27 September 2017

Zimbabwe: Panicked Zim Govt Threatens Clamp Down On Social Media, Says Economy in 'Sound Shape'

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Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa says government will tighten control over use of social media, which authorities blame for fuelling shortages of basic commodities and bank notes in the country.

The southern African nation, which has been experiencing foreign currency shortages for the past 18 months, saw long winding queues -- reminiscent of the 2008 crisis -- resurfacing at the weekend as people stocked up on food stuffs and service stations across the country ran dry.

On Tuesday, manufacturers of cooking oil warned that they would no longer able to import raw materials as a result of the foreign currency shortages.

Government maintained that the economy is in a sound state and blamed 'faceless saboteurs causing panic on social media.'

In a joint address to the media late Wednesday, Chinamasa, along with Industry and Information ministers Mike Bimha and Chris Mushowe said 'the shortages came as a surprise.'

"It was a bombshell. What happened was not in sync with the prevailing situation in the economy across all sectors ... the developments in the economy are very positive, there is positive growth in the economy... all economic indicators are in the right direction. The trajectory is on a growth path... ," said Chinamasa.

"The cause was social media, which means that it is a security issue. There is a political agenda, a regime change agenda. We are going to seriously look at what happened with a view to take corrective measures in the security arena. We need to understand social media and the forces behind it... ... .they have given us a timely warning about their intentions and clearly we will take the necessary measures to counter those nefarious activities."

In an earlier press conference, Energy Minister Samuel Undenge accused the media of engaging in "unfounded negative publicity meant to discredit government."

"Motorists must not be influenced by negative publicity, mainly through social media, some of which is simply intended to tarnish the image of government," said Undenge.

Undege added that the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) has increased foreign

currency allocations towards fuel procurement from $5 million per week to $10 million in response to the current shortages.

He said the country was holding more than two months supply of petrol in bond.

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