President Emmerson Mnangagwa has explained why the government shut down the internet last week at the height of violence during the three-day stay away organised by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions and civil society.
The government shut down the internet on at least three occasions during the stay-away and only partially lifted the shutdown at the weekend but continued to block the social media until the High Court ruled on Monday that the shutdown was illegal.
“I am aware of the criticism of this decision, and we did not take it lightly,” the President said today.
“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.”
Mnangagwa said he deeply believed in freedom of speech and expression and this was demonstrated by the level of criticism he got on the social media which he said he welcomed.
“I believe deeply in freedom of speech and expression, and these rights are enshrined in our constitution. 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,” he said.
Several people were killed during the crackdown on the violence that erupted with police saying only three people were killed while some reports say a dozen people were killed.
There was also massive looting, especially in Bulawayo, where more than 400 people were arrested.
A total of 1 100 people were arrested across the country according to the police.
Police also complained that children were being used as shields during the looting and violence.
“Parents should not allow their children to participate in violence,” Police spokesman Charity Charamba told the Herald.
“In some cases, violent protesters would use children as human shield when they clashed with the security forces. Women would be placed on the second row while the violence architects, who appeared to be men, would be at the back. That is dangerous and is tantamount to exposing children to violence. It also destroys their future.”