Is social media popularity giving opposition false sense of success?

By Nompumelelo Sibanda

SIPHOSAMI Malunga, a lawyer and Executive Director of the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA), believes playing politics on social media creates a false sense of achievement as the Facebook “likes” and Twitter retweets never turn into actual votes.

Malunga, son of the late veteran liberation truffle icon Sydney Malunga, acknowledges the power possessed by social media as a tool for democratic expression, but reckons that there is a clear danger that it creates a  false sense of accomplishment.

“Clicking “like” or “retweet” alone can create a false sense of accomplishment. Beyond it what else can you do?” said Malunga, who has been very vocal about human rights abuses by State players in Zimbabwe as well as underdevelopment especially in the Midlands and Matebeleland regions.

“When we are done talking about the revolutionary role of social media for democratic expression, we’ll have to talk about the false sense of activism that it can create,” Malunga added.

But for many Zimbabweans, subjected to one national television station and half a dozen national radio stations, most of whom are owned by pro-Zanu-PF institutions, social media might be the only voice of expression they have.

Human Rights Watch director for Southern Africa, Dewa Mavhinga, concurs with Malunga and urged the opposition to consider a type of politics that is beyond the usual social media hashtags and press statements.

“… the tendency to go to court for political solutions. Apart from the courts, social media and press statements, what else can be done to press for rights respect and democracy?” Mavhinga queried.

Others called for the creation of a fund that will help with legal representation for ordinary who go to the frontline defending the rights of others, as many Zimbabweans could be scared to partake in active politics because of risk of jail and loss of incomes for their families.

While the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) has often stood up for the rights of political activists, observers told the Zimbabwe Voice that unless one was a popular figure, ZLHR rarely comes to the rescue.

“My relative in Kadoma is still wallowing in jail over the January 2019 fuel price hike protests, while those who urged him to protest got ZLHR lawyers and are with their families.

“His wife has since left him and the kids have shuffled from one school to another. He’s now just a convenient statistics, yet all he wanted was to protest an injustice of the time,” a Kadoma woman told this publication.

Thandekile Moyo, a media practitioner, believes that only a revolution, a bare-knuckle take on of the authorities, can rescue the rights of Zimbabweans from being trampled.

But with the majority hiding behind their keypads while political leaders find comfort in getting “likes” and retweets, a lot of water will have to flow under the Gwayi River before real democracy comes through. – Zimbabwe Voice 🔺

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