Zimbabweans are experiencing throttled internet ahead of the country’s national elections on Wednesday.
According to data from the internet connectivity monitoring platform Netblocks, internet service has been throttled in Zimbabwe on the eve of the country’s general elections. The degradation has affected customers of leading internet service providers including NetOne, Econet, TelOne and Liquid.
“We are facing a system challenge and we are working towards restoring normalcy. Any inconvenience caused is sincerely regretted,” Econet told its customers.
Zimbabwe holds its general election tomorrow where current president Emerson Mnangagwa of the ZANU-PF is seeking a second term. Mnangagwa ascended to power in 2017 following the removal by coup of former president, Robert Mugabe.
Netblocks data show that on Netone, for example, users have been experiencing downtimes on platforms such as Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and Facebook. Additionally, the reachability of some platforms on Econet and Econet is as low as 30%. The data is further corroborated by users of some providers, who have been complaining of degraded service on social media including not being able to access Whatsapp.
According to Felicia Anthonio, campaign manager of #KeepItOn, an initiative by the non-profit organisation Access Now, the Zimbabwean government has a recorded history of shutting off internet during important national events.
“We are urging the government not to repeat its past habits and allow the people of Zimbabwe unfettered access to the internet to allow them to actively participate and ensure the process is transparent and fair,” she told NewzRoom Africa.
In February last year, Netblocks also reported significant internet throttling during a national demonstration by the Citizens Coalition For Change (CCC), one of the leading opposition parties in the country. The incident impacted multiple operators and limited users’ ability to live stream the events of the day.
In March, a new series of disruptions were registered amid further opposition demonstrations. Netblocks metrics confirmed that the disruptions occurred at the backbone which served each operator, and not at the cell towers due to congestion as claimed by government sources. Other times when the Zimbabwean government has throttled internet include in 2020 ahead of planned protests and in 2019 during national demonstrations about increasing fuel prices.