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Politicians out of touch with reality

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Events of the past week seem to suggest our senior politicians are completely out of touch with developments in the information age.

NewsDay Editorial

This is particularly sad in view of the fact that a huge chunk of our populace is now not only highly techno-savvy, but also have unlimited access to the internet.

Indeed social media – which sadly our politicians have no clue about – has changed the way the world is being run.

Gone are the days when information dissemination was the preserve of a privileged clique in the corridors of power.

Ignorance of how information is gathered and disseminated was on display last week after President Robert Mugabe’s unfortunate slip at Harare International Airport soon after he arrived from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

His triumphal entry, after being conferred with the chairmanship of the African Union, was marred by that fall.

His security details displayed their ignorance when they sought to delete images from photojournalists’ cameras.

Little did they realise cameras are no longer the preserve of just photojournalists. Almost anyone who attended Mugabe’s welcome had a camera on their phone.

Some of the images and videos that went viral on social media, in fact, indicate they were captured by close security details. No photojournalist is ever allowed to get that close to the President and his car to be able to take a photo from just behind Zim1, the President’s official vehicle.

What the security guys did not understand was that as soon at a picture is taken it can, at the touch of button, be uploaded into cyberspace; so by the time images were being deleted from cameras they were already going viral on the internet.

Mugabe’s spin doctors also displayed laughable ignorance; the spin that the president had been tripped by a bumpy carpet simply did not hold because videos captured showed there was no such bumpy carpet. Mugabe simply lost his step on the stairs.

The attempt at cover-up were lame and totally ludicrous.
But Morgan Tsvangirai’s ignorance surely must take the cake.
Last week he purported ban his party members from participating in social media groups because accusing them of abusing it. What can one make of such total functional illiteracy?

It is virtually impossible to enforce a social media ban at national political party level due to a number of factors.

Whatsapp groups are closed groups that can have up to 50 people and the administration of such groups is entirely in the hands of the closed group members, the same way the messages transmitted through these groups can only be read by the group members.

With Facebook groups, pages and personal accounts, a number of political party activists use pseudonyms and if at all any groups are closed as a result of the “ban” those who use them can simply open new accounts under new names.

A simple search on Facebook for any name can give over a dozen results, showing there can be many people operating accounts under  one name and there is no way, except hacking, of knowing the real people behind that.

That those who run social media accounts must obtain “forms” from the Tsvangirai’s office is not only vague and unrealistic, but it is also a clear sign of a failure to understand social media dynamics.

Starting a social media account is done at the click of a button and connecting with people happens in virtual space. It is, therefore, not possible to control the accounts that are run from across the world.

But very importantly, our politicians should know that it is no longer business as usual in politics.

Whatever they say or do will be recorded and disseminated throughout the world in a matter of seconds.

This is good for democracy mainly because the ruled have much easier access to unadulterated information which they can use to draw their own conclusions and information their own decisions.

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