Published On: Thu, Jan 12th, 2017

Mobile data hike a 2018 poll theft plan

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ZIMBABWEANS have described the mobile data hike by regulator, Potraz, as the activation of Zanu PF rigging machinery by choking freedom of expression.

The sentiments come after subscribers woke up to huge data prices hike this Wednesday as telecommunication companies effected the latest Potraz directive. Zimbabweans used to get 90MB for every dollar now they get 10MB for the same price.

MDC-T spokesperson Obert Gutu described the Potraz management as a Zanu PF pawn put to implement political decisions aimed at maintaining the party’s hegemony over impoverished masses.

“Social media is a powerful tool for mass communication and the crumbling Zanu PF regime is desperate to curb the use of social media as a method of campaigning in the forthcoming harmonised elections,” said Gutu

While describing the move as unreasonable, Gutu said President Robert Mugabe’s party, which has been in power since independence from British rule in 1980, has already begun tilting the electoral field in its favour.

“This regime will stop at nothing to make sure that the 2018 elections are neither free nor free. The unreasonable hiking of data tariffs is part and parcel of a grand scheme to rig the 2018 elections.”

Deviant Zanu PF minister for Higher and Tertiary Education Jonathan Moyo described the development as “primitive elitism”.

“Use of over pricing, instead of technology, to curb internet access or manage social media is primitive elitism and promotes underdevelopment,” he said on Twitter.

The development follows unprecedented use of internet in social and political mobilization by groups aggrieved by Mugabe’s long hold to power and subsequently the general underperformance of the economy which has left over 80 percent without jobs.

Political and social activism through social media campaigns such as #This Flag, #Tajamuka and #Zimbabwe Yadzoka shook the core of the Zanu PF regime resulting in a demonstration ban and the incarceration of hundreds last year.

Political commentator Maxwell Saungweme said the decision marked a new low in politics, economics and telecommunications.

“It’s very unprecedented in any jurisdiction that a regulatory authority sides with services providers and triggers an increase in tariffs,” said Saungweme.

He added, “Regulatory authorities in mixed economic systems are there to safeguard consumer interest and curb excesses of profit motivated business operators.”

Saungweme sees the move as the genesis of electoral rigging in Zimbabwe’s contentious elections since 2 000 when opposition politics was birthed.

“The whole mobile data bundle tariff rise in Zimbabwe is a heedless, retrogressive, insensitive and politically motivated onslaught on freedom of expression ahead of 2018 elections,” Saungweme said.

“This must be confronted now, legally and politically than later as the move stifles campaigns and skews the electoral play field. Rigging has already started.”

Ordinary subscribers took to Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter to scold Potraz or joke about the latest development on social media.

“We should all just protest by not buying data bundles and staying offline for a week. This is madness, $1 per 10MB. Hakuna nyika yakadai (there is no country like this),” social activist Linda Masarira wrote on Twitter.

Temba Dube said, “We had advanced a million baby steps in technology but Potraz just threw us back to Stone Age.”

Popular social comedy group Busstop TV remarked that “in Zimbabwe it is cheaper to take a taxi and go show someone a 10MB video than to send via internet.”

While some were suggesting drastic reduction in time spent on social media, others were contemplating switching data providers.

Advocate Fadzai Mahere complained about Econet Wireless charging five times the regulated floor price.

“Shall we start buying South African lines and rely on international roaming for life? Now is the time to show ‘resilience’,” she said, “$100 is not enough to buy 4GB of data. Let that sink in. Why does the system fear social media so much?”

 

The Information Communication and Technology and Courier Services minister Supa Mandiwanzira professed ignorance about the hike via internet.

“Seen your questions. I’m on leave until Jan 30 and out of the country since Boxing Day. On return, I will get to the bottom of it,” he said responding to questions raised through the Datamustfall hashtag.