The Islamic Republic of Iran has crystallised relations with President Robert Mugabe’s regime, following disclosures this month that Tehran is set to supply Harare with advanced cyber-warfare weapons and technology, as the nervous ruling Zanu-PF party is leaving no stone unturned in it’s unprovoked fight against cyber terrorism, cyber crimes and social media, Spotlight Zimbabwe revealed.
According to high ranking government insiders, the secret deal said to have been negotiated as far back as 2012 by vice president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, then minister of defence, who travelled to personally meet with former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and that country’s defence minister at the time, Brigadier General Ahmad Vahidi, Tehran will also honour earlier pledges to meet some of the country’s oil needs, while she is now suspected of having made the top spot in line to receive one of the few lucrative Kanyemba Uranium mining licences, ahead of China and reported interest from countries such as Canada and Australia.
Most of Iran’s uranium came from South Africa during the 1970s, but its stockpiles are believed to be running low, thus its access to Zimbabwe’s reserves is coming at a crucial moment, as the country forges ahead with plans to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes so it maintains.
The revelations are also coming at a time when both Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) Commander, General Constantino Chiwenga, and the Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) boss, Lt-General Philip Sibanda have recently spoken against social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp being abused as conduits to foment political instability, and so-called regime change in the country by hostile forces. Lt-General Sibanda has coincidentally raised the issue of Zimbabwe’s preparedness against cyber-warfare and attacks.
“We are already dealing with these threats,” Lt-Gen Sibanda told the State media last week.
“As an army, at our institutions of training, we are training our officers to be able to deal with this new threat we call cyber warfare where weapons — not necessarily guns but basically information and communication technology — are being used to mobilise people to do the wrong things. We will be equal to the task when the time comes. The most important function, as outlined in the Constitution is to protect Zimbabwe, its people, national security, territorial integrity and to uphold the Constitution. To deal with the important task of protecting Zimbabwe, we have to organise and train the army. We do not train or organise when there is war going on. We prepare and plan for wars before they happen. The major task we are undertaking now is that of training and preparing the army for whatever eventuality the country might face.”
Spotlight Zimbabwe, has been told that the latest cyber assistance from Iran is going to result in Mugabe’s administration adopting a cyber-strategy that focuses largely on defense.
The new secret campaign is also said to be targeted at diplomatic missions, non-governmental organisations and opposition political parties accused of conniving with Western capitals to topple Mugabe.
“Remember Zimbabwe and Iran only last year agreed on a partnership to devise ways of diluting the impact of social media ahead of the 2018 general elections,” said a minister with knowledge about the opaque deal.
“That was not the whole story, what is taking place is no longer just ICT cooperation, but it is now ICT at a defence and military level. Most of the finer details remain classified, but VP Mnangagwa having studied military engineering is involved in it, possibly for political control and power purposes. The Zimbabwe Defence Forces, are soon going to have a military cyber-doctrine in line with the changing times, alongside a new Cyber Command with its own head.”
Since 2007 Tehran, has been involved in a massive cyber training program exercise of hundreds of Zimbabwe’s intelligence and military operatives, we have also gathered
Former national security minister, Didymus Mutasa was instrumental in establishing the cyber training programme, with assistance from various Iranian intelligence organizations under the auspices of that country’s ministry of intelligence and national security, further information at hand shows.
Mutasa, before being fired from government and Zanu-PF, visited Iran in March 2010 ahead of Mnangagwa, where he reportedly took time to monitor the programme he had commissioned.
Groups of armed forces and Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) personnel have already undergone intensive cyber training, which includes technological warfare techniques, counter-intelligence and methods of suppressing popular revolts among others.
According to the Tallin Manual on the International Law Applicable to Cyber Warfare, a study commissioned by the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence that is not considered a legally binding document, cyber weapons are cyber means of warfare designed, used or intended to cause either injury or death of people or damage to or destruction of objects.
A cyber weapon is also intuitively considered any software, virus, and intrusion device that can disrupt critical infrastructures of other countries, from military defense systems to communications to electric power smart grids to financial systems and air traffic control. One good example of such is the Stuxnet worm that disrupted operations at an Iranian nuclear facility a few years ago.
Tehran ran has already been identified by the Pentagon and other intelligence services as a leader in recent attacks and intrusions into U.S and European databases for military contractors and government agencies, as well as testing the ability to hack into utility and infrastructure networks. Furthermore Iran has developed one of the world’s most sophisticated cyber warfare mechanisms and capabilities for controlling and censoring the internet, enabling the regime to examine the content of individual online communications at a grand scale.
ICT minister, Supa Mandiwanzira, was not answering his mobile phone yesterday, when our Harare reporter sought an official comment from his office.
The first acknowledged incidence of cyberwar occurred in Estonia in 2007, when attackers launched a huge distributed denial of service attack against the Baltic nation’s computer infrastructure.
In keeping up with policing the internet and clamping down on what it’s labelling as social media abusers and cyber terrorists, Harare is introducing a draconian law, the Computer Crime and Cyberspace crime bill.
The egregious bill, in it’s current form seeks to empower the Zimbabwe police to ‘intercept private communications, search and confiscate electronic gadgets’ used in what they deem to be ‘criminal activity’. The proposed law seeks to impose a five year mandatory sentence to would be ‘offenders’ who fail to legally use their phones, laptops and desktop computers.
The proposed bill goes on further to say the violation of the proposed law and the attendant repercussions will reach out to offenders “globally” in as long as they are Zimbabweans.