An online activist and regular reader of Rogue Media Labs going by the name of “Jamelia Libya K” sent me the following letter this morning, outlining the deteriorating situation in Zimbabwe from the perspective of a Zimbabwean refugee with many friends and family left behind in the country.
“I am an activist from Zimbabwe, I write to you as a human being observing a crisis unfolding. I am deeply appalled, shocked and hurt with the worsening situation in Zimbabwe.
The people have been protesting against inflation and unbearable hardships they have been encountering quietly. They are fed up of being governed by this failing Zanu government. The president himself is on a business tour at this vital moment. Vice President Chiwenga is in charge. He is previously the Army Commander General.
Everyone in the diaspora is convinced he has ordered the internet shutdown, there has been no social media all day. This is because reports have been pouring in from Monday night that the army, police and masked men have been kidnapping, harassing, torturing civilians and intimidating them not to protest.
Pictures of dead bodies have been circulating. As I speak, people in diaspora are afraid and panicking for their loved ones. Please bring attention to Zimbabweans crying and begging for help, we need International intervention.”
As was reported by Human Rights Watch on January 15th 2019, “Zimbabwe security forces fatally shot at least five people and wounded 25 others during a crackdown on nationwide protests beginning January 14, 2019.” However, other reports from the region indicate that at least 8 were killed, and more than 200 were arbitrarily arrested. Similar in many ways to the situation across France, the protests arose as a result of the Zimbabwean Governments decision to raise fuel prices by 150% on January 12th 2019, sparking mass protests around the country.
In response to the protests, just as was the case in the Democratic Republic of The Congo in December 2018 and Central African Republic earlier this month, the Zimbabwean Government has ordered a complete internet shutdown across the country. Effective January 15th 2019, President Emmerson Mnangagwa ordered a 72 hour moratorium on any/all internet activity inside the country, including social media and Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services – such as WhatsApp.
This also isn’t the first time this sort of thing has happened. For example, in the summer of 2016 I remember reporting when the Government of Zimbabwe suffered from full economic collapse, leading to the revolt of thousands of public sector workers across the country- protesting against weeks of unpaid wages, essentially completely shutting down the country/government in doing so. For some perspective on the situation, at the time it was also reported that the country was operating at a 90% unemployment rate. Once again however, then just as is it is today, the Zimbabwean Government shut down and restricted national internet access in order to prevent protest movements from growing larger and prevent media from reporting on a carnage.
I also remember that these events caught the attention of the Anonymous hacker collective, whom proceeded to launch a series of online attacks against the Government of Zimbabwe – shutting down critical government infrastructure for as long of the government was willing to shut down public internet access. As a result, once again today just as it was before, the Zimbabwean people are calling on the internet community and Anonymous for help – to stand up for their rights and fight back against their oppressive Government. This is why I am publishing this article here today, to do what I can to raise awareness on their behalf and educate the international public about the ongoing crisis in Zimbabwe. What happens from here remains to be seen.