It is now a reality that Zimbabwe is headed for elections, and the techno-savvy among the country’s politicians have taken to social media as they explore new campaign strategies primarily targeted at young people who constitute the bulk of potential voters.
REPORT BY PHILLIP CHIDAVAENZI
The country’s youths spend lots of time on the internet and social media: Facebook, Twitter and Blogger among others and these have become a target area for vote-hungry politicians.
Bulawayo East legislator David Coltart (MDC), who is very active on social media, recently opened a Facebook page titled David Coltart Campaign 2013 which provides information on the forthcoming elections, voter registration centres and his re-election campaign. By yesterday, the page had secured 479 likes.
Jessie Fungayi Majome
(MDC-T), Harare west legislator, runs a very active Facebook page, which goes by her name, through which she constantly interacts with residents in her constituency.
Through the site, residents in the constituency are able to track their parliamentary representative.
Majome also uses the Facebook page to facilitate effective representation of her constituency.
“Dear Harare Westerners. The awful Bloomingdale and Ashdown Park electricity blackout is back again for three days! In this cold weather! Thanks Chinhoyi Resident for alerting me.
“I’ll follow up with the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority to see what is being done. Just when we have processed the Electricity Amendment Bill in Parliament to streamline by unbundling the Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company, thereby separating electricity transmission and commercial supply of it .
“That should result in greater efficiency, meanwhile, let’s follow up these faults,” she wrote.
Following her successful nomination to represent the party again in Harare West, Majome took to Twitter on June 28.
Youth Development Minister and MP for Mt Darwin South, Saviour Kasukuwere (Zanu PF) is also another techno-savvy, youthful legislator who commands a 2 498 and 6 635—strong following on Facebook and Twitter respectively.
Kasukuwere has recently been using his Twitter account to campaign for President Robert Mugabe.
One of his most recent posts was an open invitation for people to come and attend the launch of Zanu PF election campaign and manifesto.
Former MP for Hatfield Tapiwa Mashakada is also active on Facebook and Twitter. But his use of the social media platforms has been confined to his ministry’s work and the same goes for Elton Mangoma (Makoni North), Tendai Biti (Harare East) — who has 10 000 likes on Facebook, Nelson Chamisa (Kuwadzana) and Eric Matinenga (Buhera).
Biti has also used the platforms to beef up Tsvangirai’s political fortunes.
In one instance, he wrote on Facebook: “I spent hours with the PM yesterday in two very challenging meetings, but his patience, kindness, fairness and ability to hear and be heard never ceases to amaze me.
“I think that humility is the greatest quality of leadership and this man has it in surplus. This is the kind of leader that Zimbabwe has never had, maybe during the rein of Garfield Todd.”
Zanu PF’s legislators have also been part of the bandwagon, notably its young turks such as Walter Mzembi (Masvingo South) and Supa Mandiwanzira (aspiring for Nyanga South).
Psychology Maziwisa, the Zanu PF deputy information director, commands 8 379 Facebook likes.
Maziwisa has occasionally used the platform to throw potshots at the MDC-T.
Multimedia expert John Mokwetsi said apart from its ability to lure the youth vote, politicians have realised the potential of social networking sites in reaching a wider audience.
“Due to the short notice of the election date, politicians have realised that social networks can give them the reach they need.
“The country has a mobile penetration rate of 97% and uptake of the Internet has risen significantly,” he said.
He cited cases of the shadowy character, Baba Jukwa, whose following on social networks has risen sharply within a very short space of time.