Zimbabwe's government authorities have blamed comments and false news spread through social media for the country experiencing fuel price hikes. The sentiments were echoed by John Mangudya, Governor at at the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, and Fortune Chasi, Minister of Energy, when they appeared before Zimbabwe's  Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Energy.

They added that statements made through social media platforms led to the panic-buying of fuel resulting in price hikes.

“We are going to launch an investigation regarding transactions at fuel depots, misbehaviour and favouritism at service stations, where some people receive large amounts of fuel when there is a long queue and then it (gets) finished (quickly). We have seen all sorts of stories on social media and a lot of irresponsible behaviour by people, where we have seen pictures on WhatsApp of fuel said to be sold at $7,89 per litre and because of this, the public has panicked and rushed to buy fuel, thus creating shortages,” Chasi is reported to have said.

Social media regulation

It is always worrying to hear authorities across Africa blaming social media because what typically follows is regulation or shutting down of the Internet or social media. Zimbabwe itself is no stranger to Internet shutdowns. Earlier in 2019, on the second day of the #ShutdownZimbabwe protests against high standards of living, fuel price increases, and more, the country's authorities issued directives to telecommunications companies to completely cut off services on 15 January 2019. This was government's way of trying to quell the protests, however, they continued.

Beyond blaming social media, Chasi did offer some solutions to the price increases including the construction of a 6 million-litre ethanol storage facility which is currently being built to ensure the sustainability of the 1:20 ethanol blending, as well as looking at the introduction of solar-powered and hydrogen-powered vehicles.