Zimbos speak on Internet shutdown, rejoice as services restored

Zimbabweans rejoiced yesterday as blocked social media platforms were restored following a High Court ruling on Monday.

By Tatenda Chitagu/ Rutendo Matanhike

The ruling follows a challenge by the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights and Media Institute of Southern Africa (Misa)-Zimbabwe.

Government had shut down the Internet and blocked social media sites like WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter following bloody fuel price hike protests that rocked the nation since Monday last week.

Several people were tortured in retribution by the State, whose agents left an estimated 12 people dead, according to the Human Rights NGO Forum.

But it was the Internet blockade that left many in the “super highway” darkness on the violent crackdown against the protests.

An estimated eight million people use WhatsApp in the country, according to the Afrobarometer 2018 poll.

On Monday, it was all joy for many Zimbabweans who had turned to social media to vent their anger when the services were restored.

Voluntary Media Council Zimbabwe director Loughty Dube said the move by government was a violation of the citizens’ right to access information freely and without interruption.

“It is unconstitutional for the government to infringe on citizens’ right to information. Zimbabweans have a right to Internet services and are free to use internet platforms of their choice,” he said.

Media Alliance of Zimbabwe programmes officer Nigel Nyamutumbu said the High Court ruling conformed with democratic principles of promoting citizens’ right to access to information and free expression.

“It is pleasing to note that citizens have temporary relief and are able to enjoy their constitutionally-guaranteed freedoms,” he said.

“We, however, cautiously celebrate the Court’s ruling as we take seriously threats to clampdown on citizens’ digital rights under the guise of undemocratic cyber laws.”

Media lawyer Christopher Mhike said the High Court must be commended for its brave ruling on the Internet shutdown matter.

“While it lasted, the illegal and tyrannous blackout threatened the credibility of Zimbabwe’s standing in the community of nations as an authentic democracy,” he said.

“The court order, therefore, comes as a massive relief to local individuals and organisations that rely on the Internet for business, day-to-day transactions, communication and a variety of other normal technology-based activities.”

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