Zimbabwe data prices hiked by up to 500% to curb social media activism and dissent

Mobile data prices in Zimbabwe sky-rocketed overnight and Zimbabweans say the hikes are government efforts to quash activism on social media around the #ThisFlag movement. Last night, a number of shocked Zimbabweans tweeted about new mobile data prices, ranging from $.050c for 8MB to $50 for 2GB.

The blame has been put on Supa Mandiwanzira, Zimbabwe’s Minister of Information, Communication and Technology and Courier Services, after a command to Postal Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz) was sent to mobile networks to suspend data bundle promotions.

Zimbabwean journalist, Zenzele Ndlovu, explained to htxt.africa that data promotions had eased the burden of high data costs for citizens.

Ordinarily, data costs an average of $1 for 250MB. Still, with data promotions removed, the new prices are astronomically higher than usual.

Current vs previous prices


Even by South African data price standards (which happen to be among the highest on the continent) that is extremely high.

On Cell C, you can get 2GB for R245, $50 is around R680.

Just to give you an example of what prices were like before, Here’s a table of mobile data prices on the Telecel network, the second largest in Zimbabwe.

In January 2016, Econet, the country’s biggest network, priced 2GB at $3 on promotion.

“Daily data promos on Econet allow people to use 250MB for $1 for 24hrs. They also run a “7x” promotion, if you reach your daily usage limit, they give you seven times that amount of data .This allowed people to be online all the time and use social media,” Ndlovu said.

“Recent demonstrations have been successful because of social media. My theory is that they are tying to stop people from using social media by hiking the cost,” he adds.

“We will not be stopped”

It’s not clear how long the promo suspensions will last, but despite this, citizens say this will not stop them from carrying on the Zimbabwean revolution on social media.

Protests, petitions and demonstrations have been organised almost entirely on Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp and BBM as more citizens have been rallying behind #ThisFlag, started a few months ago by Pastor Evan Mawarire, who has fled with his family to South Africa shortly after being released from police custody last month.

Although the ZANU-PF-led government has a majority control over traditional media in Zimbabwe, it’s been impossible for it to stop masses from organised activism on social media.

Early last month, Potraz allegedly ordered mobile networks to cut off access to WhatsApp during the first large #ShutDownZim2016 protests, to try and cut off communication between protesters.

This story originally appeared on htxt.africa and is reproduced using a Creative Commons 4.0 BY NC SA licence.

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Lungelo Shezi Htxt
Guest Author

Related stories

Did Botswana execute ‘poachers’ ?

The Botswana Defence Force’s anti-poaching unit has long been accused of a ‘shoot to kill’ policy. Over 20 years the unit has killed 30 Namibians and 22 Zimbabweans

Malawi elections provide a global lesson in democracy

COMMENT: Opposition candidates and party can increase their chances of success at the polls by putting aside minor differences and presenting a united front

Dambudzo Marechera’s literary shock treatment

A new book on Zimbabwean writer Dambudzo Marechera draws on both actual and imaginary archives

Tsitsi Dangarembga: Are we mourning ourselves, each other and this state we are in?

The author discusses the trilogy of novels that propelled her onto the Booker shortlist, and their relevance to present-day Zimbabwe

Joe Biden’s debate guests run the only Zimbabwean restaurant in America

A Zimbabwean restaurant feeding people in need formed an unlikely addition to Joe Biden’s election campaign

SAA in talks to recoup R350-million in blocked funds from Zimbabwe

The cash-strapped national carrier is in the process of recouping its blocked funds from Zimbabwe, which could go towards financing the airline’s business rescue plan
Advertising

Subscribers only

FNB dragged into bribery claims

Allegations of bribery against the bank’s chief executive, Jacques Celliers, thrown up in a separate court case

Dozens of birds and bats perish in extreme heat in...

In a single day, temperatures in northern KwaZulu-Natal climbed to a lethal 45°C, causing a mass die-off of birds and bats

More top stories

North West premier goes off the rails

Supra Mahumapelo ally Job Mokgoro’s defiance of party orders exposes further rifts in the ANC

Construction sites are a ‘death trap’

Four children died at Pretoria sites in just two weeks, but companies deny they’re to blame

Why the Big Fish escape the justice net

The small fish get caught. Jails are used to control the poor and disorderly and deflect attention from the crimes of the rich and powerful.

Koko claims bias before Zondo commission

In a lawyer’s letter, the former Eskom chief executive says the commission is not being fair to him
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…