Saturday, July 20, 2024

Zambia to shut down the internet on voting day as Facebook urges government to keep internet open




Foreign media reports that the Zambian government has resolved to completely shut down access to the internet beginning next Thursday, the voting day.

According to a highly placed government source, access to the internet will be throttled from Thursday in an effort to maintain peace and order during the voting period.

The source that opted to remain anonymous said the decision has since been communicated to ZICTA for implementation.

“Yes internet will go down from Thursday. There will be a total blackout. We will start to slowly restore access around Saturday in selected areas, we may get full access maybe on Sunday or Monday, depending on the situation,” the source said.

The source added that President Lungu has sanctioned the move as a way to counter any possible unrest that may emerge when results start trickling in.

“There is fear that some negative elements might use the internet to incite and organize protests and this is why we are shutting it down all together,” the source stated.

And Head of Public Policy at Facebook, Southern Africa, Nomonde Gongxeka-Seopa has urged the Zambian government to keep internet open during the election period.

Ms. Gongxeka-Seopa said in an interview with Hot FM from South Africa that Facebook has been engaging the Zambian authorities on the importance of keeping internet access open.

“We know that we rely on social media platforms to communicate and if there is Internet shutdowns, it separates people from reaching out to their families and friends and even their livelihoods and speaking of livelihoods, we know that with the advent of Covid 19, most businesses have moved online to reach out to their customers, so if there is Internet shutdowns, it undermines economic activities and growth by harming small businesses and disrupting the whole start up eco system,” she said.

She added, “So for us, we hold the view that instead of ordering shutdowns and blocking access, perhaps authorities should seek to use and work with online platforms to address emerging issues through maintaining their own online presence and supporting appropriate culture speech.”

“For us as Facebook, we are happy to work with government and law enforcement to provide education and training on how to do this,” Ms. Gongxeka-Seopa said.

Meanwhile, both MTN and Airtel have failed to offer guarantees that they will not shut down internet access over the election period.

MTN Group told the Daily Maverick that its subsidiaries, including MTN Zambia, respected digital human rights, including “the right to communicate, to share information freely and responsibly, and to enjoy privacy and security regarding their data and their use of digital communications”.

MTN said if the Zambian government ordered it to shut down its services during the elections, the company would have to consider the order in light of its digital human rights policy.

But MTN did not say that it would not shut down its services or censor them.

And the company confirmed that it had shut down the internet in four other African countries recently during unrest.

“In all cases, restricting access to the internet is the last resort,” an MTN spokesperson said.

UPND Secretary General Batuke Imenda
UPND Secretary General Batuke Imenda

UPND Secretary-General Batuke Imenda told DM168: “We are disappointed that MTN and Airtel, as Zambia’s two biggest telecommunications providers, will not guarantee to protect internet access ahead of the general election on 12 August and stand up against any attempts by the government to infringe [on] the digital rights of citizens.”

“Combined access to data and internet connectivity is an essential requirement for a free, fair and credible election. There is a distinct possibility that the government will instruct Zambia’s telecommunications companies to shut down the internet in an attempt to subvert the democratic will of the people. Any throttling of the internet, blocking of social media/instant messaging platforms and internet shutdowns will compromise the freedom and fairness of the election.”

“Further, shutting down the internet is a violation of the fundamental rights and freedoms of citizens being contrary to Article (20) of the Constitution of Zambia. The tactics to shut down the internet is dictatorial and a serious indictment on freedom of expression.

“These tactics deny voters access to information about the election, including where and how to vote. Importantly, the government of Zambia is also aimed at preventing election monitors [including observation missions] from communicating and carrying out independent monitoring of the voting and counting process.”

“We call upon both MTN and Airtel to take a clear stance in support of human rights and democracy by declaring their opposition to any instruction to throttle or shut down the internet and block access to social media and instant-messaging platforms. They should furthermore indicate publicly what steps they will be taking to engage with government to pre-empt any unlawful instruction,” Mr Imenda said.

In response to questions about how it would respond if the Zambian government instructed it to black out signal over the election period, MTN said: “MTN Group believes that everyone deserves the benefits of a modern connected life and our priority is always to provide customers with full access to our network.”

MTN endorsed the United Nations (UN) stance “that the rights held by people offline must also be protected online”.

“Our response to digital human rights is underpinned by a sound group-wide policy and due diligence framework. In all cases, restricting access to the internet is a last resort. Should MTN Zambia receive an instruction to shut down the internet, we would first have to check the terms of our licence and ensure that we comply with our licence conditions.”

MTN would review the directive against the group’s digital human rights policy and due diligence framework, guided by the UN Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights framework.

“MTN was engaging with stakeholders, including industry players and regulatory authorities, to assess the likelihood of a potential request for an internet shutdown, to identify “potential mitigations” and “manage any potential situation as effectively as possible.”

“As part of our due diligence framework, MTN works to limit the scope, extent, or duration of any human rights impacts.”

DM168 asked MTN if it would comply with a request by the Zambian authorities to censor text messages to remove the names of opposition candidates, as cellular companies did during the recent Tanzanian elections.

MTN said it was “politically impartial in all its operations and does not subscribe to any political party, movement, or affiliation” but would evaluate such a request from either governmental or non-governmental bodies to see if the requests were legal.

“Even as a major player in many markets, we cannot presume that we can influence these events upfront,” MTN said, adding that it recognised it had a role of “advocating globally for respect of digital human rights”.

Asked if it would consider pulling out of Zambia if asked to shut or censor its transmission, the company said it would do “a robust risk assessment before any decision is taken to exit a market”, taking into account numerous factors, including human rights and stakeholders’ perspectives.

“Many of the markets in which MTN operates have the lowest mobile penetration rates globally. Investing in these markets allows MTN to provide vital communications services, ensuring people have access to basic and emergency services and a means of sharing information and staying connected.

“MTN’s presence enables people to realise their basic human rights. Notwithstanding, the risk of human rights incidents in our countries of operation exists. Such risks are a factor of doing business in these markets and these are not strictly limited to MTN.”

DM168 asked MTN for examples where it had shut down or censored communications for governments and why this was done.

“In 2020, MTN received three major requests by authorities, legally permitted by applicable laws or by virtue of a court order, obliging MTN to block or suspend internet or social media services or websites.

“These were in Sudan, Guinea-Conakry and Nigeria, and these incidents took place during times of political or social unrest.

“As an example, in June 2020, Sudan experienced a month-long near-total internet shutdown due to unrest in the country. MTN Sudan followed the Group’s due diligence process, which included understanding the options available before making any decision to comply or reject the requests to shut down services. The process also considered the safety and security risks to employees, customers, and operations. MTN Sudan was commended by its customers for being one of the last operators to shut down and one of the first to reinstate services.”

“In late June 2021, during social unrest in Eswatini, MTN Eswatini received a directive from the communications regulator to shut down access to social media and online messaging platforms. After extensive engagements with all relevant stakeholders, MTN resumed the provision of full internet services nine days after complying with the directive.”

With additional reporting from Daily Maverick


  1. A bit much now you have deployed police army cadres and anything possible to ensure security and yet you fear an uprising why I mean why, so yes something here is not working and something is very wrong… I just don’t understand these guys they will spend the rest of there life running if they keep this up.

    Only a dictator selfish self-serving greedy group anticipates an uprising at times like this because they know what they are doing its called organised crime for a reason… we shall overcome !!!

  2. The UPND Alliance legal team must rush to court and put in an injunction to stop the once Mighty PF govt from interfering with communication system between now and 15/08/21. If not done then the UPND Alliance will have themselves to blame for being sleepy. Already schools have been opened under the pretex of allowing examination classes to prepare. The trick is pupils who registered during covid-19 period last whilst at home will be away and won’t be allowed to vote hence denying HH and UPND Alliance of massive votes. PF is ensuring that it disadvantage the UPNF Alliance at all costs.

  3. This is tantamount to dictatorship like Uganda. Last elections in 2016 the internet was accessible throughout. What is wrong this time? These are gimmicks for rigging. When people realize that they are losing the elections they resort to such things

  4. You can try hard as much as you like, to oppress the perceived opposition, the people. But as long as change is required by the ‘people’, your oppression moves will never succeed. Promise!

  5. UPND were forwarned ,

    That is how paranoid dictators operate , they are so fearfull of people communicating their moods and thoughts….that is just lungu allover.

    We are telling you , lungu can never win any free and fair election, never, ever.

  6. Ba UPND just accept your impending loss instead of peddling fake news. Who is this highly placed government source? However if you intend to misbehave using social media then that access should be shutdown…just look at the abuse you shower on others here on LT

  7. Yes, shut it down to stop those UPND thugs from causing trouble when they lose. I am an IT expert and am not worried to lose internet for a couple of days if that will deter thugs from implementing their hateful agendas. Those crying loudly here are UPND because they want to cause trouble knowing that they are losing !!!!

  8. is it not in the authorities favor if internet is functional during the elections? Anyone pushing for violence can be easily traced if they use the internet-
    Its sad in this day and age for authorities to be trumping on human rights

  9. Shameless guy, losing so many times and still clinging to power. This tells you what kind of dictator he can be if you give him the power. Every civilized person would have stepped outside a long time ago to give room for fresh air and ideas but not this dictator. You people is so difficult to see that??? In Europe one loss and the leader goes packing , giving room to others to try. Unless you tell me that all UPNDs are so dull that it is only HH who can rule them ??

  10. Yes UPND thinks they can on on Social media….it doesn’t work like that….real voters don’t even have access to the internet just Spaka and his fellow keyboard warriors….they spend time on the internet 24/7….just commenting on every article…thats very unproductive…find something meaningful to do with your lives

  11. Please don’t take us back to UNIP’s days were they were harassing and subjecting people to aggressive pressure or intimidation just by taking a picture of government building and justified it by saying National security.

    Please say no to top down leadership.

    “In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem. From time to time we’ve been tempted to believe that society has become too complex to be managed by self-rule, that government by an elite group is superior to government for, by, and of the people.”

  12. #15  Abena 
    August 5, 2021 At 2:39 pm

    “I told Spaka the same thing. Find something useful to do !!!!.”

     Imwe naimwe na tuma paranoya twenu with that corrupt insecure theif lungu …..

    You have militarised the police with millions of dollars of military hardware, and now you are afraid of the Internet…..???

    Aren’t you guys ashamed of your selves having to force your selves onto Zambians while claiming unprecedented development ???

    We , the activists are happy in the knowledge that lungu and PF can never win any free and fair election…..

  13. SPAKA, yes rightfully fear the internet because the internet today is an extremely powerful tool. It will keep criminals connected where the police or army on the ground cannot see. If you shut it then they have no way of organizing their atrocities without being fished out immediately. Makes sense. Sometimes you have to infringe on certain freedoms in order to preserve peace. The International community can scream but if things flare it is only us Zambians to suffer. So Zambia first and then the rest. Observers will remain sitting on the fence.

  14. Very disappointing to see that government is now afraid of its own people and jumps to use heavy-handed tactics. Leaders on all sides have failed to bring us to this. Zambia used to be (and can be) much better.

  15. @Abena. What an obtuse person you are. There’s potential likelihood of violence and bloodshed for what? Because convict lungu does not want to let go of power.

    Change is coming with a bang

  16. #22  Abena

    We are happy in the knowledge lungu and PF can not win any free and fair election.
    Everyone knows this.

    You can shut the Internet, shut Mobil call service, that will not change the fact , lungu and PF are forcing them selves upon Zambians…….

  17. Hehehehe…….

    The resident PF rats on LT have come to accept that lungu and PF can not win any free and fair elections……

  18. Firstly I would like to say thank you to my IT team for reversing the blockage on some of my devices by Lusakat times. My team are going a good job. I am aware that LT have been forced to try and block me due to the evil crys from some of the upnd f00Is here. I will give my full comment on this article below in another comment

  19. Shutting down the internet can never stop unrest. Are some of the bloggers babies here? Before internet we used to have unrest and in fact by shutting it down you are only bottling up peoples anger and anxiety. In the 1991 food riots we did not have social media then

  20. Kikikiki speculations, speculations but the way some bloggers respond to speculations as if it is already happened. Unfortunately you are just giving ECL ideas of what to do. Please do not shut the internet. Many people will be working online after voting. I hope after these elections, we shall get down to work. Seriously, the last 10 years has been wasted with PF and UPND politicking from day 1 of elections. We need to sit down and work. We should not sound like we want to vote every day. Win or loss we are all Zambians, and life will continue.

  21. Know that when military personnel start assassinating their own government’s agents that something funky is going on.


  23. No dictator is more powerful than the people. It’s only a matter of waking up – waking up to recognize the harms done to the nation

  24. tell Seer1 to fuseke he is a fake and con artist
    The lecturer at Lusaka UIni was more to the point and accurate

  25. When a dictator dies, oxygen increases in the world!

  26. —- BE WARNED —-

  27. What you eat in secret at night will be revealed in the vomit in the morning. It does not matter whether Lungu shuts down the internet or not, this time round he is not getting away with rigging. Zambians are peaceful people but they are not docile. These foreigners who have lived in Zambia may want to take advantage of Zambian peacefulness and mistake it for docility but they do so at their own peril.

  28. It’s for your own good believe you me. Some of you commenting rubbish here can’t even afford a plane ticket from Lusaka to Ndola not to mention South Africa. Your number 1 fan’s family will be in Europe well protected in case anything went haywire. So just go there and cast your vote then tune in to ZNBC for results. You don’t need Internet to vote. Do you?

  29. Business is done on internet these days and you go ahead to close internet for that long by the time you reconnect your Kwacha will have lost ten times the value it has now. Dictators have very dirty tactics in Africa. We have satelite phones that by pass your system anyway. Go ahead with your dictatorial plans.

  30. When our Zambia goes up in flames amid violence and anarchy, these internet companies will not be there to save us. We know who will benefit from the chaos and damage to our country. I say implement the internet blackout from Thursday to Monday following week. Do not listen to people who have nothing to lose if all goes up in flames in Zambia. Beware!!

  31. Shutting down the internet is possible but consumers need advance notice of the shutdown, the reason for shutting it down and how long the shutdown is going to be. The modern democratic regulatory state discloses its actions to citizens because it acts only in their best interests. But this commentator on public issues knows that we don’t live in a perfect world.

  32. If this is true, it should be the last straw for all Zambians who love their country. The dictator will have reached his highest level of insanity if this plan is really on the cards. I do not condone violence and have stated so a number of times. But at the same time, when it is used to defend freedoms, fight for them or demand entitled independence for a whole people, the end justifies the means. All too often, because we abhor violence, we have been quick to criticise people who have taken up arms – understandably, especially when civilians are at the end of the brutal battles. On the other hand, I do now more than ever, understand why sometimes people are driven to arms to oust ruthless regimes that perpetually rule through breach and abuses of rights.

  33. Last time Zambis almost went up in flames during KK, majority Zambians had no access to internet.

    Egypt Tunisia and Libya dictators shut down internet. Did it help?

    Nothing can stop the change the people are demanding. We know that use of bullets and teargas has failed.

    PF leaders should brace themselves with what will hit them if try any funny rigging machinations.

    Zambian people are angry!

  34. @Scouser you are too dull to weigh in on me. Find your match boy. And learn to use correct English words on discussion forums. Do not belittle anybody you dont know. You understand young man? “There’s potential likelihood of violence and bloodshed for what? Because of irrational dull people like you who think you have already won elections .Because convict lungu does not want to let go of power President Lungu is only convicted in your head .

    Change is coming with a bang Yes, change is coming in your dreams This is why we are deploying police and Army to deter you from violent activities when you lose.

  35. Kaizar Zulu, UPND is nor a country; the people who comment against the failures of the PF are citizens of Zambia, some of whom are PF supporters and do so because they are patriots who worry about the future of our country and its citizens. Only the likes of Kaizar Zulu would love to have 5 more years of mediocrity and ineptitude in government, and the resulting unprecedented corruption, poverty, negative GDP, unemployment, and, among other socioeconomic ills, unprecedented national indebtedness.

  36. Can you all go and download PURE VPN from google store or Apple Store for 1 week’s free universal internet connectivity via satellite. There is nothing the tyrannical regime can do about that. Download this on Monday or Tuesday 9th or 10th of August so that you can cover the period they intend to black you out. The world and the Hague are watching. Check CNN the credible news broadcaster not Zabwino Niza Boza Chabe (ZNBC) The likes of Kaizer Zulu will be on the truck to The Hague to go answer for their human rights violation crimes.

  37. Can you all go and download PURE VPN from google store or Apple Store for 1 week’s free universal internet connectivity via satellite.

  38. Download this on Monday or Tuesday 9th or 10th of August so that you can cover the period they intend to black you out. The world and the Hague are watching. Check CNN the credible news broadcaster not Zabwino Niza Boza Chabe (ZNBC)

  39. Corruption scandals: 48 Houses Social Security Cash Luxury Presidential Jet Ambulances Fire Trucks Mukula Trees Ndola-Lusaka Rd Malawi Maizegate Fuelgate Swaziland landgate Zesco Loans Honeybee Corruption scandals: 48 Houses Social Security Cash Luxury Presidential Jet Ambulances Fire Trucks Mukula Trees Ndola-Lusaka Rd Malawi Maizegate Fuelgate Swaziland landgate Zesco Loans Honeybee

    Mambala! Afraid of his own shadows… he wants to rig elections. But the Internet doesn’t vote, people vote and they can still record on their mobile phones regardless of whether the Internet is on or not! Unbelievablex but not surprising coming from this desperate d!ctat0r!

  40. Corruption scandals: 48 Houses Social Security Cash Luxury Presidential Jet Ambulances Fire Trucks Mukula Trees Ndola-Lusaka Rd Malawi Maizegate Fuelgate Swaziland landgate Zesco Loans Honeybee Corruption scandals: 48 Houses Social Security Cash Luxury Presidential Jet Ambulances Fire Trucks Mukula Trees Ndola-Lusaka Rd Malawi Maizegate Fuelgate Swaziland landgate Zesco Loans Honeybee

    1. Honeybee
    2. Fire Tenders
    3. Mukula
    4. Gassing
    5. 48 Houses
    6. Economic Collapse
    7. Inflation
    8. Speed Cameras
    9. FIC reports
    10. 4.8 million dollar toll gates
    11. Cadre Violence
    12. Prisoner holidays
    13. Missing medicines
    14. Closure of private media
    15. Presidential jet
    16. Police brutality
    17. Breakdown of the rule of law
    18. Tribalism
    19. Forest reserve 27
    20. Chimutengo Forest
    21. Collapse of the Kwacha
    22. Unemployment
    23. Rising Cost of Living
    24. Roads Contract Unaccountably
    25. Gold Mines
    26. KCM corruption
    27. Load shedding
    28. Fuel shortages
    29. High Energy Costs
    30. Excessive taxes
    31. Chinese racism
    33. AFDB Sanctions
    34. Excessive national debt
    35. Social cash transfer theft
    36. Failure to pay retiree benefits
    37. President Relations with…

  41. Corruption scandals: 48 Houses Social Security Cash Luxury Presidential Jet Ambulances Fire Trucks Mukula Trees Ndola-Lusaka Rd Malawi Maizegate Fuelgate Swaziland landgate Zesco Loans Honeybee Corruption scandals: 48 Houses Social Security Cash Luxury Presidential Jet Ambulances Fire Trucks Mukula Trees Ndola-Lusaka Rd Malawi Maizegate Fuelgate Swaziland landgate Zesco Loans Honeybee

    7. President Relations with Dubious Characters on FBI watch list.
    38. Police Executions
    39. Selective Justice
    40. Presidential disregard of the Constitution
    41. Failure to pay residence Doctors
    42. Failure to give Civil servants meaningful salary increment

  42. I don’t understand something here. Do you need internet to vote? It is true that internet is abused and people can just start fake rumours which can lead to violence.
    Going by the way some people comment even on LT, it’s as if the opposition has already won. If they lose, they will start fake rumours that the election has been stolen from them.
    So yes, if it’s in the interest of peace, shut it down. After all, the election apparatus will still be in place and monitors will be on the ground. Some of us have nowhere to run to ngayazanda.
    Others already have houses in other countries.

    How are we going to be communicating
    It’s only I’m Zambia were you can allow this NONSENSE NOT IN STATES

  44. If UPND supporters love thier party and indeed believe that theres a wind of change in Zambia and majority of the voters will cast their votes for HH, they will spend their precious time in planning polling station management and securing votes. That is ensuring that what is carried by ECZ to be announced is exactly what they all signed for after polling. The behaviour of UPND is contrary to someone who is sure of winning. You can’t continue insulting people even with just few days to elections. Ok, if I am to vote for HH what is HH’s or UPND’s economic recovery plan in year 1, year 2…Year 5? What economic simulations has HH done to demonstrate his perceived economic intelligency? Nothing till today. 5 days to elections HH has not given his blue print for economic development.

  45. …but we have seen what the economic blue print of pf is these past ten years haven’t we? 5 more years? No thanks.

  46. Itx fine Africans don’t respect laws and itx hard for them to accept results so instead of bringing troubles through internet and fake news Zambian government under our humble leader ecl the government have decided to shutdown internet to avoid fake news
    Hope u understand y there that….

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