In the digital age access to internet has become a basic right to all human beings, according to the Zimbabwean constitution Section 61(2) every person has the right to freedom of expression, which includes the freedom to seek, receive and communicate ideas and other information.
However, despite what the constitution says, governments opt to shut down forms of communication over the internet under the guise of “containing violence”.
Zimbabwe was one of many countries across Africa to be cut off from the rest of the world.
In Cameroon last year, the government suspended services after Anglophone teachers, lawyers and students went on strike over alleged historical biases in favour of Francophones. The suspension lasted from January to March, almost one hundred days, making it the longest period of Internet disruption by an African government.
Internet was cut in the Democratic Republic of Congo during a tumultuous presidential election to avoid an “uprising” as tensions rose while the results were pending. Opposition parties accused authorities of trying to curb activism against suspect numbers. Citizens figured out ways to tap into services across the Congo River in the Republic of Congo, but service was finally restored 20 days after the election.
Again to counter a protest, Sudan blocked social media amid growing calls for its longtime president, Omar al-Bashir, to step down. It wasn’t as severe as the internet blackout imposed in 2013, but the restricted access severely impacted the exchange of information. Access to Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp was only possible via a virtual private network (VPN).
During an attempted coup, Gabon shut off its services, effectively denying citizens reliable information on the insurrection.
The main reasoning behind these shutdowns is that they will help stop the incitement of hate and violence, but many have argued that it only hinders the exchange of information, creating an even better environment for human rights abuses and injustice to thrive.
However the downside of shutdowns is that in never comes cheap on the government, as a matter of fact, they affect the Gross Domestic Product of any country.