Zimbabwe internet shutdown an act of national security?

Have you ever woken up to no internet? This is what happened on Tuesday when the government shutdown the internet across all networks to counter the shutdown Zimbabwe campaigns. According to a statement sent by Econet Wireless to customers, the warrant was 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. They argued it was beyond their control.

Zimbabwe internet shutdown an act of national security?

Have you ever woken up to no internet? This is what happened on Tuesday when the government shutdown the internet across all networks to counter the shutdown Zimbabwe campaigns. According to a statement sent by Econet Wireless to customers, the warrant was 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. They argued it was beyond their control. The question to be answered now is whether this act can be justified as an act of national security. If shutting down the internet is an act of national security, it entails that the internet is a national threat. Is this true?

Here is why the government says blocking the internet is an act of national security, according to George Charamba, who is the current presidential spokesperson as well as the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Media.

The internet was the tool used to coordinate the violence, in other words it was part and parcel of the accessory of tools put in place to ensure that there was maximum damage on our society and naturally when you are reacting to a conspiracy of that nature….you ensure that society is protected. But is it not interesting how when we are carrying our dead to the cemetery, at a time when we are counting losses that run into millions of dollars, someone is worried about the internet. I think the Western world has a proverbial way of putting it: ‘Worrying about or crying over the plumage of a bird and forgetting the dying bird,’ does that make sense to you? You expect us to preserve the internet and ensure that there is maximum damage to our society? What is wrong with our scale of values? I don’t think Zimbabweans are that confused. What we are looking at is a weapon of choice which was being deployed to try and coordinate violence, which has now been removed, thanks to the prompt action of the state, there is no way you expect us to sacrifice a national good for the sake of internet. If they want uninterrupted internet, let them abide by the law,

And the following is a message send by Econet Wireless, Zimbabwe's largest internet Service Provider to all its subscribers.

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 

The reasons given by George Charamba are very logical, but is it factual? National Security refers to the safety of a nation against threats such as terrorism, war, or espionage. He says the internet and social media triggers violence, but lack of it is what I think triggers violence. People become violent when they feel that their rights are compromised and not when they are given freedom. In what ways has the internet caused war in Zimbabwe? In what ways has the internet caused terrorism or epionage? If one draws a conclusion from answering the above questions, it is very clear that saying "Internet and Social media are a threat to national security" is far fetched.

Government will continue to treat internet and social media as threats to national security as long as they continue to see internet and social media as political enemies. Besides, think of the loses of blocking the internet against the gains of giving access to the internet! Blocking the internet can save thousands but opening access can give billions. In this digital age, internet access can give a big mileage to economic growth.

While some Zimbabweans abuse the internet by insulting the government, blocking it can never qualify to be an act of national security but rather an act of oppression and human rights violation. Some lost valuable clients, some lost sales and some a lot of income when internet and social media was blocked.

I can go on and on but, let me end here.


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