16 January 2019

Zimbabwe: Internet Back On - Mnangagwa Says Understands 'Pain and Frustration'

Photo: Lee Maidza/The Herald
Suspects being led into the Harare Magistrate's Courts.

THE government restored internet services late Wednesday afternoon, ending a widely condemned two-day blockade as President Emmerson Mnangagwa told Zimbabweans that he understood "the pain and frustration that many of you are feeling".

State security minister Owen Ncube on Tuesday morning ordered telecoms companies to shut down "internet services and related applications such as WhatsApp, Twitter etc".

The move effectively silenced social media updates of what the opposition and human rights advocates described a brutal government crackdown against civilians after deadly protests rocked the country on Monday.

The demonstrations followed calls for a three-day stay-away protest called by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) against the government's decision to more than double fuel prices.

However, internet services were apparently restored late Wednesday afternoon following a global outcry against the blockade.

Exiled former information minister and bitter Mnangagwa critic, Prof Jonathan Moyo, demanded "consequences" for the blockade.

Said Moyo;

The rogue authorities who unconstitutionally shutdown the Internet in Zimbabwe in gross violation of basic human rights to cover up their atrocities should not for a minute think they've done anyone a favour by restoring the Internet. Consequences must follow!#KeepItOnZW

- Prof Jonathan Moyo (@ProfJNMoyo) January 16, 2019

Another government critic and former education minister David Coltart warned Mnangagwa that he would be taken to task over the blacked at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Switzerland.

I have no doubt that the #internet blackout in #Zimbabwe will be THE Zimbabwean story at #Davos . Mnangagwa is going to have a hard time reconciling his "open for business" mantra with shutting down the entire business community's access to the internet.

- David Coltart (@DavidColtart) January 16, 2019

Mnangagwa is presently in Russia on a three-day state visit from where he is also scheduled to visit three eastern European countries before attending WEF meetings in Davos.

In a statement posted on Facebook, the Zimbabwean leader said he was "deeply saddened by events back home and condemned "wanton violence and cynical destruction" which characterised Monday's protests.

"As I have said numerous times, everyone in Zimbabwe has the right to express themselves freely - to speak out, to criticise and to protest," he said.

"Unfortunately, what we have witnessed is violence and vandalism instead of peaceful, legal protests. There can be no justification for violence, against people and property. Violence will not reform our economy. Violence will not rebuild our nation."

He added; "I understand the pain and frustration that many of you are feeling.

"Resolving Zimbabwe's economic challenges is a monumental task, and while it may not always feel that way, we are moving in the right direction. We will get there.

"In the meantime, I call for calm and peace from all of our brothers and sisters. We are one nation, with one mission, and we will realise it together."

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