- Published: 31 January 2015
- Written by dailynews
The propaganda war that has featured prominently in Zanu PF's ugly infighting has gone a notch up with another faceless Facebook character in the mould of the controversial Baba Jukwa surfacing in recent months and dishing out even juicier and more damaging tidbits about the supposed goings-on in the ruling party.
The intrepid political gossip phenomenon, going by the name Zimbabweans for Prosperity (ZFP), already has more than 10 000 likes in the months it has been running.
It is believed that hundreds of thousands more people are accessing the page anonymously daily for fear of ending up being accused by thin-skinned officials of being associated with the Internet troll, as happened to some during the Baba Jukwa era.
Like Baba Jukwa before it, it comes across as intimately connected to and in the full know of many of the ugly goings-on within Zanu PF — dishing out a steady stream of sensational claims about the party and its bigwigs, from the days of the liberation struggle to the present.
The page, which uses both Zanu PF and Baba Jukwa lexicon such as Aluta Continua and Asijiki, was created after the disputed July 31, 2013 elections, but only started blowing full steam following the recent worsening of ructions in the ruling party.
ZFP has a cover photo with questions like "why did you go to war you Zanu PF idiots?" and "Where are 2,2 million jobs Zanu PF maggots?".
So extreme are some of the postings on the page that a mere three days ago, for example, its writers claimed that President Robert Mugabe had allegedly collapsed — adding that this highly unlikely development had been confirmed by "sources" close to the nonagenarian himself.
ZFP also posted on January 7 pictures of the late liberation hero Josiah Magama Tongogara's vexing death, with his charred body placed on a table and surrounded by seven men — as well as that of a then very young ex-vice president Joice Mujuru holding an AK47 rifle.
Some of the messages posted on January 15 called for a national boycott of the First Family's businesses, including Alpha and Omega, which is led by Mugabe's wife, Grace.
Other posts also allegedly show pictures of some of the First Family's supposed multi-million dollar properties, including claimed mansions in and outside Zimbabwe.
"Say no to any dairy product from Alpha Omega, for without our money the network of tyranny is doomed. Aluta!!" one post said.
"We will bury you too Robert. Very soon. Asijiki!!," another said, next to a cartoon purportedly depicting Mugabe and Grace soon after burying the late decorated liberation war icon, Solomon Mujuru and others.
Yet other pictures posted on October 25 last year depict a young Joice Mujuru holding an AK47 rifle and apparently questioning those of the First Lady.
Maxwell Saungweme, a political analyst based in Afghanistan, told the Daily News yesterday that whether the Facebook page was "another Zanu PF distraction or not", the troll was helping to give Zimbabweans as much information about their country and leaders and leaving them to choose what to believe.
"Whether it is a diversionary ploy or not, in this century the more information the public gets the better. Zimbabweans are intelligent people and they are able to sift through and separate stones from grain.
"Let there be as many sources and platforms for information and the public will be able to see whether they are being taken for a ride or not.
Dewa Mavhinga, a researcher with the Human Rights Watch concurred saying the concept of anonymous revelations of organisations' inside information was important in that it exposed the wrong-doings while protecting the sources of such information.
"From a human rights point of view it is an affirmation of freedom of speech, but it needs to be approached with caution as anonymity can sometimes lead to reckless disregard of other people's rights or a lack of accuracy in reporting," Mavhinga said.
He urged users of social media platforms to always verify whatever information they came across, and use it to advance human rights and democracy "instead of sitting back in the hope that change will happen merely on the basis of information given anonymously".
Another political analyst who requested anonymity and claimed to have some idea about the people behind the ZFP posts told the Daily News that the page had been created to avail information about the Zanu PF fights that would ordinarily be inaccessible to citizens.
"There is no or very little intention by the writers to divert people from pertinent issues bedevilling the nation. Their existence is a sign or confirmation of the existence of divisions in the party.
"There is no doubt that they get their information from people in the top hierarchy of Zanu PF who may be registering their disgruntlement with their colleagues. Any believer of the right to freedom of speech would naturally salute the boldness with which the page says things considered risky by some journalists. They should be promoted and supported in the same way Wikileaks was accepted and defended worldwide," he said.
Psychology Maziwisa, the Zanu PF information deputy director, was only interested in knowing whether the page had followers when contacted for comment.
"How many followers does the page have? Let me check it and I will come back to you in a moment," Maziwisa said.
Maziwisa later asked for written questions when further efforts to get his comment were made.
On the eve of the 2013 elections, Baba Jukwa and his Vapanduki team, who had nearly 400 000 followers by the time their page went offline, asked Zimbabweans to vote for opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, despite claiming to be a long-standing and knowledgeable Zanu PF member.
He claimed that he had held a meeting with his "team" and settled on dumping his "party leader" to stop "a subtle coup" by some Zanu PF stalwarts he alleged wanted to sabotage the then vice president Joice Mujuru from taking over the leadership of Zanu PF.
Baba Jukwa said there was a ploy to force Mugabe into retirement after elections, upon which power would be taken by some "evil" people.
The government has since accused and charged suspended Sunday Mail editor Edmund Kudzayi for being at the heart of the Jukwa phenomenon.
Kudzayi, who was incarcerated for some weeks, is out on bail pending the finalisation of the case.