South African tractor slices through Zimbabwe's internet fibre

By:
Alan Burkitt-Gray
Published on:

Zimbabwe back online after being cut off for hours as two cross-border fibres are cut

Zimbabwe lost almost all of its internet access for nearly six hours this week when two of the country’s international fibre connections were cut.

According to Liquid Telecom, customers in Zambia and parts of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) were also affected by the loss of service.

“We apologise to affected customers in Zimbabwe, Zambia and parts of DRC for the unexpected interruption of our internet service,” said Liquid Telecom. “This was due to cuts on primary and secondary fibre routes near the South Africa Zimbabwe border. Both fibre breaks are fixed and now back in service.”

According to local media in Zimbabwe, the first cut occurred when a tractor cut through a fibre in the Limpopo province of South Africa, close to the border.

But shortly afterwards there was a second failure, this time to TelOne’s cable into Botswana, which was used as a back-up to the main Liquid Telecom connection.

TelOne said later: “Our back-up link through Botswana has since been restored and together with the link through Mozambique we are operating at 50% capacity. Our partners in South Africa and TelOne engineers here in Zimbabwe are on the ground working to restore full service on the said major link.”

The main South African connection was restored about four and a half hours after the tractor did its damage. Liquid Telecom has about an 80% share of internet connectivity into Zimbabwe.

Customers of mobile operators – including Econet Wireless, part of the same group that owns Liquid Telecom – were affected by the cuts.

The company said: “Econet Wireless apologises to its valued customers for the data outage … resulting in customers being unable to access the internet and related data services on our network. A company spokesman said the outage was due a technical fault which has since been resolved. Econet sincerely apologises for any inconvenience caused.”

Communications minister Supa Mandiwanzira told Harare’s Daily News that the government was upset. “The country cannot experience a shutdown at a time when we actually should be focusing on enabling business. The internet is key in enabling business and doing transactions.”