If you were thinking that President Mnangagwa was going to regret or repent for last week’s decision to switch off the internet, then you are in for a disappointment. Although he “believes deeply in the freedom of speech, the Presidents said it was justified in shutting down the internet as social media was being used to plan protests and spread incendiary information. On his Twitter account the President said;
I believe deeply in freedom of speech and expression, and these rights are enshrined in our constitution. You only need to look at a newspaper or read my social media comments to see the level of criticism I get, and I welcome this. What we saw last week was the social networks being used to plan and incite disorder and to spread misinformation leading to violence. In response, the decision was taken to temporarily restrict access to prevent the wanton looting and violence, and to help restore calm. I am aware of the criticism of this decision, and we did not take it lightly. The measures were temporary, tactical and aimed at restoring the peace. This has been achieved, all restrictions have been removed and I look forward to continuing to freely engage on social media.
It seems like a contradiction in terms when he says believe in freedom of speech and at the same time justifying the shutting down of the internet, the medium through which the people express their ‘speech’ and ‘expression’. Zimbabwe is not the first country that has experience protests like the #ShutdownZimbabwe. Late last year, France’s citizens conducted nationwide protests after a fuel price hike but it didn’t lead its government to switch off the internet. Venezuela too recently held protests but its government never switched off the internet. What’s so special about Zimbabwe? President Mnangagwa’s government decision was probably too harsh and certainly contrary to his ‘Zimbabwe is open for business’ mantra.