May 21 2020
Making his presentation during a joint press briefing with the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC), the National Registration Bureau (NRB) chief director MacFord Somanje touched on several areas involving the bureau’s role in elections.
One thing that came out clear is that Somanje acknowledged that the system is mired with a number of problems, where for one he acknowledged that some registrants in the system were born in 1800 or thereabouts. By admitting such an anomally, you would expect Somanje to follow what some proponents, including the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) who have called for an audit of the NRB database.
Instead, the chief director went to town threatening those that may have gone into the NRB to get the data. He quoted the National Registration Act and the E-transactions and Cyber Security Act, which makes the getting of unauthorized access and disclosure of public data illegal. I don’t know how MCP IT guru Daud Suleiman got the data that exposed loopholes in the NRB system, but it remains for legal minds to determine whether or not obtaining necessary info in a case by unconventional means is admissible.
NRB says it can’t allow the MCP to audit the database, but one can only hope that for the sake of transparency, there is need for an independent audit.
Somanje, here, was threatening Suleiman that using the law, he can end up with imprisonment for five years and pay a K2 million fine for contravening the E-Transaction and Cyber Security Act. Only time will tell on how far government can go with such an action.
Now, the cyber security act is one law that is not being used in a number of ways. The Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (Macra) has of late been running adverts against Malawians who are spreading false information on the Covid-19 pandemic via social media. One wonders: What action has the regulator taken so far to act against perpetrators of this misinformation?
The wonder comes because the Act seeks for the establishment of the office of an investigator who can track originators of such messages. Now, should we say there is no such investigator at Macra that they continue going scot free?
Besides, the Act has important elements dealing with cyber-bullying, which also includes criminalizing the spread of child pornography.
During the week, a video of a child engaged in erotic moves while taking a bath went viral on social media. The reaction from most of those who saw the video was to blame the parents for several reasons.
But then, very few looked it from the point that this child will live with this the rest of her life. The cyber-bully who first shared the video will remain scot-free, while this child will live to come to terms that her friends, teachers, and many more who don’t even know her saw her nude.
That is how far cyber-bullying can go in causing psychological harm. During the same week, another video of a man who caught his wife with another man in a hotel room also went viral. Whoever may have leaked the video is on the street walking scot free.
Time is ripe Macra acted in helping trace originators of such cyber crimes. An arrest of one or two perpetrators will certainly deter others from committing the same crimes.