BY EVANS MATHANDA
WITH the advancement of technology, Twitter has rapidly become a crucial communication tool for Zimbabwean politicians to convey their messages to the public, either to threaten or give general updates for their personal interest.
As of January 2021, social media statisticss in Zimbabwe reveal that Twitter has an average of 43% users, making it the most popular social media network as compared to other social media platforms. Below is a pie chat showing social media use statistics in Zimbabwe.
The permanent secretary for the Information, Media and Broadcasting Services ministry is one person who tweets everyday at intervals of about an hour, giving updates on national issues.
However, Mangwana has a tendency of dismissing information that leaks on Twitter and later backtracking following government’s official statements.
He is always grilled by his followers either for tweeting unverified information or for dismissing true information on Twitter. Mangwana has over 300 000 followers on Twitter.
Sometime in 2020, leader of the apostolic sect Johane Masowe weChishanu Madzibaba Emmanuel Mutumwa blasted Mangwana for accusing his church of breaking COVID-19 regulations.
This came after he tweeted accusing the sect of violating COVID-19 national lockdown regulations which prohibited gatherings of more than 50 people as a means to control the spread of the virus.
“An apostolic sect group of men and women is gathered for a service at Selbourne Park in Bulawayo this morning. Church gatherings are not yet allowed, Zimbabwe Republic Police has been alerted”, Mangwana tweeted.
This triggered heated debate on Twitter, but Mangwana did not withdraw his tweet, neither did he respond to questions that were directed to him on Twitter.
Presidential spokesperson George Charamba is known for issuing threats through sarcastic tweets on his handle (@Jamwanda2). Some have criticised his use of Twitter saying it’s not an appropriate platform for a presidential spokesperson to convey such kind of messages to the public.
Zimbabwean politicians take for granted that the internet will never forget their tweets. In one of his comments on Twitter, Charamba tweeted: “Vaudze!!!! Apa matumbu akati shaku nesadza reZanu PF; zvimota zvavo zvichiclocka 200km/hr muhighway yagadzirwa neZanu PF. In towns and cities, they misgovern, they barely move at 5km/hr!!! Dhemeti mhani!!”
He tweeted this following Zanu PF information director Tafadzwa Mugwadi’s interview with Zimbabwe Television Network (ZTN). Charamba uses Twitter to mock the opposition more than communicating developmental issues.
Opposition MDC Alliance president Nelson Chamisa is more visible on Twitter, but does he tweet sense?
Chamisa has more than 800 000 followers on Twitter, his followers go beyond all news publications in Zimbabwe.
Chamisa responds on very few instances when being grilled on Twitter unless he is praised or pushed to the edge and he does more of retweets than comments.
Most of his tweets are accompanied by a Biblical scripture: “We must multiply and spread … Oppression is inspiration to fight and demand true freedom.”
“But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread; so the (oppressors) Egyptians came to dread the (Oppressed) Israelites”. Exodus 1:12 #ResistDictatorship Sabbath”, one of his tweets read.
The former Chivi South MP has attracted so much traffic on his Twitter handle through his tweets that leave followers with more questions than answers over his political views. Is he a Zanu PF project? Today he is blasting Chamisa and tomorrow he is praising him.
“Why do you hate Advocate Chamisa, what is his problem, it’s not a crime to be loved by many and this guy has a lot of followers if you can’t accept it you will suffer from blood pressure and die, since 1980 he is the only young man who managed to fill up two stadiums in an hour.
“Don’t hate someone who is loved by the whole country.” Zivhu is also known for tweeting about his social life apart from politics.
MDC Alliance vice-president Tendai Biti’s tweets have in most cases exposed his weakness to control his temper.
Biti does not hesitate to hit a tweet button and probably he does not consider the public and his reputation when responding or sending a tweet.
A classic example is when he labelled people from Chipinge witches while responding to constitutional lawyer Lovemore Madhuku during a debate over the interpretation of a section of the Constitution.
The statement attracted heated debate on social media, leading to Biti pulling it down and saying he regretted his actions.
- Evans Mathanda is a journalist and development practitioner who writes in his capacity. For feedback email: email@example.com or call 0719770038 and Twitter @EvansMathanda19.