Charles Mabhena

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has just found a way to deal with social media which had recently given him sleepless nights by hiking the price charged on mobile data.

The reviewing upwards of the fees charged on mobile data comes soon after the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) had released statistics that indicates a sharp increase in mobile data usage in the country.

The upsurge in the use of mobile data came as bad omen for Mugabe, as it had been used by residents in Zimbabwe to attack his rule. It also threatened his once technologically backward rural areas, who had no other options on access to information as TV and radio reception is poor, putting them at the periphery of the information flow.

Most had to rely on Shortwave radio bands, at some time it also caused chaos as people who were found with shortwave receivers were attacked by ZANU PF youths on the allege of listening to STUDIO 7 a pirate radio station based in the United States of America.

Social media came as gap filler in levelling the playing field as far as information accessibility is concerned.

POTRAZ recently decided to up the floor charges to 2 cents/Megabyte, a hike that is almost 400 percent more than what is being charged by mobile operators. This would therefore translate to mobile operators also hiking their charges, and will make the use of mobile data expensive.

Some analysts have linked this to the attempts by Mugabe to try and control its usage after it was used by disgruntled Zimbabweans pressure groups to stir up citizens to challenge the ZANU PF rule.

Zandile Mphesa a social commentator is very much concerned; “This is a strategy, Mugabe is not happy that people can freely express themselves using the platform that has been ushered in by technological advancement.

“It is hard to control social media and the only way he can regulate it is by hiking charges, what this means is that when they hike the tariffs most people would run out of data bundles before they access anything from the net, download or pass the information to the next person,” she said.

She added that this would also reduce people‘s ability to interact freely using social media, thereby suppressing their freedoms of expression, association, and access to information.