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By Killing the Internet, Zimbabwe Kills Commerce and the Lights

People walk in darkness in Chitungwiza.

People walk in darkness in Chitungwiza.

Photographer: Mary Turner/Getty Images

When the Zimbabwean government ordered internet service providers to shutter parts of the web in an effort to curb anti-government protests, it also plunged homes into darkness because people can’t pay their utilities online.

Most people in the southern African nation use Econet Wireless Zimbabwe Ltd.’s Ecocash mobile-phone payment system for daily transactions. They buy electricity in units of $5 or less and almost all domestic users are on prepaid meters, so many buy for $1 at a time.