Zimbabwe's internet back up but arrests continue

A Zimbabwean soldier watches shoppers lining up, in Bulawayo. Picture: AFP

A Zimbabwean soldier watches shoppers lining up, in Bulawayo. Picture: AFP

Published Jan 22, 2019


Harare - Zimbabwe's government exceeded

its mandate in ordering an internet blackout during civilian

protests last week, a court ruled on Monday, as authorities

pressed on with rounding up opposition figures blamed for the


In his interim ruling, High Court Judge Owen Tagu told

mobile operators to immediately and unconditionally resume full

services. The biggest, Econet Wireless, compiled with

the order late on Monday, it said in a message to subscribers.

The sporadic blackout began on Tuesday following the start

of protests against a rise in fuel prices that turned violent.

With evidence growing that the country is slipping back into

authoritarian rule, critics of President Emmerson Mnangagwa's

government had accused it of shutting off the internet to

prevent a security clampdown being broadcast to the world.

Mnangagwa was due back in Zimbabwe late on Monday after

cutting short a foreign trip.

There was no immediate comment from the government's lawyer

on whether it would appeal the court judgement.

On Monday police arrested Japhet Moyo, secretary general of

the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, which called for a

stay-at-home strike last week in conjunction with the fuel


He faced subversion charges, his lawyer said, while the

organisation's president was in hiding.

Police say three people died during the unrest, but lawyers

and human rights groups point to evidence suggesting at least a

dozen were killed, while scores were treated for gunshot wounds

and hundreds have been held on public order charges.

They include six opposition lawmakers, of one whom was

detained on Monday, as well as pastor Evan Mawarire, a rights

activist and critic of former leader Robert Mugabe held on

subversion charges for urging support for the union strike.

His application for bail will be heard on Wednesday, his

lawyer said.

The spokesman for the main opposition Movement for

Democratic Change (MDC) said several of its leaders were also in

hiding, and accused the president - nicknamed "Crocodile"

during his time as a high-ranking official in Mugabe's

strong-arm administration - of seeking to "dismantle" the party.

A spokesman for Mnangagwa, who became leader after Mugabe

was forced out in November 2017, said on Sunday that the

crackdown was a foretaste of how authorities would respond to

future unrest.

With high inflation and a shortage of cash in circulation

eating into ordinary Zimbabweans' spending power, the fragile

state of Zimbabwe's economy was also in focus on Monday.

The main teachers union said after a weekend meeting that

its members remained "incapacitated" until the government made a

meaningful adjustment to their salaries.

The president broke off a foreign trip during which he had

been expected to pitch for investments at the World Economic

Forum in Davos. A foreign ministry source said he was now due

back in Harare on Monday night.

Earlier in the day, South Africa said it had last month

turned down a request from its northern neighbour for a $1.2

billion loan.

As many businesses, including banks, shops and government

offices re-opened in Harare on Monday, the government introduced

subsidies for bus travel after public taxis increased prices in

response to the fuel price hike.