By Canisius Mushibwe
Just days after the Zambian Government threatened to shut down the Internet, social media platforms became inaccessible on election day.
Zambia reported an impressive turnout of voters countrywide with polling stations receiving voters as early as 11:00 PM central African time, that is the eve of voting day.
The polls commenced at 06:00 AM and closed 12 hours later with Facebook and WhatsApp platforms being restricted at around midday.
Netblocks, an Internet monitoring organization, confirmed the social media platforms had been restricted.
At the moment, Zambians have resorted to bypassing the restrictions by installing various virtual private network (VPN) software and applications in a bid to access the platforms.
Netblocks noted that most Internet suppliers reported restricted access to the messaging platforms.
On social media platforms, renowned bloggers and celebrities were reported typing “VPN”… “which country are you commenting from?” while social media users replied to be in various countries across the world.
It is still unclear when access will be restored as people continue using VPN software.
Many Zambians also took it to Twitter to notify the public that social media platforms had been restricted during the polls.
The move has been alleged to be a plot by the incumbent Patriotic Front (PF) government to clinch onto power by rigging the votes.
At the same time, Facebook pages like the Zambian Watchdog have already published videos of suspected PF agents being caught with already marked ballot papers in some polling stations.
The social media shutdown has raised eyebrows and people are alert to see if any vital information pertaining to the elections will be restricted.
President Edgar Lungu faces stiff competition from Hakainde Hichilema.
Earlier in the week, information circulated on social media claiming the Government would shut down the Internet during the election period.
But Zambia’s ministry of broadcasting permanent secretary Amos Malupenga denied the claims.
Later, the ministry, however, threatened to do so in order to maintain security during elections.