The Zanu PF arm of government is keen to suppress freedom of social media networks in Zimbabwe fearing for revolts like what happened in North Africa and the Middle East recently, a local regional newspaper editor said last week.
Editor of Masvingo Mirror, a regional paper in Masvingo province, Golden Maunganidze, told attendants during his presentation in the House of Democracy and Human Rights in Berlin, Germany, the government was keen to suppress the social media to silence independent voices.
The discussion, which was held last week was organised by Initiative Southern Africa based in Germany.
“The media in Zimbabwe has always been under stern hands that have been keen to suppress independent voices,” Maunganidze said.
“Given a number of repressive laws put across by ‘media hangmen’ keen to silence particularly the independent Press, the coming in of the social media has not helped any matters,” he said giving examples of recent arrests of Vikas Mavhudzi from Bulawayo, who posted a message on Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s Facebook wall, allegedly encouraging him to take over power using the North African uprisings.
Mavhudzi was arrested and detained for 35 days facing charges of “advocating or attempting to take-over government by unconstitutional means”.
Mavhudzi had posted on Tsvangirai’s wall saying: “I am overwhelmed, I don’t know what to say Mr PM. What happened in Egypt is sending shockwaves to dictators around the world. No weapon, but unity of purpose. Worth emulating, hey.”
Maunganidze also cited MDC99 president Job Sikhala as an example — after he was arrested for posting a “controversial statement” on his Facebook wall.
Maunganidze, however, said what happened in North Africa where the Internet was used to overthrow governments might not be the solution and would not be possible in Zimbabwe.
“Zimbabweans therefore, seem to be generally afraid of being arrested or tortured by the police for things they can avoid,” he said.
Maunganidze said statements attributed to Zanu PF’s Herbert Murerwa, who is also Lands and Resettlement minister recently that the government was aware the West was using the social media to effect regime changes in Africa, was testimony of the government’s keenness to justify repression of freedom of even the social media.