Nqobile Tshili, Chronicle Correspondent
THE country was yesterday hit by an internet blackout that affected various sectors of the economy that largely depend on online connectivity for their operations.
The blackout started at about 11AM and mobile broadband services started operating at about 4PM with full internet access normalising around 6PM.
The blackout was reportedly caused by a truck that cut the fibre optic link that supplies the country in South Africa.
Traders were affected by the blanket disconnection as their clients could not make point of sale transactions because their machines were down. Money transfer agencies like Western Union and MoneyGram were grounded as well.
“We were completely isolated from the outside world. I panicked. I have rarely been without internet when I need it. Today I realised how much our lives revolve around the internet,” said Ms Zibusiso Blessings Dube of Mahatshula suburb. The Chronicle newsroom was inundated by callers who were eager to know what was happening.
“I can’t access Twitter or WhatsApp, my main sources of information,” lamented a caller who declined to give his name.
In an interview, the Minister of Information Communication Technology and Cyber Security Cde Supa Mandiwanzira said Government was concerned about the blackout as it affected the running of the country’s economy.
“We’re very concerned as Government that the people failed to get service for most of the day and that has hugely affected business. Internet banking wasn’t working, mobile banking wasn’t working. A lot of travel agents had been complaining, they couldn’t issue any tickets. Several Government services were not available because they are internet-based. So in way we are concerned to have such kind of a problem especially at this time,” said Cde Mandiwanzira.
He said the shutdown was caused by technical faults affecting local service providers.
Cde Mandiwanzira said he had assigned the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz) to investigate the issue and put in place measures to forestall similar disruptions in future.
“I as the minister have been talking to Liquid Telecom and TelOne who told me that they had a connectivity problem in South Africa where their fibre optic cable was cut off by a truck 17KM into South Africa,” said Cde Mandiwanzira.
“But we would have expected that the redundant services should have sprung into action but it seems they had some problems but through the regulator we will look into what the problems were and how this can be avoided in future.”
In a statement, TelOne apologised for the disruption in service provision saying it was normalising its internet connectivity services.
“This is due to faults that occurred on our main links through South Africa and Botswana. Our back-up link through Mozambique has remained active with limited connectivity.
“The link through Botswana has now been restored. We, however, still have limited connectivity as our major link through South Africa is still being worked on. Our partners and engineers are on the ground working to restore full service,” said TelOne.