Internet in Zimbabwe: Now you have it, now you don't

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Attempts by Zimbabweans to circumvent a government-imposed social media ban suffered a blow on Friday morning after the state ordered service providers to cut off internet access for the second time this week.

Some internet connectivity had been restored by Friday afternoon, although social media platforms such as WhatsApp and Twitter were still restricted. 

The renewed ban was instituted as the regime continued its crackdown on protests which broke out in earnest when the government announced a massive fuel price hike that has made Zimbabwean petrol the most expensive in the world. 

A spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ravina Shamdasani, said on Friday there were "worrying allegations of generalised intimidation and harassment by security forces carrying out door-to-door searches".

According to a statement sent to subscribers by the country's biggest mobile network provider, Econet, Friday morning's internet shutdown was "total". 

"At 22:05 17/01/19, we were served with another directive for total shutdown of the internet until further notice," said Econet in a statement Friday morning. "Our lawyers advised we are required to comply with the directive pending the Courts decision on its legality. The earlier directives are already the subject of a pending High Court Application."

"We sincerely apologize for all inconvenience caused by the acts of government which are beyond our reasonable control."

Econet, the country's biggest mobile network with a more than 72% market share, is owned by Zimbabwean businessman Strive Masiyiwa. 

He also owns the country's biggest internet service provider ZOL, and also the country's biggest fibre optic network Liquid Telecom. 

Commenting on his Facebook page, Masiyiwa said management at his firm had to comply or face jail term.

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