…as social media plays part to overturns Zim data tariffs

Charles Mabhena

Agitations by social media platform, activists and networks have won the battle on data tariff increases. To many, this seemed to have been a cyber war victory against President Robert Mugabe who is struggling on how to effectively navigate the social media jungle.

Many people took the hike as a way by authorities to try and control social media after it had proved to be a lethal tool against oppression and suppression of freedom of expression.

The President himself had recently expressed dismay over how the citizens including his own ministers were using the social platform to discuss issues affecting them, and his keenness to tame the jungle was visible for all to see.

With the announcement of the tariffs that were effected on 9 January 2017, the internet has been rife with social media activists and platforms condemning the move by the regulator POTRAZ to increase data tariff.

Government facing immense pressure, suspended mobile data increase with immediate effect from the 13 January following an outcry from users.

POTRAZ sets floor prices for mobile operators in the country.

Some individuals used the same platforms (facebook and twitter) to wage war and express their dismay over the hikes. They even called for the abandonment of certain mobile operators who they accused of short-changing consumers for the quest of profit.

“Dial *143# Econet must fall” suggest an irritated customer.

While other activists took a swipe at the mobile operators and the regulator, other took the opportunity for advocacy; “Before your data bundles expires. Here are 41 reasons why young people should go and register to vote and vote,” says a group which calls itself Young Voters Platform in apparent reference to the deadline which was 11 January 2017.

Minister of Higher education Jonathan Moyo was also in the fray, saying the use of pricing instead of technology to curb internet access or control social media is primitive, elitism and promotes underdevelopment.

The minister of Information, Communications, Technology and Courier Services Supa Mandiwanzira conceded and said the internet must be accessible- physically and financially, “I share and sympathise with concerns expressed by a multitude of Zimbabwean internet users that the recently effected data prices are unparallel and extortionists,” he said in a press statement.

The Tariffs increased from the 11 of January had effectively raised the cost of internet in Zimbabwe. It also meant that WhatsApp and Facebook bundles, two most popular broadband packages for local mobile networks operators was going to be more expensive.

Technology now play a big role in upsetting oppressive media laws, it has brought in challenges to the regime and has made it possible for citizens to sidestep draconian laws like Public Order and Security Act (POSA).

While POSA restrict people from constituting groups, as this would give them opportunities to discuss issues of governance affecting them, social media has made it possible for them to dodge the radar and conduct their meetings online without having to physically meet as a group.

The Zimbabwean authorities are currently busy with the Cyber Crime Bill which upon made into law will be used to try and control social media usage, under the disguise of social media abuse.