Officials of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF are said to have blocked introduction by leading mobile provider Econet of full BlackBerry smart-phone service for fear its simultaneous messaging feature could be used by dissidents to foment revolt.
The BlackBerry message service was a key technology in the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt which brought down their respective governments earlier this year.
News reports said Information and Communications Technology Minister Nelson Chamisa had approved Econet's rollout of the BlackBerry system, but implementation has been blocked by ZANU-PF regulators of the country's communications sector.
Chamisa was quoted as complaining that “securophobia mutating into technophobia” is hindering local technological progress. He told VOA that colleagues in ZANU-PF thought he was pushing a regime change agenda by approving the Blackberry technology.
He said the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority has been refusing to grant authorization. An Econet spokesperson was not available for comment.
Mobile technician Joe Ngqabutho Ncube of Bulawayo said BlackBerry phones are in use in Zimbabwe but do not have the messaging features used in Tunisia and Egypt.
Commentator Charles Mangongera said he doubted the BlackBerry service would have any significant impact on the Zimbabwean political landscape given the force with which ZANU-PF controlled security forces would come down on any attempted rebellion.