A few weeks ago, President Mugabe decided that the abuse of social media in his country had reached an unbearable height and as such needed to be curtailed with a social media plan.
His anger had apparently risen after a video of him from a visit to Tokyo, where he had supposedly been standing and nodding in agreement to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, surfaced. The video had been shared widely on social media and most of its sharers had insisted that he was sleeping on his feet.
He therefore came back to the country and angrily gave a nod towards a China style regulation that would see social media in the country closely monitored. Communications Minister Supa Mandiwanzira said that supervision of the internet was imminent and the state said it was already drawing up legal and policy documents to restrict information communication technologies, while local web developers had been set to the task of designing products similar to social media applications, only tailored for Zimbabwe.
Why Zimbabwe Will Suffer from This Social Media Plan
Mugabe’s government in 2002 had already brought in tough press laws that led to the arrest of dozens of local journalists and a safe internet space had become one of the only places that people could freely share their views and inform one another on the happening in their country and it must be admitted, that there is quite a lot happening in Zimbabwe.
Regulating social media in the country with this social media plan would be akin to taking away the people’s voice and even as bad as that is, there are still other necessary considerations like the fact that many Zimbabweans use social media to network and find business and scholarship opportunities around the world. Zimbabweans in the diaspora also stay connected to the happenings in their country via these means.
Skeptics on the entire issue abound, as people insist that there are too many pressing things on hand for the government to handle without concerning themselves with social media regulation. These skeptics must however realize that it would not be the first time in Africa that a country has had lesser priority issues brought to the forefront because they threatened the government.
Zimbabweans need to stand together and ensure that this social media regulation remains a mere government threat, much like Nigerians did when a bill for social media regulation was put before their senate.
If they do not and President Mugabe and his government have their way, we are sure to have a Zimbabwe with a one-sided narrative, one where the government will be painted in an unnatural light, where everything they do will be considered right and where any differing narrative would be got at a risk to the sharer’s skin.