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forced internet blackout hides zimbabwean horrors

January 16, 2019
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The end of Robert Mugabe’s tyrannical regime in Zimbabwe was supposed to signal a new beginning for its people but a shaky post-Mugabe era shows signs that the violence that defined his legacy has outlasted the man himself.

A national strike broke out on Monday in response to a fuel hike that will raise the price of fuel by 150% — a percentage increase that would drive any population in the world to take to the streets. The protests took a violent turn, claiming the lives of three people, including a police officer resulting in the government calling in the military and ordering Zimbabwe’s largest network provider Econet to shut down internet across the country.

What we have now is scarce reports of the military and civilian clashes with the military pulling people out of their homes to be brutalized or killed. Zimbabweans in the diaspora are flooding social media trying to find information about their families being held hostage by an internet blackout and an army on a warpath to get citizens under control. The Arab Spring in 2011 taught the world that social media is a powerful tool of organizing against a tyrannical government, but the other side of that reality is that governments have also learned that by shutting down social media, they can conceal atrocities inflicted on citizens and prevent a similar rise against authority. For the Zimbabwean, that rise was already orchestrated against Mugabe but it’s clear that the revolution is far from over.


Emmerson Mnangwangwa, Zimbabwe’s current president, took office under a cloud of suspicion as the election results that secured his win were challenged by main opposition leader Nelson Chamisa. According to CNN, Chamisa claimed that the presidential poll was “illegal” and “fraudulant,” which is justified as the same party and military that backed Mugabe had now seized power under a different leader. As the leader of incumbent ruling party Zanu-PF, Mnangwangwa’s win at the polls was mired by violence between security forces and protestors from the opposition Movement For Democratic Change, which claimed the lives of 6 people and injuring 14. Just days after Mnangwangwa’s win at the polls, security forces descended upon opposition leaders, with masked men breaking into their houses to take them into custody.

Mnangwangwa isn’t even in Zimbabwe at the moment. The president is in Russia looking to secure funding and investments for the country’s ailing economy while his people are at the mercy of his security forces. Putting an end to the vandalism and looting that usually accompanies mass dissent is one thing, but the rounding up of government critics tells a different story to the one Mnangwangwa is trying to push. Was it not Mugabe himself who inflicted violence and fear-mongering on people, justifying it through a larger pipe-dream of oncoming economic prosperity? Where did that land Zimbabweans? At the mercy of three-decade autocracy that left citizens poorer while Mugabe and his ilk ate the spoils. Mnangwangwa is showing himself to be no different, and now a human-rights atrocity rages on in the streets of Harare under a blanket of social media darkness.

Zimbabwe is on fire and for the sake of her people, we cannot look away.


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