More Africa NewsZimbabwe throttles the internet as political wrangling intensifies

February 23, 2022by myles0

Zimbabwe has become the third country to restrict internet access “for political reasons” this year after an online downgrading prevented live-streaming of a high-profile political rally by the biggest opposition party on Sunday.

Access to some online platforms, including Twitter, was a challenge, while internet connectivity on the whole was poor during the address by opposition leader, Nelson Chamisa.

His party, Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) – formerly the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC),  will square off with President Emerson Mnangagwa’s ruling Zanu PF party during the 26 March by-elections, touted as dress rehearsals for next year’s presidential and parliamentary polls.

The Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA), which promotes inclusive ICT policy in Africa, said on Tuesday that “internet access should be guaranteed at all times” including during Zimbabwe’s by-elections next month.

“This follows reports of internet throttling which limited live-streaming and access to online content.”

Netblocks, which monitors internet connectivity challenges across the world, confirmed the incident and also raised concern that it had affected live-streaming.

“Confirmed: Metrics indicate that internet service is degraded for many users in Zimbabwe: the incident is likely to limit live streaming and access to online content as YellowSunday opposition rallies are held at Highfields, Harare,” Netblocks stated.

Surfshark has now said that Sunday’s disruption of internet services was “most likely aimed to prevent multiple operators from streaming” the live event.

This is not the first time that Harare has curtailed internet connectivity; in 2019, Harare disrupted access to online platforms when violent and deadly protests rocked Harare, the capital in 2019, after a fuel petrol price increase following the dropping of some subsidies.

“In light of this, our censorship tracker shows that Zimbabwe is the 3rd country to restrict social media in 2022 for political reasons,” said Surfshark.

The latest Harare incident is also the third internet censorship incident in Africa in two months, with the other two happening in Burkina Faso on military coup-related occasions.

Africa continues to be the most censorship intensive continent across the globe. In 2021, it was responsible for 10 (nearly 53%), including events in Chad, Uganda, Zambia and Ethiopia.

In total, 32 out of 54 countries in Africa have blocked access to social media platforms since 2015, said Surfshark.

Source: IT Web Africa

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