Regional Correspondent, Harare – Zimbabwe’s President, Robert Gabriel Mugabe and his Zanu PF government have this morning shut down popular instant messenger application Whatsapp and instructed Internet Service Providers to work on a way to block Facebook, Viber, Twitter, IMO and any other internet based applications.
The move has come in light of massive protests that have spread across the country, which the government initially dismissed as Social Media noise, but have since translated into massive riots in all major towns like Harare, Masvingo, Beitbridge, Kwekwe, Gweru, and Buluwayo.
Robert Mugabe firmly believes that social media allows Zimbabweans to mobilize resources cheaply, and spread reverse propaganda. Earlier this year, he highlighted while delivering a speech that there was a need to reign in on Social Media.
There had been some reluctance to implement the move, as Zimbabwe has been trying to engage countries like the UK, and the European Union to have sanctions removed, and resume normal relations.
But the desperate government of Zimbabwe has once again signaled that it prefers to remain in power by any means rather than maintain an environment which allows democratic views to be aired or exchanged.
Presidential Spokesperson, George Charamba highlighted in December last year that the government wanted to deal with Internet Based News Platforms like ZimEye, which he accused of spreading malicious rumours after the publication claimed Mugabe had died.
With the risks of being labelled another Iran, people generally believed such a thing would not happen in Zimbabwe, but perhaps took for granted the power hungry nature of Robert Mugabe.
At the time of writting, Facebook had become extremely difficult to access even on 100 mbps Fibre internet, with browsers like Chrome struggling to load at all.
None of the government departments were willing to comment, while a high placed source revealed that Zimbabwe would use the excuse of terrorism for blocking the internet. The source highlighted his desire to remain anonymous.
It is yet to be seen if the block will be permanent, like that of Blackberry’s Messenger System (BBM).
Earlier this year, Uganda’s President, Yoweri Museveni shut down Social Media after losing an election, rigging it, and sending out police to beat up journalists and protesters.
Museveni kept the ban in place until he was inaugurated. Robert Mugabe attended Museveni’s party at the time, and it is possible he would have been given hints at the time.