Social media: the new political battleground

By Lovemore Ranga Mataire

Former liberation movements in southern Africa have resolved to vigorously utilise the social media platforms to disseminate ideas and capture the younger voters who have made such platforms the mainstay of their daily interactions.

In an exclusive interview after attending a meeting of former liberation movements in Angola last week, Zanu-PF’s secretary for administration Dr Ignatius Chombo acknowledged being slow in taking advantage of social media to reach out to youths and the general populace with access to the Internet.

“We were also discussing ways in which we can use the mushrooming social media phenomenon to our advantage because the enemy is also using social media. So we discussed strategies to use social media to advance the cause of our countries,” Dr Chombo said. On possible of abuse of the social media by party members, Dr Chombo said it was the duty of former liberation movements to ensure that such platforms were not abused.

He said there must be rules governing the use of social media by members of the former liberation members and society in general.

“You can’t just use social media to insult other people, spread falsehoods, rumours and so forth. Members of our own party who abuse social media, who use social media for whatever reasons, must be dealt with accordingly,” he said.

Dr Chombo said there was need for former liberation movements which are ruling parties in their countries to acquire the requisite financial muscle and other resources to ensure that their messages reach the electorate through both formal and social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter.

He said it was not sustainable for liberation movements to depend on donors or well-wishers who come and go and sometimes come with their own agendas which were at variance with their ideological positions.

Dr Chombo said the former liberation movements acknowledged the demographic truism of youths being the majority voters and resolved to incorporate them in strategic positions in both the party and government.

He said women and youths were also represented at the meeting where issues of unemployment and ideological orientation were also discussed.

“The women’s leagues were also represented by heads or deputy representatives, including youths. War veterans from Zimbabwe were represented by Brigadier Tapfumaneyi, the permanent secretary in the Ministry of War Veterans,” he said.

He further said there was need for adequate training of the youths to appreciate and understand their history and place them in strategic managerial positions to expose them to governance issues and reduce the generation gap.

“These measures are being implemented in all former liberation movements and will soon bear fruits.”

Dr Chombo said other issues discussed at the indaba include the role of non-governmental organisations and how former liberation movements could assist each other in winning general elections.

He said the meeting was a follow-up to the one held in Victoria Falls last year where it was agreed to devise strategies of dealing with some NGOs who have turned themselves into regime change merchants.

“We discussed issues relating to the role that NGOs have taken in order to effect regime change within the region. We see that in Zimbabwe, South Africa, Angola, Tanzania, everywhere. They are trying to find avenues in which these former liberation movements, because of their strong ideological pan-African stance, Westerners feel that they should be removed. And they are using their non-governmental organisations to fund pseudo-democratic upshots as alternatives,” said Dr Chombo.

He said Western countries were keen on destabilising the region in order to continue exploiting resources that were in abundance from southern to central Africa.

He dismissed assertions that former liberation movements were losing grip on power as evidenced by the dwindling numbers in votes in previous elections.

“The former liberation movements are not necessarily getting dwindling numbers in terms of their votes. There are up and down challenges depending on the situation in those particular countries. But when all is said and done, the former liberation movements are consolidating their power, marketing their programmes and positions and it takes time for the message to sink, particularly among the young ones.”

He said there was no doubt that all former liberation movements would be retained to power in the impending elections as the parties have cemented their hold on power by delivering on their electoral promises and incorporating the wishes of the people into their policies.

Dr Chombo said the application by the Botswana Democratic Party to be part of the Former Liberation Movements of Southern Africa group would be handed to party principals who will make a decision on the matter.

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