Econet reveals how Zimbabwean government considers affordable internet access a political threat

Nigel Gambanga Avatar
Online activism, hacktivism, Zimbabwean Protests, Zimbabwean Arab Spring, African Politics, Anti-Mugabe, Zimbabwean politics,

Econet’s latest statement on the controversial mobile data tariff increases wasn’t just a scathing attack on the Minister of ICT – It also disclosed how the government was concerned about social media abuse and believed that it was being helped by lower data tariffs.

In its statement, Econet gave a background to the suspension of all data promotions in 2016. This happened when the telecoms regulator, POTRAZ, refused to renew all promotions. According to Econet,

All these promotions had the effect of offering reduced data prices and free data in some instances to our loyal customers. We applied for an extension of these promotions. Our Applications were declined on the basis that a new Regulatory Framework to govern promotions would be introduced in mid-August. This ban on promotions was implemented against a background of Regulatory concerns over the perceived abuse of social media that we were accused of contributing to through our low data tariffs.

The issue of social media abuse was topical in 2016, with online activism gaining prominence through campaigns like Evan Mawarire’s This Flag movement and #Tajamuka.

Through the extensive use of online videos shared on Facebook, YouTube and WhatsApp, these online activist campaigns were significant contributors to the success of mass actions like the stay-away organised and held on the 6th of July in 2016.

On the day of the stay-away, the entire country experienced a WhatsApp blackout that lasted for a few hours while people accessing the internet through TelOne, a State-owned telecoms operator, also had a complete loss of service for 4 hours on the same day.

The blackouts were widely believed to have been a result of a directive from the State which was trying to contain political unrest by limiting communication. The government denied these claims.

In the period after this, more stay-aways were planned and citizens were mobilised through messages sent via social media. The government, through various State-affiliated entities like POTRAZ and the army, issued a series of warnings regarding social media abuse – which was generally interpreted as using it to incite political unrest.

All this added to the impression that the government viewed the internet as a threat. Now, through its statement, Econet has confirmed all this, turning into reality any assumptions that people might make about the State’s hand in limiting internet access to control the masses.


  1. Been_There

    well this is not new … this was never a secrete ….. what i would worry is what Govt will now do to Econet to punish it for this Obvious revelation and how it will affect 2017 social media activism esp when we get really close to the elections year.

  2. abedy

    and we claim we have democracy…..#shame

  3. Thomas Matanha

    Any government is concerned with National Security and if any tool or medium is to be used to rally for or organise unrest it is a governments job to be concerned about such tool or medium.

    On the other hand it’s quite clear that Econet are only putting this out there in order to deflect from being caught with their hands in the cookie jar: They were so swift to charge 10c / mb where Portraz had set a floor limit of 2c/mb. When they sent out an insulting message titled “Econet Feels Your Pain” they were trying to mask this action by blaming Portraz. Luckily the minutes of the meeting held in which Econet where lobbying for price hikes were leaked and it was clear for anyone with eyes to see that Portraz was only being used by Econet under false pretenses of threatened viability. This after 40 million dollars in profit last year.

    This is what corporate greed looks like

    1. Macd Chip

      Lets not confuse National Security with Political Security. Our gvt is more concerned with political security.

      National Security in the digital age is not holding pungwes and threatening people. Our gvt needs digital soldiers and digital specialist mercinaries who can fry you pc motherboard the moment you try to use it in a way deemed risk to our country.

      Bt the noise coming from our gvt proves they have no idea.

      What national security when our ministers use plain phones they buy from open markets to communicate gvt business.

      They also use unencrypted channels to send and receive gvt comms.

      Then you tell they are so concerned with National Security??

  4. Analyst

    Econet, we already know government is against use of social media by activist and why. We already know government hates Econet and why. We already know Econet is the only MNO paying the licence and why. We also know that Econet increased they prices by 5x the prescribed minimum but don’t know why. This is what Econet should be explaining in its press releases not the obvious.

  5. David

    Supa Mandiwanzira is a shame. Simple.

  6. Sagitarr

    National Security is a cover for incompetence. We have no currency of our own – no security there. We have constant food shortages and have to import unlike before this chaotic theft of farms disguised as “land reform”. No security there either. We have lawlessness publicly sanctioned by the head of the “govt” and his gang of ministers left right and centre – what National Security? Only idiots and thieves believe in this govt.