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Zimbabwe High Court Says Internet Services Must Be Restored

(Bloomberg) -- Zimbabwe’s High Court ruled that unrestricted access to internet services must be restored following a shutdown of social-media applications that has lasted for almost a week.

The court said Monday that Security Minister Owen Ncube did not have the authority to issue any directives to block access to internet services throughout the country, according to the Zimbabwe unit of the Media Institute of Southern Africa, which filed an urgent application together with the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights.

Mobile operators must “unconditionally resume the provision of full and unrestricted internet services to all their subscribers forthwith,” according to the court in the capital, Harare. The two advocacy groups, which said the shutdown has caused loss of business and income and threats to life, directed their legal action against the three mobile networks operating in the country, including Econet Wireless Zimbabwe Ltd., as well as President Emmerson Mnangagwa, the security minister and the head of the intelligence services.

The country’s biggest mobile-phone operator, Econet, said last week that Facebook, WhatsApp, YouTube and Twitter had been blocked on government instructions. At least 12 people were killed during a police crackdown meant to end nationwide protests against a 150 percent hike in the price of diesel and gasoline.

A spokesman at Econet’s Johannesburg office said on Jan. 18 the company can’t respond to criticism in Zimbabwe or on social media.

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