LATEST: 500 000 follow MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa while only 379 000 follow Mnangagwa

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MDC leader Nelson Chamisa’s popularity on social media has spiked, seeing him hitting 500,000 followers on his favourite Twitter mode of communication.

He joined Twitter in September 2010.

“We’re now 500 000… Thank you dear friends for this happy space on Twitter. I thank God as I appreciate you all for the half a million followers mark.

“You are awesome and wonderful. Behold, how good and how pleasant it is when brothers live in harmony!” Chamisa said in a message marking the landmark number.

Chamisa is among the most followed political figure on Twitter, and posts almost daily.

His main political rival, President Emmerson Mnangagwa, has just shy of 379,000 Twitter followers.

The President joined Twitter in December 2011, and both he and Chamisa run verified Twitter handles.

Analysts say social media will continue to erode the influence of legacy media which has worked in favour of Zanu PF since it controls the state media — Zimpapers and ZBC — with the only television in the country and an array of radio stations.

People no longer wait for news bulletins on radio or television; they follow topical issues on their mobile phones, thanks to social media, which has enabled instant messaging, live social media broadcasts and internet television.

Social media an unbelievable advantage, which most parties and individuals participating in this poll appear to be very much alive to. People are targeted with personalised, tailor-made messages.

At least 90% of urban Zimbabweans followed last year’s election cycle glued from their phones, particularly social media, according to a new study by Afrobarometer.

According the survey, the biggest reason voters gave for following politicians on social media was to find out news before other people did, and to become more personally connected to the candidates as well as receiving news stories and updates on the election.

Likewise, a 2016 study published in a United States publication, PLoS ONE, found that the more someone relies on their smartphone for information, the less likely they are to trust “neighbours, strangers, and people from other religions or nationalities.” In contrast, obtaining information through any other method including TV, radio, newspapers, and even the internet more broadly predicted higher trust in those groups, according to the authors of the study.

Supporters of Mnangagwa and Chamisa last year went on an all-out war against each other on social media as election mood reached fever pitch.

Zealous followers of Chamisa were branded Nerrorists while Mnangagwa’s foot soldiers were branded Varakashi (the vicious attackers). In this war, however, there is a very critical mass which is being left out: the rural folk.

The Afrobarometer report says that only 10% of rural Zimbabweans follow the elections on their cellphones, while 46% rely on television and radio. The rest rely on the traditional interactive meetings.

— ZOOMZimbabwe


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