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Rapapa withdraws Computer Crime Cyber Security Bill with reluctance

Ntsoaki Motaung

The Minister of Communications, Science and Technology Tšoinyane Rapapa has shown dissatisfaction after he was ordered to withdraw the controversial Computer Crime Cyber Security Bill 2021 this week in the Parliament’s National Assembly.

Rapapa who has been keen to have the bill put into practice since the beginning of this year expressed his disappointment when addressing the media on Tuesday that his endeavour to have the bill put to practice was going to help to control the spread of fake news on social media platforms as well as putting a microscopic eye on those hacking in the government and public bank accounts to loot their monies.         

The move was meticulously scolded by the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Lesotho on the grounds that the bill was made without following the right procedure, there was no public consultation made. Besides the fact that the bill was not domesticated to respond to Basotho needs, the fines were also ridiculous as the lowest fine was amounting up to M500 000.  

Rapapa said that the withdrawal of the bill will also result in making it difficult for Lesotho to work smoothly with other countries in fighting cybercrimes.

 “It is going to be difficult for Lesotho to work with other countries in a fight against this crime if the bill is not adopted in parliament. Lesotho was expected to form National Cyber Security Incident Response Team at the end of this year and the country is already left behind because there are no laws to fight cybercrimes,” he said.

He indicated that the spirit of the bill was to fight against crimes done on technology, to put in place processes that would investigate cybercrimes, formation of Cyber Security Advisory Council that will advise the government on the safety of technology as well as the formation of National Cyber security Incident Response Team to look into critical information infrastructure.

“It was the ministry’s expectation for the bill to be enacted as law to allow the formation of the council and the response team,” he said.

“Without the law it means cybercrimes will always be committed and perpetrators will not be prosecuted. This says cybercrimes like fake accounts used to commit crimes, using of computer system without permission, accessing of government secrets or money by hacking into the computer system as well as reporting fake news,” he said.

Rapapa said it is not true that the bill is meant to target the media, their freedom of their work but meant to protect everybody against perpetrators of Cyber Security crimes as well as ensuring safety for technology equipment.

“It is important for people to avoid committing these crimes because the fines are hefty and one will not be pardoned when found guilty.

The Minister stated that the bill was tabled before the parliament in February this year and the expectation was that all the stakeholders will submit their views to the parliament. The ministry presented the bill before the parliament committee.

He said stakeholders in this bill are the Lesotho Police Mounted Services (LMPS), Lesotho Defence Force (LDF), MISA Lesotho, Banks, Mobile Phones companies and all other people that had a chance to submit their views to the parliament committee.

“The parliament committee recommended that the bill be withdrawn but as the minister responsible for the bill and as a member of parliament I pleaded with the parliament not to withdraw the bill but must be accepted with amendments but the parliament decided to withdraw the bill,” he said.

Meanwhile, the National Director of MISA Lesotho, Lekhetho Ntsukunyane indicated that MISA Lesotho is satisfied by the parliament’s decision to withdraw Computer crime and Cyber Security Bill 2021 and Communications (Subscriber Identity Module & Mobile Device Registration) Regulations of 2021.

He said MISA advocated for the withdrawal of both bill because they do not go in accordance with Lesotho’s constitution as well as the international document Lesotho ratified for and signed for.

“As we speak we have already submitted our verbal submissions and now finalizing our written submission with LCA they have given us until today to submit,” he said.     

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