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Zim internet restored, but partial social media blackout 'until further notice'

Jan 17 2019 13:05
By Crecey Kuyedzwa, Harare
 A school boy looks at a burning barricade during

A school boy looks at a burning barricade during a shutdown demonstration on January 14, 2019 in Bulawayo after the president announced a more than hundred percent hike in fuel prices. ZINYANGE AUNTONY/AFP/Getty Images)

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The Zimbabwean government has restored some internet connectivity in the country following a 24 hour blockade, but social media platforms including Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter are still restricted.

Users have some access via Wi-Fi, though mobile access is still blocked. 

This comes as Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights says it has filed an urgent court application over the internet blockade in the Harare High Court.

Zimbabweans could not access the internet from Tuesday morning until Wednesday evening. Opposition and civil rights groups have labelled the blockade an attempt by President Mnangagwa's government to quash social unrest and protests that started on Monday following a 150% fuel price hike.

The country's biggest mobile network, Econet, sent out a message on Wednesday night explaining the latest development.

"Dear valued customer, please be advised that the internet is back online under a directive that Facebook, YouTube, WhatsApp, Twitter will remain closed until further notice. Any inconvenience is sincerely regretted," said Econet.

Commenting on his Facebook page, Econet founder Strive Masiyiwa admitted that his network had taken down internet services across Zimbabwe on government orders, saying resisting would have led to imprisonment for the management.

Zimbabwe's Deputy Minister for Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services, Energy Mutodi, went on national television to claimed that the internet was not blocked, but had gone down because it was failing to cope with the increase in traffic.

Amnesty International, in a statement on Wednesday, said it was "alarmed by the repressive measures the government ha[d] taken in response to the protests, including shutting down the internet to prevent people from supporting or organising protests".

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