THE opaque beer mug was passed from one man to the next, as they dug the grave to bury a neighbour that had died at 94. From their animated conversation, punctuated by the thuds of picks and shovels, one could tell that the men from Mutiweshiri, deep in rural Wedza, were abreast with what was happening in the country.
BY JAIROS SAUNYAMA
Those who had travelled from the cities for the funeral, unlike many years before, were forced to listen, as their role of delivering fresh news to the rural areas in years gone by had been taken over by something as simple as a cell phone.
“The army has taken over. (Former President Robert) Mugabe has been given time to think about it and resign. He has no option,” Cornelius Madzikatire (64) told his colleagues, wiping off dregs of the opaque brew from his lips with the back of his hand.
“(Emmerson) Mnangagwa is the next man. The problem is that Mugabe is taking too long to step down. The people have spoken through the solidarity march that Mugabe is no longer wanted by the masses.”
Madzikatire is one of the rural folks, who have enjoyed the benefits of Information, Communication and Technologies (ICTs) in the country’s rural outposts.
ICTs in the country are fast becoming the in-thing with even those in the rural areas now owning flashy mobile phones and get information on social media.
With Madzikatire boasting of knowing the solidarity march occurring about 286km from his farm, thousands of people were coming together through the social media.
Zimbabweans were brought together through social media platforms before converging in the capital for a massive solidarity protest at Zimbabwe Grounds and State House to force 93-year old Mugabe to relinquish power. To many, it was the power of ICTs that helped bring the new dispensation.
Award winning freelance journalist, Tinashe Muchuri said ICTs played a crucial role in ushering in the new dispensation.
He also cited how the social media fights involving the likes of former Higher and Tertiary Education minister Jonathan Moyo and former Zanu PF political commissar, Saviour Kasukuwere throwing pot shots at Mnangagwa significantly contributed to the collapse of Mugabe’s hegemony on power.
“Social media fights between Jonathan Moyo and Mnagngagwa created an unsteady situation in the country to the extent that it prepared the country to stand against Mugabe when the opportunity was granted by the military,” he said.
Moyo used his Twitter account for his political agenda, attracting a lot of followers, while both State and private media would monitor it to get scoops.
Both the army and Zanu PF reprimanded Moyo, one of the leaders of the G40 cabal, on the use of his Twitter account after it had become so popular among those in cyber space.
Moyo’s obsession with social media and retaliatory messages from the party and army brewed up to tension.
United Kingdom based ICT expert, Samuel Chindaro said it is now the time for the new dispensation to fight social vices like corruption.
“The biggest impediment to progress as highlighted by the President (Mnangagwa) is corruption, and ICT can be a very effective tool in fighting this vice. The implementation of e-government as advocated for by Mnangagwa will go a long way in fighting corruption,” he said.
“With e-government comes transparency and accountability. This includes an internet or an ICT based tax revenue collection system for example. This eliminates human-interaction and minimizes opportunities for bribery and corruption,” he added.
During his last Cabinet reshuffle, Mugabe set up the Cyber Security ministry in a bid to monitor social media abuse by the citizens.
However, the new President pulled down the ministry and placed it under a department within the Supa Mandiwanzira led Information, Communication and Technology ministry.
Chindaro said despite the growing use of ICTs, there is need for cyber security to monitor abuse of social media platforms to avoid unrests.
“Unfortunately, ICT development comes with other issues linked to cyber-crime and cyber security. Cyber-crime comes in the form of attacks against individuals, organisations or other countries. The public need to be educated about the various forms and dangers of cyber-crime.
“To safeguard the country against cyber-crime, it is vital to promote the culture of cyber security among stakeholders, notably government, companies, CSOs and international organisations operating in the country to develop, manage and use information systems. The government should find a balance between respect for human rights and freedom of expression without exposing the country and general public to the dangers associated with mis-use of social media,” he said.
Zimbabwe’s remote areas are no exception and e-life has become the way of life, not only in the homes, but in the fields, and as well as by the graveside.
To Madzikatire, the time is over for his son in the capital to be the source of news each time he travels to the farm.