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Protests, Internet shutdown and a crazy week in Zimbabwe


The past seven days have been quite bizarre, with the protests and looting to the government’s disproportionate response with force that saw the deaths of between 12 and 50 people, depending on who your source is.

Guest column: Nqaba Matshazi

I will leave the politics to the politicians and the activists, and concentrate on the most bizarre things. I remember when I was growing up, the Chronicle or was it the Sunday News, used to have a column titled Weird Wild World or something like that. The events of the past week could have Zimbabwe fitted snugly into that column.

Last Tuesday, the government decided we’d had enough Internet and decided that is in our best interests to shut it down. The only problem is that the President, away on very important assignments of bringing us a “bumper harvest of agreements and memoranda of understanding” decided he wanted to get in touch with his people and chose to use Twitter and Facebook.

But since we were offline, the President might have as well been talking to himself, because he couldn’t expect a response from anyone at home. Imagine a teacher throwing out every pupil from class, shooing them out of the school yard, which he dutifully locks and then returning to the classroom and continuing with the lecture like everything is normal.

But then I understand why he decided to tweet when no one was online, it’s because “you Twimbos can be tough”.

I could go on, but I risk being charged with insulting the President, it’s still a crime you know.

Then there was Information deputy minister Energy Mutodi, him of the boss mug. He saw a tweet showing a picture of the President in a somewhat unflattering setting and he decided, all by himself, without asking anyone, without as much expending much energy to think, that the picture was certainly photoshopped.

But unfortunately for Energy, many people, don’t ask me why, still watch ZBC news and they pointed out that the picture was shown on our only channel of choice and number one for entertainment and propaganda and everything in between. Must be embarrassing being him at the moment, I bet he still wishes the Internet was blocked.

Wait, quick question, do that lot ever get embarrassed? Their threshold for shame is quite high.

Oh and Energy again, lad is energetic. He was on ZBC telling the nation that the government had not shut down the Internet and instead there was so much congestion that it slowed down the Internet. Oh dear me, the calibre of deputy ministers we have.

This was the country’s first Internet shut down. The old geezer, Bob once shut down access to social media, but not the whole Internet. Not that this is without precedent, Strive Masiyiwa tells us that Bob once tried to shutdown the SMS platform 11 years ago, but Econet resisted this undemocratic and fascist directive.

Fast forward 11 years, Bob’s former lieutenant asks Econet to shut down the net and without much as a grumble they dutifully agree. I understand, because the new guy is sincere, orders must be obeyed. We must all Strive for sincerity.

Don’t get me started on Temba Mliswa, who said Zimbabweans acted worse than baboons during the demonstrations against government. Whatever, the circumstances, likening your compatriots to baboons, particularly to a foreign audience is really a new low, even for Temba.

But the problem with Mliswa is that he likes attention too much, everything should be about him. He is the type that gets to a funeral, sulks and leaves early because someone other than him — the deceased in this case — is getting more attention.

Then there’s the other guy at the Information ministry, Ndavaningi or Nick for short (don’t ask me how) Mangwana. Nick was fuming in the Business Times, threatening to kick out ambassadors from the United States and Germany. Taking a leaf out of Mugabe’s playbook, he accuses ambassadors of the two countries of being behind the protests and they could be kicked out. Not that they are saints, but is there anything that screams “tinpot dictatorship” more than kicking out representatives of the world’s wealthiest and fourth richest countries.

Dude has had a government job for the whole of 30 seconds and he is already prancing about beating his chest like he owns the place.

I wonder what they put in their water at the Information ministry, first Energy and then Nick.

Anyway, what’s an Internet blackout for only a few days, in DR Congo they are happily dancing to rhumba waiting for their benevolent government to switch them on. I wish you lot could travel more, you will appreciate your country more.

Speaking of dancing, instead of your self righteous cry for Internet, you lot could have been practising the “Magate” dance. We could give the Congolese a run for their money next time our governments decide we’ve had too much Internet.

Gotta go, investors are calling and they are happy that whatever is happening in Zimbabwe is over.

Nqaba Matshazi is AMH head of digital. He writes in his personal capacity.

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