The country’s biggest mobile network operator, Econet Wireless Zimbabwe has dismissed social media reports that it will be shutting down its network for network maintenance.
The purported report had sparked outrage on social media as people questioned the timing of the alleged maintenance as it coincided with the August 16 protest called for by the opposition.
In a statement, Econet Wireless said,
The public is advised to ignore a false message circulating on some social media platforms purportedly written on the Econet Wireless website. The message claims that Econet’s internet services will be down on Friday August 16, from 6 am to 3 pm due to a system upgrade.
Econet has no internet system upgrade scheduled for Friday August 16, 2019 and accordingly advises the public to ignore the false message. It is fake and not originating from the company.
Following the January Shutdown Zimbabwe protests, the government initially blocked the entire internet on two separate occasions before blocking only social media.
Econet Wireless founder Strive Masiyiwa confirmed that the government had ordered the company to shut down all internet services.
However, in a major blow for the government, but one which was welcomed by advocates of free speech, the High Court ruled that the internet blackout ordered by Minister of State for National Security, Owen Mudha Ncube, was illegal as the Minister does not have such powers.
This was not the first time that internet service had been disrupted in Zimbabwe. In July 2016, there was a disruption in WhatsApp services after the arrest of #ThisFlag Movement leader Pastor Evan Mawarire. The government claimed that it was innocent and had played no role in the disruption of WhatsApp.