Econet Wireless Zimbabwe , the country’s largest mobile operator, said on Wednesday its internet services had been cut off following an order from the government amid deadly protests in the country.
“This morning I was informed that the authorities in Zimbabwe have directed that all Internet services be shut down,” Econet founder Strive Masiyiwa revealed on Facebook.
“As it was a written directive issued in terms of the law, non-compliance would result in immediate imprisonment of management on the ground.”
“I’m sure you will agree that it is extremely unfair to blame Econet executives and engineers in Zimbabwe for something over which they have no control, and which threatens them with imprisonment should they resist,” he said.
“We are obliged to act when directed to do so and the matter is beyond our control,” Econet said in a text message to customers, adding that all networks and providers had suspended their services.
Masiyiwa suggested that the opposition could have pushed for repeal of the statute when it was part of the unity government between 2008 and 2013.
“It (law) came into effect in August 2007. It could easily have been repealed during the GNU as the opposition had majority legislators,” said the London-based telecoms tycoon.
Below is Econet Zimbabwe’s statement;
“Further to a written warrant issued by the Minister of State in the Office of the President and Cabinet, through the Director General Of The President’s Dept. responsible for National Security, acting in terms of Section 6, of the Interception of Communications Act, Internet Services and related applications such as WhatsApp, Twitter etc., are currently suspended across all telecommunications networks, and Internet Service Providers.
“As an organization we are obliged to act when directed to do so in terms of the law. All inconvenience caused as a result of this action is sincerely regretted. We urge others to respect that this is a matter beyond our control.”
“Failure to comply would result in 3 years imprisonment for members of local management in terms of section 6:2 (b)
“(2) A service provider who fails to give assistance in terms of this section shall be guilty of an offence and liable to a fine not exceeding level twelve or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding three years or to both such fine and such imprisonment.”
Three people, including a police officer, died during Monday’s demonstrations in the capital and second city Bulawayo, which were called by the main labour union to protest a sharp rise in the price of fuel and economic hardship.
Zimbabweans accuse President Emmerson Mnangagwa of failing to live up to pre-election pledges to kick-start growth, having seen their purchasing power eroded by hyper-inflation, and using force to crush dissent like his predecessor Robert Mugabe.
Internet services were cut by mid-morning on Tuesday, leaving many people without access to social media platforms amid accusations that the government wanted to prevent images of its heavy handedness from being broadcast around the world.
Mnangagwa has promised a clean break from 37-year rule of Mugabe, who was forced out in a de facto coup in November 2017.