Government warns Zimbabweans on use of social media

Nigel Gambanga Avatar
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The Zimbabwean government has warned citizens who use social media to promote civil unrest, despondency and violence that they will be arrested and dealt with.

Part of the statement released by the telecoms regulator, POTRAZ which has also been broadcast on national radio read,

We are therefore warning members of the public that from the date of this notice, any person caught in possession of, generating, sharing or passing on abusive, threatening, subversive or offensive telecommunication messages, including WhatsApp or any other social media messages that may be deemed to cause despondency, incite violence, threaten citizens and cause unrest, will be arrested and dealt with accordingly in the national interest.

Over the past few months there has been an increasing use of social media platforms to communicate politically motivated messages in Zimbabwe.

Social media platforms like Facebook, WhatsApp and YouTube have also been used as the primary channels to encourage citizen activism. The leading example of this has been the #ThisFlag movement started by a Zimbabwean pastor, Evan Mawarire.

Through his Facebook and YouTube videos which are also shared through WhatsApp, Mawarire has called for accountability from the government.

He has also encouraged Zimbabweans to take part in a mass stay away which was organised by citizens as a protest of failed government policies.

A focus on people who create such messages could also be used to close in on social media activists like Mawarire.

You can also read:WhatsApp, Facebook emerge as kingmakers as social media becomes Zimbabwean political tool

The government’s ability to effectively follow up on its warnings and clamp down on all cases of social media misuse is, however, debatable.

Features like End to End Encryption which have been adopted by popular services like WhatsApp make it virtually impossible for thrird party access to messages unless they are broadcast in an unsecured public group.

The only way the State can find who has such material and arrest or deal with all the people who have such messages would be to search every device used for social media.

At the same time the threat against users based on SIM card registration details also appears to be an attempt at creating the impression that the State has an all seeing eye when it comes to communication.

However, on the internet, anonymity might not always be guaranteed, but there are a lot of structures that have been put in place by countless services, especially social media tools, to ensure that it becomes a right. This makes it difficult to “unmask” users.

A good example is how the government has, in the past, failed to deal with cases like the true identity of Baba Jukwa – a Facebook page that shared a lot of sensitive information in 2013 towards the national elections.

While the statement from POTRAZ might dissuade a number of Zimbabweans from sharing some content in certain groups or on certain platforms, it has shown that social media has forced an official response from the government as it tries to deal with the realities of open expression on the internet.


  1. Anthony Somerset

    its scaremongering

    they would need to physically get your device to prove you sent/forwarded such messages or be complicit in such law breaking (some might consider that entrapmen)
    sim registration gives very limited info in this regard – sure econet might be able to see that you sent a whatsapp message – but they can’t really see who to and what the content was

    1. Anthony Somerset

      thats not to forget the borderline rights to freedom of speech and expression mandated in the constitution that could potentially be violated here

  2. Anonymous

    wow. same lawless stories.

  3. Yes

    With Whatsapp they can kick their Ass they cant trace anything these fools. We are expressing our Displeasure only. ENOUGH IS ENOUGH

  4. Zimbo

    They want to ban social media too!, they ban everything and what is left if for Zimbos become Zombis when they have nothing left to lose. they are so concerned with solving these little problems like blocking social media so that people would be silenced rather than solving the big issues that the country is facing, and very soon the country is going to run out basic comodities. they will have nowhere to get supplimentary products.

  5. tinm@n

    If it’s not an empty threat, hypothetically, I imagine they are trying to make use of Chinese interception tech that was rumoured to have been installed on our gateways.

    If they also forced telecoms companies to install such tech, then they can pinpoint originating traffic.

    If one of the parties in the communications does not have the latest WhatsApp, then they are exposed to interception.

    So if all this is possible, it’s a possible risk for one to send messages to a person who isn’t running the updated WhatsApp.

    So advice is, if you don’t know about the other person, don’t self-implicate yourself. Find an alternative, safer IM alternative.

    1. Will

      Not to forget we can use VPN to distort our locations and everything done online wont even tracked , all they will see are users outside of the country lol, motherf*****ckers . Now its time to call the UN and remove this party

  6. Tawanda

    That is why whatsapp will not be supported on legacy devices come end of year. Those are the ones that pose a lot of security vulnerabilities

  7. Broke

    the issue at hand is not about social media…its all about the hungry citizens expressing their dissatisfaction. with or without the social media, the Zimbabwe crisis must be addressed!

  8. Will

    Second thought guys , we cant leave under these conditions , its totally bad living conditionds everywhere and if its poor services all round we wont even talk about that one , how can a normal country of free citizens have an accountable 99.9% unemployment rate and for that fact should people put smiles on the government for such poor work, to hell with mugabe WE WANT CHANGE ……… AND WE WILL GET IT —he should rest , that greedy old prick

  9. wenyika

    Is abusing a social media network platform someone’s constitutional right nhai brother yangu. Lets think about us all, i.e. our children who should go to school and cannot becoz of the intimidation that is going around……although you have sacrificed to pay the required tuition fees. To whose detriment would this be??? NDEZVA NEXT DOOR CHAP CHETE HERE OR IT ALSO TOUCHES YOU AND THE REST OF YOUR FAMILY??? NGATIFUNGE HAMA DZINODIWA, MA IDEAS NGAATAURWE IN BETTER WAYS….

  10. Anonymous

    government must channel its energies to improving conditions of doing business, human rights record, engaging the west to ensure we get funding not zvekuswero rotomoka about social media abuse. what is the cause of the supposed abuse. let people air their views & respond by solving ghe challenges facing people

  11. Anonymous

    Why is President is not acting on corrupt ministers?very disappointing. Zvinokonzera discontent and now people are fed up and they are crying for help. maministers basa kuba chete

  12. Mantle

    Is the whatsapp end to end encyption that secure. The service provider may have access to messages send and received on whatsapp?? refer to these sites

  13. Robert Ndlovu

    At times its wise not to comment on you have little or no technical knowledge .
    POTRAZ is wasting their time.I dont need a SIM to run APp but just the registration.Also a person can but SA , UK , USA , Zmbian , SIM card and use it for apping.

    As for wanting to ban App by the end of year – poor folks .

    I chalenge the POTRAZ or gov geeks to black my APP runnung on + 1650 200 20350 or + 1830 200 4242.

    I have about 3 dozen of uch numbers.Lets go POTRAZ.