We have picked up the below story from Techzim stating that WhatsApp is now unavailable on most networks in Zimbabwe. This lends credibility to our earlier story that the Zimbabwean government was looking to turn the lights off social media access in the country. If you have friends or family in Zimbabwe you will have to find alternative means to contact them.
Governments should realise that social media is much more than a platform for civil unrest or protest it is also a platform for families to keep in touch. WhatsApp is now becoming a business tool where businesses can over support over WhatsApp as MTN Zambia does. We hope this does not impact other businesses that may rely on social media like the recently announced MTN Mobile Money and Ecocash cross-border remittances.
We post the story in verbatim:
If you’re in Zimbabwe, you’ve probably noticed that you WhatsApp is not working anymore. Several people have contacted us to inform us that their WhatsApp is not sending or receiving messages anymore. We have made some tests ourselves and can confirm that WhatsApp is not working for us too on any of the 3 mobile networks and ISPs we use.
According to the information we have, WhatsApp is currently not working on the following networks:
Liquid Telecom Zimbabwe
We have not tested and have not received any information on the other networks so we cannot say at the moment what the situation is with them.
It’s not clear why WhatsApp specifically is the social media service not working. It could be that WhatsApp itself is technically down. It could be that the ISPs are intentionally blocking WhatsApp. It’s anyone’s guess who would have instructed the block.
Yesterday, after several sources told us the government was planning to block access to social media, we contacted the Minister of Information and Communication Technology, Postal and Courier Services in Zimbabwe, Supa Mandiwanzira, to get the government position. He denied that the government had any intention to block social media.
Government will therefore likely deny that they have instructed the ISPs to block access to WhatsApp. In fact they already have. This means ISPs will have not have any explanation for WhatsApp not working except that it’s a technical fault. And conveniently, they could say it’s hard to fix the technical problem because of the stay away that’s happening today.
To access WhatsApp, social media users will likely have to install VPN apps, which would just make the blocking ineffective.
The country has experienced a number of protest events in the past several days. On 2 July protestors in the border town of Beitbridge demonstrated against new restrictive import laws and the protests resulted in temporary closure of Zimbabwe largest port of entry with South Africa. Yesterday, protests in Harare led to the arrest of more than 30 people. A nationwide stay away planned for tomorrow, 6 July, has also been called for by activists and opposition political leaders.
Several videos and pictures shot by social media users in Beitbridge and in Harare during the protests were posted on Facebook and WhatsApp and spread virally. Some videos showed police brutally assaulting protestors and other videos of protesters brutally assaulting police and journalists. The blocking of social media is therefore likely meant to stop such user generated content from spreading.
This is a developing story that will be updated as we get more information.
Let us know your thoughts on the developments across the border regarding the unavailability of WhatsApp