ministry of Cyber Security, Threat Detection and Mitigation as the country finalises a computer and cyber crimes bill.

(F24) Mugabe recently said he would lean on Zimbabwe’s allies for technology to deal with cyber threats and economic subversion through modern technology. This was after food prices spiked and edible oil and fuel supplies ran low, resulting in long queues at filling stations and shops.

Government ministers have blamed social message platforms for a spike in food prices last month, and Mugabe has now appointed former finance minister Patrick Chinamasa as the new Cyber Security Minister.

“In terms of Section 100 (200) … of the Constitution of Zimbabwe … the President has made the following re-assignments and appointments of Government Ministers. Hon (Patrick Chinamasa) Minister of Cyber Security, Threat Detection and Mitigation,” Misheck Sibanda, chief secretary to the President and cabinet in Zimbabwe on Monday evening.

Until his reassignment on Monday, Chinamasa was Zimbabwe’s minister of finance, a position he held since after elections in 2013. Mugabe has replaced Chinamasa at the Finance Ministry with Ignatius Chombo, who until Monday was the country’s home affairs minister.

However, it is the creation of a fully-fledged Cyber Security Ministry and the appointment of Chinamasa to head it up that has generated more interest inside Zimbabwe, amid fears that implementation of the Cyber Crimes Bill will now be hastened.

ICT Minister Supa Mandiwanzira had been handling the bill and Chinamasa is now expected to take charge of it. Zimbabweans are already joking about Chinamasa’s reappointment, circulating jibes on social media that he is now Minister of WhatsApp and Facebook.

A draft version of the bill released last year says “a person, who intentionally … initiates any electronic communication, with the intent to coerce, intimidate, harass, or cause substantial emotional distress to a person, using a computer system … commits an offence punishable, on conviction, by imprisonment for a period not exceeding five years, or a fine not exceeding level ten, or both”.

Other reassignments include Patrick Zhuwao moving from the Ministry of Youth, Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment to the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare.

Simon Khaya Moyo has been appointed to head up the Ministry of Media, Information and Broadcasting Services, taking over from Christopher Mushohwe who is now responsible for scholarships in the president’s office.

Walter Mzembi has been reassigned to head up Foreign Affairs after Simbarashe Mumbengegwi moved to Macro-economic Planning and Investment Promotion. Mzembi has been replaced by the new appointment of Edgar Mbwembwe as tourism minister, among other ministerial movements.