Referendum: Hyper activity online

HARARE - Activity on social media shot through the roof as Zimbabweans took to Facebook and Twitter to express their feelings about yesterday’s referendum.

The referendum is Zimbabwe’s first plebiscite to receive such digital response.

With cellphone penetration at 74 percent, according to telecoms regulator Potraz, sharing experiences through social media appeared the in thing yesterday.

In a country which has improved radically in the use of the Internet and social networking sites, people were keeping each other updated online.

From ministers, activists, to the ordinary folk —people made use of the Internet and many issues arose from the on the ground “observers”.

People were on the pulse as issues of “aliens”, people encouraging each other to vote, small queues and poor voter turn-out were buzzing.

Some even uploaded their “pink” fingers as evidence of having voted, particularly the young — most of whom were first time voters.

Organisations such as Radio Dialogue were not left out and tweeted: “Some youth in Umguza claim they do not have IDs and they have urged thec registrar’s office to decentralise.”

The station tweeted again around 10:30 am: “Election observer says 36 people have been turned away at the Bulawayo City Hall — aliens and those with drivers licences.”

Journalist Lance Guma around 11 am tweeted: “After today we will not have a president who is in power for more than two terms (10 years). We say bye to the Mugabe madness of 33 years.”

 “I have just voted ‘yes’ at Chaminuka Primary School in St Mary’s in Chitungwiza,” Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai tweeted at mid-morning.

His rival-cum-coalition partner Welshman Ncube wrote on Facebook: “At 8:30 this morning I and my daughters Noma and Nobuhle cast our votes at Courtney Selous Primary School in Greendale, Harare. I voted ‘yes’ for the new constitution not because the draft constitution is better than the current constitution but because it is in fact a very good constitution by any standard.

I can say this without any doubt as someone who spent the greater part of his young adult life teaching Constitutional Law and Comparative Constitutions.

“You will not find many constitutions which are in totality better than the draft. We should never let the quest for an ideal utopian constitution be the enemy of a realistic and good constitution. The Americans have the expression do not let the perfect be the enemy of the good. It is for this reason that I urge those who have not yet voted to go and vote “yes”.

“Let the challenge of the future not be whether or not we have a good constitution but be of ensuring that our political and governance practices measure up to the letter and spirit of the new constitution.”

Opposition leader Job Wiwa Sikhala, who was part of a movement opposed to the draft wrote on his Facebook page: “Just completed the most satisfying vote of my lifetime. And it is nice to vote for voting what you want. A “NO” vote satisfied my love for my country. I love Zimbabwe and my country is too beautiful to be taken for granted.”

From the look of things, social media is likely to be hyper active in the forthcoming elections. It has become a medium for politicians to communicate with the masses.

According to European Business Review, during the 2008 United States of America presidential elections Barrack Obama’s campaign garnered 5 million supporters on social networks.

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