Social media can change face of Zim elections

HARARE - As fearful as we all are about elections in 2013 after the horrors of 2008 which left hundreds dead and thousands on the run, there’s no doubt that a great deal has changed in Zimbabwe since then.

Top of the list most recently, must be Baba Jukwa.  

It’s become almost impossible to write an accurate account about the supersonic surge of Facebook character Baba Jukwa’s followers.

Launching his page on March 22, 2013 Baba Jukwa has gone viral in the nine weeks since then.

A fortnight ago there were 80 000 Baba Jukwa followers, last week it hovered just under 100 000 and from then on Baba Jukwa’s popularity has been jumping by over a thousand new people every day.

It’s at 117 000 as I write and growing by the minute because everyone wants to know what people in positions of power and responsibility are really up to in Zimbabwe.

On Thursday last week Baba Jukwa posted a message calling for even more followers: “Zimbabwe today is operation “tell 10 people” in rural areas without fail to like and follow Baba Jukwa’s page. It’s easy, you direct them to visit pages you liked in your profile and do the same. Students in boarding schools please utilise this opportunity and spread the word.”

Baba Jukwa isn’t afraid of naming names, giving out cellphone numbers, exposing dirty deeds, corruption, brutality and more.

No one’s safe from Baba Jukwa’s pen— governors, politicians and diamond barons are being named and exposed as are members of the CIO, army and police.

Corrupt headmasters have come into Baba Jukwa’s spotlight along with others who have their hands in the till in public departments.

Baba Jukwa gives names, cellphone numbers and sometimes even address of people being exposed and urges Zimbabweans to phone those numbers and demand explanations for the bad things they have been doing.

Baba Jukwa has become Zimbabwe’s Big Brother: always listening, always watching, leaving wrong-doers with nowhere to hide.

Ordinary Zimbabweans can’t get enough of social media sites and communication appliances and because of this, the crude “big stick” election tactics of 2008 aren’t going to be anywhere as easy as they were in 2008.

We’ve come of age and the numbers speak for themselves.

In 2008 you couldn’t buy a cellphone SIM card anywhere except on the black market where it was going for an equivalent of around $150 dollars or even more.

Today you can buy from a vendor on the side of the road for a single dollar and a simple cellphone for as little as $35.

Since the 2008 elections cellphone density has soared.

At the end of December 2012 Econet had over eight million subscribers, Telecel had 2,5 million subscribers and  Net*One had two million.

In a country with a population of 13 million — that equates to a cellphone density of 97 percent.
With 97 percent of people in Zimbabwe having a cellphone in their pocket, nothing will ever be the same again in another election in our country.

A cellphone to send text messages to friends warning them of political violence, of roving militant groups or torture bases.

Cellphones for taking and passing on photographs of perpetrators of violence, for sending and receiving video and audio clips of threats, intimidation and harassment.

Thanks to the little gadgets in our pockets, dirty election deeds that were once hidden secrets can now be exposed to the world instantly at the pushing of a couple of little buttons.

As for dark secrets, as Baba Jukwa says at the end of many of his Fabebook postings, it is finished: “Asijiki.” - Cathy Buckle

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