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Mnangagwa's crackdown on connectivity continues

Mnangagwa's crackdown on connectivity continues

Zimbabweans have resorted to using Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) to circumvent President Emerson Mnangagwa's continued block of social network and video blogging sites, although other internet services have since been restored.

Mnangagwa's administration is battling to contain a crippling strike action over fuel price hikes. Social media and instant messaging platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp had played a key role in sharing and circulating pictures and videos of the #Shutdown protest which started on Monday.

The government shut down the internet on Tuesday 15 January 2019 at approximately 8:30 am and partially restored it on Wednesday after widespread national and global condemnation. However, social network sites have remained down, due to a directive from the government to mobile network operators and internet services providers in the country.

"Dear customer, please be advised that the internet is back online under a directive that Facebook, YouTube, WhatsApp, Twitter will remain closed until further notice. Any inconvenience is sincerely regretted," Econet said in a texted message to its subscribers on Wednesday evening.

Zimbabweans abroad have been venting their frustration online and in the Southern African country, anxiety is growing over failure to access the alternative communication platforms. However, text and calling services have remained open.

Some Zimbabweans have resorted to using VPNs to circumvent the social media blockage while others on Wi-Fi internet services are still able to use the platforms. The streets of Harare have virtually been empty as business grounded to a halt after the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions and other labour representative groupings asked people to stay away from work.

However, there have been complaints that some of the VPNs are no-longer allowing some users to access social networking sites.

The Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Zimbabwe Chapter has written to State Security Minister, Owen Ncube, saying the shutdown of the internet and social media services violates constitutional provisions.

"(This) amounts to administrative conducts which is not lawful, efficient, reasonable, proportionate, impartial and both substantially and procedurally fair. Such conduct is clear violation of universal fundamental rights recognized by various international law instruments and in the constitution of Zimbabwe," stated MISA via its lawyers Atherstone and Cook.

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