Daniel Nemukuyu Senior Court Reporter
THE High Court in Harare will today rule on the legality of the Government’s directive to mobile network operators to shut down all internet operations in the country during last week’s violent demonstrations.
The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) and Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) sued the Government over the shutdown of the internet and all social media platforms saying the move was unconstitutional.
Minister of State in the President’s Office responsible for National Security issued a warrant for a total shutdown of internet services at the height of the violent national so-called stay away that rocked major towns and cities last week.
The two organisation filed an urgent chamber application seeking a reversal of the decision.
President Mnangagwa, Minister of State in the President’s Office for National Security Owen Ncube, Director-General of Intelligence Services, the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ), Econet Wireless Zimbabwe, NetOne Cellular Private Limited and Telecel Zimbabwe were listed as respondents in the application.
On Friday, the High Court registry set the matter down for today before Justice Owen Tagu.
ZLHR executive director Ms Roselyn Hanzi deposed an affidavit contesting the Government’s decision.
She argued the shutdown would result in the loss of business and income as most transactions are done online.
“The directive will unnecessarily cost some people significant amounts of money in loss of business and income.
“The drastic measure has also put human lives at risk as telemedicine and financial services such as Diaspora remittances which rely on internet-based communication and banking services have also been affected,” said Ms Hanzi.
Personal security of people, according to Ms Hanzi, had also been compromised as they were not able to communicate the security situation in their respective areas using social media platforms like WhatsApp, Twitter, Skype and Facebook.
The directive, it is argued, infringes on the people’s freedom of expression and freedom of the media as enshrined under Section 61 of the Constitution.