Parliament asked to prohibit “Draconian” computer, cybersecurity and communications laws

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By Matiisetso Mosala

A Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Prime Minister’s Ministries cluster today recommended that the National Assembly of Lesotho must disallow the passing of Communications Regulations, 2021 and withdraw Computer Crime and Cybersecurity Bill, 2021.

The Communications Regulations of 2021 are introduced for the cellular phones and sim cards registration and is titled Communications (Subscriber Identity Module and Mobile Device Registration) Regulations of 2021. The Computer Crime and Cybersecurity Bill is a law intended for curbing computer and cybercrimes.

But owing to much public concern and outcry about the manner in which both the draft law and draft regulations were drafted and also presented to the august house without public consultations KDNews understands the committee ended recommending they must be revisited.

Parliament’s Senior Information Officer Neo Mokatsa told KDNews Parliament may “adopt or not adopt the recommendations as soon as tomorrow [Wednesday] depending on the Order Paper”.

The committees submitted the recommendations for adoption by Parliament recommending that it was necessary that the Minister of Communications, Science, and Technology and his ministry reassess the communications regulations and revisit the Computer Crime and Cybersecurity Bill.

The Computer Crime and Cybersecurity Bill, 2021 was tabled before parliament on March 23 by then Minister of Communications, Science and Technology Keketso Sello, while the Communications (Subscriber Identity Module and Mobile Device Registration) Regulations, 2021 were tabled June 3.

The report said both regulations and bill were sent for scrutiny and considerations to the Portfolio Committee in terms of Standing Order No. 51 (5) and Standing Order No. 100(3) respectively.

The Chairperson of the committee Lehloka Hlalele said the committee noted with concern the lack of inclusion of media houses and Telecommunication Agencies is very crucial in the compilation of the Bill.

Hlalele also adds that all Security Agencies should be an integral part of cybersecurity management and should be represented in the National Cybersecurity Advisory Council that the Computer and Cybersecurity bill introduces.

“Security agencies such as Lesotho Defence Force (LDF), Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS), National Security Services (NSS), and Lesotho Correctional Services (LCS) were excluded in the formulation of the Computer Crime and Cybersecurity Bill, 2021,” the committee said.

It further said the Bill deals with two major sets of crimes, computer Crimes and crimes of cyber security, and the combination of the two sets of crimes may lead to a law that is vague and difficult to implement.

According to former Minister of Communications Sello, the Computer Crimes and crimes of cyber security were intended to provide for designation and protection of critical information infrastructure and Regulate jurisdiction in respect of cybercrime among others.

On the Communications (Subscriber Identity Module and Mobile Device Registration) Regulations, 2021, the committee is also concerned with the lack of stakeholders and public consultations needed to ensure that all stakeholders’ inputs are included in the Subordinate Law.

Moreover, the committee said it is worried further by no consideration of the vulnerable population, informal traders, and people with disabilities who have not been carefully informed.

“The systems testing and readiness ensuring that the central database is envisaged has not been thoroughly considered and timeframes for registration of SIM and other processes should be reviewed,” noted the committee.

Sello upon presenting the regulations to Parliament said the intention was to establish a Central Database where the licensees will be required to transmit all the subscribers’ information, Impose legal obligations on licensees to register the subscribers, and stimulate the requirements for registrations of different categories of subscribers.

The committee said the telecommunications and network providers: Vodacom Lesotho and Econet Telecom Lesotho, as well as the ministry of communications, were consulted by the committee for the Communications (Subscriber Identity Module and Mobile Device Registration) Regulations, 2021.

The committee said this was in an effort to get all the necessary information pertaining to the policy context, financial implications, contents, and effects of the Regulations as per Standing Order No. 101(2).

The committee’s report said the Ministry of Defense and National Security, Transformation Resource Centre, and the Media Institute for Southern Africa (MISA) were called for views on the Computer Crime and Cybersecurity Bill, 2021.