MTN Group said on Friday that it had taken legal action to end the shutdown of the internet in Eswatini. Photo: REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde/File Photo
MTN Group said on Friday that it had taken legal action to end the shutdown of the internet in Eswatini. Photo: REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde/File Photo

MTN takes urgent legal action to end internet shutdown in Eswatini

By Dineo Faku Time of article published Jul 5, 2021

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MTN GROUP said on Friday that it had taken legal action to end the shutdown of the internet in Eswatini.

MTN confirmed that MTN Eswatini had been cited as one of several respondents in an urgent court application in Eswatini, which sought, among other measures, the immediate restoration of internet services in the country.

The Eswatini Communications Commission issued a directive to MTN Eswatini and other operators to cease access to social media and online platforms until further notice.

“After carefully assessing the directive, and in line with its licence conditions and the group’s digital human rights due diligence framework, MTN Eswatini implemented the directive. MTN Eswatini continues to engage with relevant stakeholders to limit the duration of the service disruption and is reviewing the details of the court application in consultation with its advisers,” said MTN.

The group said it was committed to respecting human rights and endeavours to protect the rights of all people who use our services in the jurisdictions in which we operate in accordance with globally defined standards.

“Our approach to digital human rights is underpinned by a sound policy and due diligence framework and is managed through multidisciplinary teams across our markets,” MTN said.

Tensions were high in Eswatini amid days of prodemocracy protests. Africa’s biggest food retailer, Shoprite, said the current protest action in Eswatini had forced the closure of several of its supermarkets with severe damage to both stores and delivery vehicles.

“We are highly concerned about the senseless acts of malicious damage which have disrupted the food supply chain in the country and puts the livelihood, lives and safety of others at risk,” the supermarket chain said.

Shoprite said concerns for the safety and security of employees and customers remain of utmost importance and the situation is being monitored closely.

Eswatini’s acting Prime Minister, Themba Masuku, said the riots had degenerated into criminality and were infringing on many basic and social rights of Eswatini citizens, including but not limited to food security, safety, health care and business.

“The damage to property that has occurred does not only affect livelihoods but also further puts the kingdom’s efforts to mitigate and minimise the economic challenges brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic in jeopardy. The property and infrastructure that has been destroyed is the bedrock of any thriving and sustainable economy. We continue to appeal for people to refrain from looting and damaging infrastructure,” Masuku said.

He also said the issues that were being raised had been received and are getting the necessary attention with the seriousness they deserve, and it did not warrant the actions that are currently taking place.

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