Will Mnangagwa advocate for unrestricted internet access in Zimbabwe?
Mounting pressure on the government of President Emerson Mnangagwa has forced him to forego the meeting at Davos Economic Forum, by coming home "to deal with ongoing challenges". His announcement concerning fuel prize increases before leaving for Russia sparked demonstrations in major cities and towns as it led to increase in prizes of bus fairs and other commodities. The Zimbabwe Republic Police and armed soldiers cracked down on people to stop "violent" protests. At the same time, the minister of state in the president's office issued a warrant/directive to have internet shutdown across all networks in Zimbabwe for national security. Although internet connection is now restored, there is still restriction on some websites and social media platforms such as whatsapp and facebook. This has crumpled many Zimbabwean who rely on these platforms for communication, entertainment, research and business. The president is coming home to deal with the situation and perhaps put an end to the demonstrations by a workable solution. Will he then advocate for unrestricted access to internet and social media sites like facebook and whatsapp?
The president has not yet passed a comment about the internet shutdown and restrictions that happened in his absence. But what we know is that he acknowledges the importance of social media evidenced by the fact that he continued to use Facebook and Twitter to communicate with people while on his trips, even though his audience was blocked. Does it mean that internet shutdowns and restrictions we done without his knoledge? Why would he continue communicating with a detached audience if he knew? If the president was not aware of the internet restrictions perhaps he will advocate for complete access. If he was aware, it then entails that he doesn't approve the blockage? Or the messages he sent were not meant for a Zimbabwean audience? We all want to know his comments and responses to the actions done in his absence, perhaps without his knowledge.
He is why he should advocate for unrestricted internet access.
Blocking the internet is not an act of democracy but Zimbabwe is a democratic nation. Democracy is about freedom of speech and freedom of expression . It is about majority rule and social equality and blocking the internet is contrary to this. Democracy promotes change, democracy promotes equality and protects the interests of citizens. This is a requirement for Zimbabwe to relate well with the international community.
Many business rely on digital resources, internet, applications and social media for business, blocking the internet means fighting these businesses. There are many benefits of the internet to business. Internet provides businesses with: convinience, an international customer base, low operational costs, effective marketing and even more business opportunities. Shutting down internet and scoial media access is depriving businesses.
International and personal reputation
Currently Zimbabwe desperately need investors, who can trust us enough to put their money in our economy profitably. They say money goes where it feels safe. Undemocratic actions of blocking the internet and social media assassinates our character and reputation as a nation, consequently, investors lose confidence in our government, eonomy and nation.
When policies change anytime in a nation trust is lost. Investors need to trust us before they can operate in this nation and besides we have local companies that had spend thousands if not millions investing on social media and the internet in general. Many local startups were also relying on social media for affordable marketing, giving them a competitive advantage and higher chances of successful launch.
It is the right thing to do
Finally, the president must advocate for unrestricted internet access because it is the right thing to do. After all people will always find ways to get back on those blocked platforms. As I write this, thousands of Zimbabwe are already back on Facebook, Whatsapp and Twitter. So what is the use of blocking access?
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