Supa Mandiwanzira, Zimbabwe’s Minister of ICT
The Minister of ICT Supa Mandiwanzira has repeated warnings against social media abuse stating that the government would like to discourage the small minority that is misusing it so that they don’t spoil it for the majority that is using it positively.
He also pointed out how the government has no intentions of regulating social media but it would consult citizens to ask them how they think they should be protected should the need to do so arise.
These statements which were reportedly made on live radio come after the government issued a statement through the telecoms regulator, POTRAZ, that it would clamp down on the misuse of communication platforms that include social media.
Bothe the Minister and POTRAZ have said that they can track messages sent via mobile phones. Mandiwanzira said that people should not “hide behind technology and think they are smart.”
Earlier this year, while addressing a parliamentary committee he also warned against the misuse of social media.
Examples of social media abuse that have been highlighted by the government include revenge porn, child pornography as well as the distribution of material that can incite violence or cause civil unrest.
The focus on inciting civil unrest is what has sparked debates around a possible clampdown on social media as Zimbabweans increasingly turn to platforms like Facebook, WhatsApp, and Twitter to express their frustrations with the corruption and inefficiencies in government.
Over the past few months, social media has been used extensively by citizen activists that include a group known as #Tajamuka as well as Evan Mawarire, a Zimbabwean pastor who has been advocating for accountability through a hashtag movement known as #ThisFlag.
Through these hashtag activist efforts, there was a nationwide stay away earlier this month which also coincided with a loss of service on WhatsApp, the most popular social media service in the country.
During its 4 hour blackout, allegations of a State led shutdown of social media were levelled by citizens.