No to social media blocking

HARARE - Yesterday, we learnt that government was moving to craft new regulations to regulate social media and jail people it feels are using various platforms to “incite violence.”

While the news was disappointing considering Zimbabwe is after all, a supposedly functional democracy, it did not come as a surprise.

Coming from a government more concerned with clinging to power than feeding its citizens — most of whom are living on less than $1 a day — the news reminded us of a popular colloquial phrase, “majoring in minors.”

With the economy slowly hurtling towards a recession, unemployment at over 80 percent, a trade war threatening bilateral relations with South Africa and pathetic investment figures, all the government can think of is policing how people use gadgets and data purchased with their hard-earned cash?

Over the past few months, online activism has gained a lot of steam as campaigns such as the Evan Mawarire-led #ThisFlag movement and the #Tajamuka campaign have inspired civil participation and political protests.

Laughably, on the morning of the stay-away last month, the clueless government attempted to block instant messaging platform, Whatsapp.

As dumb as the move was, it showed Zimbabweans the power of social media.

Just last week, Zimbabwe National Army Commander Lieutenant-General Philip Valerio Sibanda announced the army was training its officers in cyber warfare as a way of preparing for new types of threats against the country.

However, of concern is the blatant disregard for freedom of speech and expression that the Supa Mandiwanzira-led Information Communication Technology ministry is championing.

Analysts have said the recent move by the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority to block mobile network operators is aimed at limiting access to social media.

But, the vanity and desperation in all these messages from government is as shameful as it is pathetic, because Zimbabwe does not have a means of unmasking social media users if they seek anonymity.

It has, in the past, failed to deal with cases like the true identity of Baba Jukwa — a Facebook character who shared a lot of sensitive information in 2013 towards the national elections.

So what has changed now? Zanu PF really needs to put its house in order and major in important issues not wasting time and resources strategising about ways to counter social media.

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