By Byron Mutingwende
The social media has revolutionised communication and has become a cheaper way for young people to access information.
This emerged at the campaign “Budding Voices Debates and Dialogue Series” being run by the Youth Empowerment and Transformation Trust (YETT) on Friday 6 July 2018.
Media personality, Acie Lumumba said the social media was emerging as the only place where young people were freely expressing themselves on matters to do with politics, a hot potato in Zimbabwe.
“With just $3 one can go for up to a month on WhatsApp or Facebook. It’s cheaper to access information on social media than anywhere else. One can reach those who are registered to vote or the unregistered at any particular point in time.
“Through the use of social media, we achieved a record 2, 5 million registered voters who are under the age of 40 years. We should never underestimate the power of social media. Through volcanic social media noises, former President Robert Mugabe was disposed from his position and so was former education minister, Lazarus Dokora,” Lumumba said.
Political activist, Savanna Madamombe, through her social media page the Citizen, she was creating a voice for the citizens.
“I am one who understands social media to the fullest. In that regard, I amplify what the citizens should be concerned about. Social media is a community that has different sections from politicians to news, comedians and drama. It is important to use social media to change and alter our lives. The social media collapses all borders and barriers. In the same vein, I was based in New York but actively participated in the politics of Zimbabwe through social media,” Madamombe said.
Attempts to stifle the free flow of information on social media by the authorities are often a futile undertaking. Thomas Madhuku, the Editor of 263Chat said social media is a key vehicle for disseminating news.
“We use social media to amplify and share news links as well as stories for the day. That way, we will be informing people so that they can make informed decisions and cross-check the facts about events in the country. Social media shapes opinions as people are given the opportunity to compare and verify news sources,” Madhuku said.
Samm Farai Monroe, popularly known as Cde Fatso, the past few years had seen an increase in access to social media through use of mobile devices as a source of information for young people. He cited a media campaign that forced mobile network operators to reverse an increase in the price of data as one form of the power that social media has in influencing change. Their offices in Harare were also saved from being demolished by the city council following a massive social media campaigns against the move.
Patience Zirima from the Media Monitoring project Zimbabwe (MMPZ) said there was need to teach people the responsible use of social media and allow the users to regulate themselves. Any attempt to regulate its use would be akin to suppression of freedom of expression, she said.
However, Lumumba warned that giving people unfettered freedom might lead to abuse where people would propagate fake news, circulate revenge pornography and promote terror activities and at times, violate the respect of privacy. In that regard, it was important to come up with laws that protect the dignity of children, the sick and relationships, he added.
Meanwhile, YETT has launched a mobile application called Ballot Buddies with electoral related information that is available on Google Play Store and IOS operating systems, among other platforms. The mobile application has been hailed as a one-stop shop for all election related information.