Bulk messages banned in Zimbabwe

Long night: Election officials get ready to count the results of Wednesday’s poll. (Skyler Reid)

Long night: Election officials get ready to count the results of Wednesday’s poll. (Skyler Reid)

As Zimbabwe watches for election results, the government has banned bulk text messages for two weeks to maintain stability, it says.

Political observers say the ban is aimed at ensuring that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) is solely in charge of handling the announcement of election results.

Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has threatened to announce the election results should the ZEC delay publication again.

In the 2008 election, the ZEC took more than a month to announce results, which indicated that President Robert Mugabe had lost in the first round of voting to Tsvangirai.

Mugabe warned Tsvangirai on Sunday that he would be arrested if he unilaterally declared election results. Under law, the ZEC is supposed to release the results within five days of voting meaning that the latest the results can be announced is Monday.

Media and information project kubatana.net has been the biggest casualty of the ban by the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe.

“Kubatana.net believes [the authority] is acting unconstitutionally, and will be contacting the authority and the ministry of transport, communication and infrastructural development about this issue. Zimbabweans have a right to receive and impart information, as enshrined in the Constitution’s guarantee of the right to freedom of expression.”

Political analyst Khanyile Mlotshwa said Zanu-PF wanted to control all communication channels during the potentially explosive period of waiting for the election results.

Meanwhile, Baba Jukwa, an anonymous Facebook user who claims to be a Zanu-PF insider, has said he would announce election results on his Facebook page.

With more than 350 000 followers, Baba Jukwa has been dishing on secret Zanu-PF activities since the page was set up in March.

Ray Ndlovu

Ray Ndlovu

Ray Ndlovu has been a correspondent for the Mail & Guardian in Zimbabwe since 2009. His areas of interest include politics and business. With a BSc honours degree in journalism and media studies, Ray aspires to become a media mogul.   Read more from Ray Ndlovu