Cyber-security ministry a waste of resources - experts

Setting up a fully-fledged ministry to deal with cyber-security would be a waste of money at a time when government is faced with cash-flow challenges already, leading analysts have voiced.

Suggestions to beef up cyber-security and putting a lid to the menace of cyber-criminals have been raised at the recently held Swapo Party congress.

These calls have culminated to a general accord of setting up a stand alone ministry that can tackle this obligation full time. 

Yet government’s wage bill has been lambasted as way too unsustainable, which has prompted voices of dissent opposing such a move.

Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) Director, Graham Hopwood, says it would be more practical to have a sound cyber-security legislation as opposed to an entity that is money-intensive and bears hard on the tax-payer.

“It’s completely unnecessary. It’s not on the table now. I think that resolution will be discussed for the future extra-ordinary congress. It would be extremely unadvisable not only from the point of view of the costs but also because this is not necessary,” he says. 

Citizens for an Accountable and Transparent Society’s (CATS), Carola Engelbrecht says news of the proposal are rather shocking and it would be more practical to integrate ministries rather than expanding them. 

“I was just shocked to hear that there is another ministry. I hope this is not true, that it would become something smaller. Otherwise they might collapse some ministries into one that will just have a different structure, so that we do not have more,” says the outspoken activist. 

Meanwhile, the rights lobbyist has also expressed her concern over the lack of transparency on the cyber crime bill whose input, she says, has not been broadly shared with stakeholders. 

“We can all get upset about the cybercrime issue, the fact of the matter is that there is need for something like that but we need complete transparency.” 

“There is no transparency to what the input was and who said what and why did they accept this input and why did they reject that input,” she says. 

That government expenditure is taking more funds is now an open secret, and political and economists’ voices have clamoured for its drastic reduction.

Information, communication and technology minister, Tjekero Tweya, said he did not want to comment much on the issue.

The Villager wanted clarity on how this ministry would be different from the controversial spy-bill and whether government has the infrastructural capacity to set up such a ministry.

“Well, I don’t want to get into the narrative but let me just assist you. Anything from the congress is a Swapo party matter. It’s important to note that. Number two, the creation of ministries is the prerogative and authority of the president to create and to abolish. No one else has got the authority except the president in terms of the powers invested in him or her by the constitution,” he said. 

Clamours for a cyber-security ministry from within Swapo ranks also come in the backdrop of Zimbabwe’s former president Robert Mugabe having also set up such a ministry in an attempt to clamp down on social media voices of dissent ahead of 2018 elections. 

Zimbabwe’s current finance minister, Patrick Chinamasa, had been frog-marched into this ministry in a cabinet shake-up meant to purge Mugabe’s enemies from within.

Chinamasa himself had earlier indicated that government would treat social media as a security threat after accusing users of spreading rumours about shortages of basic goods, which caused panic buying and price increases.

However, with the coming in of Emerson Mnangagwa, the ministry has since been dismantled for a leaner cabinet and he called for free and fair elections. 

Chapter 3, article 13 of the Namibian constitution says that no persons shall be subject to interference with the privacy of their homes, correspondence or communications save as in accordance with law and as is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety of the economic well-being of the country, for the protection of health or morals, for the prevention of disorder or crime or for the protection of the rights or freedoms of others.

It also says that searchers of the person or the homes of individuals shall only be justified where these are authorised by a competent judicial officer and in cases where delay in obtaining such judicial authority carries with it the danger or prejudicing the objects of the search or the public interest, and such procedures as are prescribed by Act of Parliament to preclude abuse are properly satisfied.

Meanwhile, with the fiscal consolidation stance taken by finance minister Calle Schlettewein digging in, it is unlikely that such a resolution will see the light of the day any time soon.

The minister said he will be undeterred in aligning expenditure with revenue as a major policy stance as the economy comes into the final quarter and enters the 2018 fiscal year.

Namibia’s revenue is not doing well altogether as far as tax collections and exports proceeds are concerned while SACU receipts are projected to plunge.

However, the outlook is not unflattering altogether as a recovery in agriculture due to good rains and Uranium prices will bolster growth hand in glove with tourism that is performing well, manufacturing and the diamond sector. 

The minister has also come to the aid of the depressed constructing sector by setting up a fund with the Development Bank of Namibia (DBN) to allow for breathing in the private sector which will hopefully balance the tax cycle. 

The economy also waits for a major recovery from its neighbouring economies most of which have suffered crippling downgrades from ratings agencies.