Zimbabwe Lawyers Sue Mobile Operators Over Internet Shutdown

Protestors burn tyres during a demonstration over the recent fuel price increase and the rising cost of living in the high density suburb of Warren Park, Harare, Zimbabwe, 15 January 2019. EPA-EFE/AARON UFUMELI

Lawyers and a media-advocacy group in Zimbabwe asked the High Court to declare the shutdown of the internet illegal after the government blocked access to most social-media services last week.

The shutdown has caused loss of business and income and threats to life, according to the urgent application filed Monday by the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights and the Zimbabwe unit of the Media Institute of Southern Africa. The legal action is directed at the three mobile networks operating in the country, including Econet Wireless Zimbabwe Ltd., as well as President Emmerson Mnangagwa, the national security minister and the head of the intelligence services.

The country’s biggest mobile-phone operator, Econet said last week that Facebook, WhatsApp, Youtube and Twitter had been blocked on government instructions. At least 12 people were killed during a police crackdown meant to end nationwide protests against a 150 percent hike in the price of diesel and gasoline.

A spokesman at Econet’s Johannesburg office said on Jan. 18 the company can’t respond to criticism in Zimbabwe or on social media. DM


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