Posted at 1:03 PM on July 16, 2008
by Sanden Totten
Zimbabwe has been having a lot of problems lately. A sketchy election, violence and astronomical inflation. Along with all that, it has become pert near impossible to get a call through to the country.
I've been trying to get someone in Zimbabwe on the line for our show and I keep running into a wall of busy signals! I've dialed the country so many times I feel like a telemarketer desperately trying to make quota. The few times I have gotten through the conversation hasn't lasted long before the connection goes dead.
So far this is what I've learned: the phones are failing for two reasons. First, the infrastructure is shoddy and the government has no money to fix it. When things are mended, they often fall back into disrepair in a matter of hours!
Second, the government is clogging the whole system with their new "Chinese equipment" (that's how one former Zimbabwean described it to me). Mugabe's men have been blocking shortwave radio coming into the country (you know, as part of their whole, preventing free access to news and information thing). The "Chinese equipment" they bought to do it has gummed up cell phone reception across the country.
To top it all off, the Zanu-PF folks have given themselves free rein to check in on people's phone calls, e-mails . . . whatever they want. So when people can use the phones, they have to avoid saying anything that might draw the wrath of their government.
Just when Zimbabwe could use a life line the most, the call gets dropped.
Hmm...is the Zimbabwean government monitoring Skype conversations as well? Skype rulez. Though I suppose if Mugabe is blocking radio signals, he probably isn't too keen on high-speed DSL...
Hmmm, Skype isn't a bad idea if you have a decent internet connection. I wonder how secure Skype is compared to regular phone line. I should check with some of my more conspiracy theory minded friends to see if they think Skype is a better option.
Suggest you try Sokwanele (if you haven't) - email them, its on their website. Maybe they would be able to assist you.
There is also London-based SW Radio Africa and The Zimbabwean online newspaper.