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This Is The Law Government Used To Shutdown Zimbabwe’s Internet: It Really Doesn’t Say They Can Shut The Internet

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So despite a baldfaced lying attempt by the Deputy Minister of Information on national television that the government did not shutdown the internet we have it on good authority they did indeed force Econet and other Internet Access Providers to shutdown the internet.

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So what is the government trying to hide here? What do they not want us to know? In an early article we revealed that Mr Masiyiwa (founding director of Econet) said that Econet was complying with a lawful directive when they shutdown the internet. Econet themselves send a message to some subscribers in which they stated that:

Further to a warrant issued by the Minister of State in the President¿s Office for National Security through the Director General of the President¿s Dept,acting in terms of the Interception of Communications Act,Internet Services are currently suspended across all networks and Internet Service providers.We are obliged to act when directed to do so and the matter is beyond our control.All inconveniences are sincerely regretted.

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I think the government did not want the world to know they had blocked the entire internet but most importantly they did not want us to know how they had done it i.e the legal mechanism they had used. While Mr Masiyiwa says his companies were complying with the law I am not sure when it comes to Zimbabwe, which law is he referring to here.

I am not a lawyer but the Interception of Communications Act Chapter 11:20 does not give anyone the power to block the internet as some people are claiming. I could not find Mr Masiyiwa’s original post unfortunately but some blog posts quote it at length and claim that section 6 (2a) of the Act says local management will be fined and/or imprisoned if they refuse to shutdown the internet. Section 6(2) of this act says nothing of the sort. It is section 9(2) that says that.

The Act gives government the power to intercept communications not block them

This Act only gives government the power to intercept communications and not block them. In fact the Act only authorises the government to intercept the communications of a specific person/entity/organisation/group of people. It does not allow the government to shutdown the internet not even close.

Some are going to jump and say to intercept might mean preventing access or blocking. They would be wrong because just like any other Act of Parliament this Act comes with a list of definitions to clarify what it means:

“intercept”, in relation to any communication which is sent—
(a) by means of a telecommunication system or radiocommunication system, means to listen to, record, or copy, whether in whole or in part;
(b) by post, means to read or copy the contents, whether in whole or part;

Listening, recording and copying does not equal blocking in the least bit. In fact as already stated this Act was never meant to allow the government block access to the internet as they have done. The only part of the Act that comes close to this is Section 6 subsection 2 a

(2)  The Minister may, if he or she is of the opinion that the circumstances so require
(a) upon an application being made in terms of this Part, issue instead of a warrant any directive to a service provider not involving any interception or monitoring of communications;

This is as vague as vague a clause as these things go. In fact I seriously doubt this clause will survive scrutiny in the courts. It will most certainly be struck down for being vague. In any case using this clause to shutdown the internet is still against the spirit of this Act.

It was most certainly never meant to allow the government to shutdown people’s internet. Using it to do this would involve a very generous reading of the Act which should not be permitted given constitutional provisions that guarantee people’s right to communicate using the internet.

Download the INTERCEPTION OF COMMUNICATIONS ACT


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18 thoughts on “This Is The Law Government Used To Shutdown Zimbabwe’s Internet: It Really Doesn’t Say They Can Shut The Internet

  1. Guys still can’t access the internet using Powertel and Telone so is it only Econet that has resumed internet connection…?

  2. I think the applicable clause is 6.2:

    6.2 The Minister MAY, …(if he thinks the situation so requires…)
    (a) …., ISSUE INSTEAD of a warrant ANY DIRECTIVE to a service provider NOT INVOLVING ANY interception or monitoring of communications; …

    The majority have human rights too! It’s not right that people can just call for demos, without ensuring that they have capacity to control them. Even EMA law does not allow just starting a fire if you have NO capacity to control it.

    1. This says warrant. In any case the vague clause I refer to here does not supersede the constitution anyway which expressly forbids such a directive which cannot be called a Warrant in any case but a directive. Section s61(3)(b) of the Zimbabwean constitution stipulates a minister cannot issue such a directive anyway.

  3. I will don’t care anymore more about formalities, the government is so corrupt and fucked up to the extent they blame other political parties .they are not owning up to the fact they are the coz of everything . they are just depriving us our rights and then they have the audacity to lie and block the internet . enough is enough man

  4. Further to a warrant issued by the Minister of State in the President¿s Office for National Security through the Director General of the President¿s Dept,acting in terms of the Interception of Communications Act,Internet Services are currently suspended across all networks and Internet Services Providers.We are obliged to act when directed to do so and the matter is beyond our control.All inconveniences are sincerely regretted.

    Dear valued customer , Please be advised that the internet is back online under a directive that Facebook ,YouTube , Whats App ,Twitter will remain closed until further notice. Any inconvenience is sincerely regretted.

    We are suffering why though😓

    1. I wonder how ED is going to navigate the inevitably difficult questions that he’ll face in Davos regarding shutting down the country’s internet and WhatsApp? I find it difficult to imagine a foreign investor now wanting to step foot in Zimbabwe, far less bringing his money into the country. I believe that irreversible damage has been done to our dream of wooing investors. Remember, money goes to where it feel safest. If we want investment then we need to show investors that we play the game according to internationally acceptable norms and standards and guidelines. When the poor have become so desperate that they have nothing to lose by going onto the streets, then shutting down the internet is not the solution. The government is not painting itself in a good light by withdrawing the citizenry’s access to information.

      1. Honestly, I feel the concept of taking a $70,000 per hour private jet to go “beg for money” may be a bit of a misstep anyways, and I’d hope that investors and others might scrutinise that first too 😉

        1. Every other investor in Davos will be going with own more expensive Jets, or chartered Jets. Obviously they wont be expecting a president of a country to fly commercial . Ordinary business people pay $50 000 just to attend Davos, not including other costs.

      2. We need order, peace and unity in the country from everyone and all sides. If ED fails the whole of Zimbabwe fails and we all suffer. No blame game, or playing politics with people’s lives.

  5. As a law abiding citizen i feel mad and upset over this abuse of power , the demonstrations are coz ppl feel unrepresented and not respected and their crys not considered shutting internet has done nothing , myb jus coz more panick . imagine relatives outside zim wondering kupi hama dziripi . North Korea

    1. Burning things and looting is not the answer to Zimbabwes problems. Such behaviour makes Zanu PF look rational. If this is all the opposition can think of then we will have Zanu PF forever because chaos is not the answer.

      1. There is need to respect the rights of other people when you seek respect for your rights, not prevent prevent freedom of movement, force people to your demo,not loot, burn private and public businesses and properties. After all your tax money will buy new Range rover to replace burnt police vehicles and public property, and you will have no play to shop for food when the businesses you destroy close and new ones refuse to open.

  6. What do you make of these parts of our Constitution???

    CHAPTER 4

    Declaration of Rights

    Part 2

    Fundamental Human Rights and Freedoms

    62 Access to information

    (4) Legislation must be enacted to give effect to this right, but may restrict access to information in the interests of defence, public security or professional confidentiality, to the extent that the restriction is fair, reasonable, necessary and justifiable in a democratic society based on openness, justice, human dignity, equality and freedom.

    Part 5

    Limitation of Fundamental Human Rights and Freedoms

    86 Limitation of rights and freedoms

    (2) The fundamental rights and freedoms set out in this Chapter may be limited only in terms of a law of general application and to the extent that the limitation is fair, reasonable, necessary and justifiable in a democratic society based on openness, justice, human dignity, equality and freedom, taking into account all relevant factors, including—

    (b) the purpose of the limitation, in particular whether it is necessary in the interests of defence, public safety, public order, public morality, public health, regional or town planning or the general public interest;

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