Harare – Zimbabwe’s government has warned citizens that it can trace ‘threats’ and ‘unruly elements’ on social media, according to a report in thestate-owned Chronicle newspaper.
The warning has come amid protests in the country over government corruption, delayed salaries for civil servants and police roadblocks.
The unrest also comes on the back of protests in Beitbridge over import restrictions while messages urging Zimbabweans to “shut down” the country have been spread over WhatsApp.
Information Communication Technology, Postal and Courier Services Minister Supa Mandiwanzira said the messages were a violation of the Postal and Telecommunications Act.
The Act renders makes it illegal to send “false, annoying, obscene or threatening” messages via phones.
Those found in breach of the Act face fines of $200 or imprisonment for six months, according to the paper.
“It’s important for everybody to understand that anything you post on social media or over the top services can be traced back to who started them,”Mandiwanzira told the Chronicle.
“Therefore we warn people to be responsible and ensure that the messages that they send out will not find them foul of the law. We expect that people must be responsible when using social media. It must not be used to threaten other people or to send subversive messages.
“We don’t want the few who abuse it to send revenge porn, child pornography, hate and violent messages to spoil the use of social media for the majority who use it positively,” he added.
The warning has come amid a WhatsApp outage being restored on Wednesday in Zimbabwe.
The outage came after protests against the government intensified on Wednesday.
There were reports that at least three journalists covering police clashes with protestors in the Mujakose suburb of Harare had been arrested.
The journalists were on assignment for Trevor Ncube ‘s Alpha Media Holdings which publishes NewsDay and Zimbabwe Independent titles.
They had been taken to Marimba Park police station as Twitter and other social media sites shared the situation Zimbabwe.
Econet Wireless, the biggest telco in Zimbabwe, confirmed in a Twitter message later on Wednesday to subscribers that WhatsApp connectivity had been restored.
“Please be advised that WhatsApp is now back up. We sincerely apologise for any inconveniences caused,” the customer care department tweeted.
Zimbabweans cheered the restoration of connectivity through the platform. They had earlier tweeted that cutting connectivity would not be helpful for the government.
Meanwhile, other Zimbabwean users on Twitter on Wednesday started tweeting that radio announcements in the country threatened those spreading protest information on WhatsApp with arrest.
Fin24 has contacted Facebook, which owns WhatsApp, for comment on the situation in Zimbabwe. But Facebook has not immediately responded to this request.