Sunday Mail Reporters
The restriction on internet ordered by Government during the violent street protests that erupted across the country recently was a temporary and tactical move by authorities and meant to restore peace and order, President Emmerson Mnangagwa has said.
In a Twit on his handle yesterday morning, the President said organisers of the protests were using the internet, primarily social media platforms, to spread misinformation and incite disorder leading to wanton looting and violence.
The restrictions have since been removed.
President Mnangagwa said he respected freedom of speech and expression. “I believe deeply in freedom of speech and expression, and these rights are enshrined in our Constitution,” said the President.
“You only need to look at a newspaper or read my social media comments to see the level of criticism I get, and I welcome this.
“What we saw last week was the social networks being used to plan and incite disorder and to spread misinformation leading to violence.
“In response, the decision was taken to temporarily restrict access to prevent the wanton looting and violence, and to help restore calm.
“I am aware of the criticism of this decision, and we did not take it lightly.
“The measures were temporary, tactical and aimed at restoring the peace.
“This has been achieved, all restrictions have been removed and I look forward to continuing to freely engage on social media.” In an interview last week, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Mr Nick Mangwana said while Zimbabwe’s Constitution guarantees freedoms of expression, the violent protests had led to violations to other freedoms.
“When the internet is being used to propagate hate, caveats will come in. The same Constitution that you are citing, it has got those caveats in Section 86, which says that in cases of public indecency, in cases of national security or public interest, the State can put limits to those freedoms.”
Mr Mangwana said local and international laws regulate that the internet can be shut down in the interests of security.
“The International Telecommunications Unit, section 182 gives any state the right to intervene and even the right to cut-off telephones when national security is concerned.
Mr Mangwana said the orgy of violence which was also targeted at media houses, necessitated Government to intervene through ‘tough measures’
“One thing that happened was that Star FM was attacked. Not by police, not by soldiers, but by the rioters.
“Isn’t that an infringement on freedom of expression? What more evidence of an infringement on freedom of expression than attacking a media house (does one want).
“A policeman was attacked to death. Isn’t that an infringement on the right to life?
“But let’s bring it closer to home. I have death threats on my phone, a lot of them, deaths threats even against my children and you are saying those things should not be switched off, they should be left to proliferate so that my children will be at risk.
“But it was not only my children, it was children of many other people. Shouldn’t the Government intervene in such situations?”