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HARARE, July 8 (Xinhua) -- Social media played a big role in the staging of a mass job stayaway called by civil society throughout the country this week, despite an unexplained brief interruption in services.

In addition to the private media which reported extensively about the proposed stayaway, thousands of workers heeded calls made by organizers largely through WhatsApp and Facebook and did not turn up for work.

In public places and offices, people had been exchanging information obtained from social media regarding the pending job action to protest the deterioration of living conditions and corruption, with some arguing for and others against it.

Some schools also used media platforms to advise parents to make a choice between either sending their children to school or keeping them at home.

People were also giving nationwide updates via social media on the situation on the ground, with a few skirmishes reported in Harare's Mufakose high density suburb and in the country's second biggest city of Bulawayo in the south.

Among the organizers are a group rallying behind the name #ThisFlag led by Pastor Evan Mawarire and another calling itself #tajamuka (slang for "we are protesting").

Spokesman for #tajamuka Promise Mkwananzi was quoted by Byo24News as saying that the stayaway was "the beginning of a historic process in ensuring the transformation and regeneration of our country".

"We will no longer be divided by the politics of our country but we shall be united by the dreams of our children," Mawarire said in a message flighted on WhatsApp and Facebook.

The 39-year-old pastor has said in an earlier interview that he started the #ThisFlag movement as a result of the frustrations he was enduring because of the harsh economic environment prevailing in the country.

He made a video of himself in early May explaining the meanings of the Zimbabwean flag's different features and how the aspirations were not been met and posted it on social media.

This marked the beginning of a cyber citizen protest, which has found sympathy among many people who have rallied behind him and want to see the government improve their living conditions and fight corruption.

The government has however dismissed him, saying that he is an attention seeker and warned that all those who "abuse" social media will be dealt with.

Suspicions were rife that the government was responsible for the four-hour disruption in internet services Wednesday as it sought to curtail the flow of messages via social media.

Mawarire said the disruption was not accidental and had shown that the government had been shaken by the proposed stay away.

However, Information and Communication Technology Minister Supa Mandiwanzira quickly dissociated the government from the hiccup.

Government owned fixed line telephone and internet provider TelOne acknowledged that its internet service was down most of the morning and apologized to its customers.

The country's largest mobile network Econet also confirmed that WhatsApp was down in the morning but would also not give reasons.

As the people suspected that internet had deliberately been blocked, they engaged each other and shared information on how they could by-pass the problem by installing VPN on their smartphones.

Authorities have issued a strong warning against using social media to cause social upheaval.

The Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe and service providers said they had noted with concern "the gross irresponsible use of social media and telecommunications services" through their platforms.

"We would like all Zimbabweans to know that we are completely against this behaviour and therefore advise that anyone generating, passing on or sharing such abusive and subversive materials which are tantamount to criminal behaviour, will be disconnected and the law will take its course," the statement said.

They warned it would not be difficult to apprehend culprits since all sim cards are registered in the names of the users and so they could easily be identified.

With elections due in 2018, it is anticipated that more people will be having access to social media, where WhatsApp constitutes about 34 percent of all mobile internet traffic in Zimbabwe, with Facebook sitting at 3 percent while a smaller percentage is on Twitter.

Techzim, a local news blog, said with an increasing use of social media for politically minded discussion, all politicians needed to start cultivating strategies around the more popular platforms.

"This could be anything from starting a page, joining Twitter and answering questions or shooting videos to pass on that vision that has been articulated on paper," it said.

"The landscape has changed and whoever wants to be crowned king in their own domain cannot afford to overlook this (social media revolution)," it added.

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