Publisher: Intellect Books

Examining The Contribution of Social Media In Reinforcing Political Participation In Zimbabwe

Bruce Mutsvairo, Lys-anne Sirks
KEYWORDS: Zimbabwe,Jukwa,social media,political participation,Facebook

ABSTRACT:

It normally is assumed that new media activism, in the wake of the ‘Arab Spring’ political protests in the Middle East, has the potential to promote and effectively enable social and political changes in contemporary societies. However, nowhere does the influence of the digital explosion appear somehow exaggerated as in the case of Africa, where lack of empirical evidence has seen policy-makers, commentators and journalists making extraordinary conclusions justifying the Internet’s perceived potential to shape political processes on the continent. This article questions this notion through an online ethnographic assessment of Zimbabwean blogger Baba Jukwa’s Facebook webpage, which became a prominent platform for the anti-Robert Mugabe establishment up until its sudden withdrawal from the web in August 2014. At its peak, the webpage became a meeting point for activists opposed to Zimbabwe’s long-time president as the anonymous blogger shared what he (assuming he was a man) claimed were juicy state secrets with the rest of the world. His pronouncements especially ahead of the 2013 elections gave hope to opposition campaigners that the era of a man, who has ruled Zimbabwe since 1980, was coming to an abrupt end. Calls were then made suggesting that the presence of the historic page was buttressing democratic participation as Zimbabweans from across the world converged on the blog discussing issues of mutual interest. The findings of our research, however, give a different picture, concluding rather that in spite of the page’s ability to encourage Zimbabweans to openly discuss and share thoughts, there simply is no evidence that Baba Jukwa had helped facilitate increased democratic participation in the country.



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