Energy Mutodi – Zimbabwe’s deputy minister of information, publicity, and broadcasting services – has defended the country’s recent internet shutdown during widespread protests and unrest over crippling fuel hikes, NewsDay reports.
Despite a high court ruling last week, which found the shutdown illegal, Mutodi also said that he would do it again because he believes the people of Zimbabwe are “backward”.
“People [who] say Zimbabwe is modern are mistaken. Zimbabwe still has primitive people with primitive minds who don’t understand the meaning of peaceful demonstrations. When people go and loot, cause violence instead of peaceful demonstrations, then is that not a sign that we are still backward,” he told the publication.
He also said the shutdown was not illegal, and that the “only issue” that arose was that the person who ordered it was “not the rightful person to do that”.
The law is the law, was Mutodi’s conclusion, highlighting what he believed was the government’s right to invoke the country’s Interception of Communications Act, despite the high court ruling, which found that the government had exceeded its mandate by ordering the blackout.
Internet shutdowns internationally are increasingly common, with an Infographic from Forbes charting the nations who have enforced blackouts the most in between January 2016 and May 2018.
These shutdowns seem endemic in India, with 154 shutdowns recorded, a massively higher number than the next country listed, Pakistan, which had reportedly had 19 by the time the Infographic was made.
In Africa, DRC and Ethiopia have had five shutdowns and Chad and Egypt have had three. According to Financial Mail, the recent shutdown in Zimbabwe was the country’s first.
Nationwide demonstrations erupted in Zimbabwe earlier in January after President Emmerson Mnangagwa announced that fuel prices were being doubled in a country already suffering regular shortages of fuel, food, and medicine.
Furious demonstrators took to the streets in several cities and towns with widespread rioting and looting.
Soldiers and police put down the protests and at least 12 people died. More than 1,100 were arrested, including opposition Movement for Democratic Change lawmakers and senior figures.
(Compiled by Daniel Friedman. Additional reporting by AFP)