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Zim reads riot act to social media users as economy implodes

Zim reads riot act to social media users as economy implodes

Dissatisfied Zimbabweans are taking to social media to vent their frustration over an imploding economy. Officials and the central bank have warned locals against spreading multimedia content reflecting queues at fuelling stations and food shortages on social media platforms.

The Southern African country is battling a worsening economic crisis that has been precipitated by foreign currency shortages and bond notes, introduced last year, beginning to lose value.

On Sunday Ignatius Chombo, the Zimbabwean minister of Home Affairs said authorities were concerned about "irresponsible social media reports falsely claiming that there is chaos in the currency markets that has precipitated widespread panic buying of basic commodities" and foodstuffs.

Pastor Evan Mawarire of the #thisflag social media campaign for democracy and rights was arrested last week for allegedly posting a video on social media regarding the country's economic situation. He was due to appear in court yesterday.

There have been long queues at some fuelling stations over the weekend and resulting in a WhatsApp group called 'Finding Fuel in Harare'.

"Spreading alarm and despondency is not an expression of democracy nor is it media freedom. Government is closely monitoring the press and social media reports with a view to taking decisive action to deal a telling blow to the perpetrators," said Chombo.

The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor, John Mangudya, has also dismissed social media reports about the shortages of commodities and the implosion of Zimbabwe's economy as "meant to cause panic and despondency" among the country's populace.

"Zimbabweans should refuse to be hoodwinked by fake social media statements designed to increase premiums on the parallel markets by misguided rent seekers," the central bank chief said over the weekend.

Other social media messages circulated claim the government printed bond notes to purchase foreign currency in order to fund travels by President Robert Mugabe and other officials.

The government has been criticised in the past for stifling social media freedom, but has forged ahead with a new bill to govern internet and social media platforms.

Anti-government campaigns have been organised through social media platforms to protest against President Robert Mugabe's policies.