Disconnected: The story of Zimbabwe’s internet shutdown

zimbabwe internet shutdown

Inspired by the experience of her relatives in Zimbabwe, law student Anoshamisa Gonye investigates why governments are resorting to internet shutdowns in the face of civil protests.


Last January, Harare and Bulawayo—two of Zimbabwe’s busiest cities—were rocked by turbulent demonstrations. From January 14-22, 2019, the streets transformed into battlegrounds; protesters and police clashed in clouds of burning tyre smoke and teargas.

Protesters projected their resistance – and the government’s brutal response – to the rest of the world via messages, images and videos on Twitter and Facebook.

But on the January 15, the government ordered all mobile network operators to suspend their services. A full internet shutdown was initiated across the country.

As protesters, families and friends were left with severed mobile and online communication, armed police and soldiers continued the crackdown on the streets and in homes in Harare and Bulawayo.

At the heart of the story of Zimbabwe’s internet shutdown is this question: why do governments shut down the internet when faced with protests and civil unrest?

With guest Dr Anne Alexander, this podcast explores classic theories of the crowd and delves into Professor Gaston Gordillo’s concept of resonance to search for an answer.

Read the full story here and listen on Soundcloud.

Podcast by Orders in Decay

Interviewer and producer: Anoshamisa Gonye

Further reading