Home » Governance » Tsvangirai Stirs Hornet’s Nest

MDC-T leader Mr Morgan Tsvangirai has been described as a pre-historic hypocrite after he banned his party members from using social media, yet he claims to be a champion of democracy and defender of freedom of expression.

Social media is the collective of online communications channels dedicated to community-based input, interaction, content-sharing and collaboration. Websites and applications dedicated to forums, microblogging, social networking, social bookmarking, social curation, and wikis are among the different types of social media.

Common examples include Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Wikipedia, Reddit, LinkedIn, and Pinterest, to mention just a few.

Mr Tsvangirai wrote to all MDC-T members on February 4, 2015 directing them to exit all social media groups they belonged to that have not been approved by his office.

Said Mr Tsvangirai: “As the president of the party, I have noticed with dismay the manner in which social media has been abused in pursuit of glorification at the expense of the party.

“The proliferation of this abuse has reached alarming proportions and cannot be ignored anymore. I therefore issue the following order

“Any WhatsApp group administered by anyone who is an MDC member, without exception, be shut down with immediate effect. All members of the party must exit all groups on their own will with immediate effect.

“Any party structure which needs to run a social media group, must access forms from the office of the president.

“All those who have been found on the wrong side must, consider this an official first warning.”

But several media practitioners and analysts slammed the MDC-T leader for speaking with forked tongue when it comes to issues to do with democracy.

Misa-Zimbabwe director, Nhlanhla Ngwenya, described Mr Tsvangirai as a “backward” person who was against democracy.

“We thought he would embrace freedom of expression not what he has done,” he said.

“Freedom of expression is not about what he wants, so no matter how unpalatable, he should embrace it. What he should know is that media is not television and newspapers only. As someone who speaks on the side of democracy to do that smacks of double standards.”

Zimbabwe Union of Journalists president, Michael Chideme, said attempting to ban social media was a futile attempt.

“As an association, we don’t stand for party supporters but journalists but what I can say is that he is trying to regulate something that cannot be regulated. It is an exercise in futility,” said Chideme.

Analysts said what Mr Tsvangirai was failing to grasp was that he was just a opposition party leader with no power to enforce such a directive which can only be enforced by Government, which has the regulatory authorities.

Harare Polytechnic Head of the Mass Communication Department, Mr Peter Banga, said Mr Tsvangirai’s directive was in direct contradiction to the dictates of the national Constitution.

“Our Constitution recognises freedom of expression, freedom of association and freedom of assembly so for him to start to regulate individuals is uncalled for.

“Not so long ago, he was complaining about Zimbabwe being a police state because of media laws. But now he is at the forefront of stifling freedom of expression and association. These are double standards to say the least because social media is an interactive platform that allows people to freely express themselves.

“He can only go as far as asking his party members to behave responsibly on social media. To say groups should be shut down will make party members feel they are being over regulated. I wonder who is aising him,” Mr Banga said.

Bulawayo based policy and political analyst, Dr Qhubani Moyo, said Mr Tsvangirai’s directive was indicative of the person he is.

“It just shows that there are problems in the leadership of Morgan Tsvangirai who doesn’t want to allow freedom of expression and speech by his people.

“It is ironic that this is coming from somebody who has always wanted to project himself as a fighter for democracy when in actual fact he is stifling internal debate.

“Such kind of person who can’t be trusted with running his own organisation can’t be trusted with running the country.

“It just shows that if by some misfortune he becomes leader of this country, he will stifle and reverse all gains Zimbabweans have achieved since independence,” said Dr Moyo.

However, MDC-T spokesperson, Mr Obert Gutu, claimed that Mr Tsvangirai had not banned party members from using group social media.

“The MDC is a party of excellence that is benchmarked on democracy, tolerance, love and empathy. MDC members are happy to adopt a new format of using group social media in which hate speech, gossip and rumour-mongering will not be tolerated and entertainment.

“Henceforth, group social media will be used to promote party unity and cohesion. Indeed, any serious political party anywhere in the democratic world cannot allow a situation whereby group social media is abused to promote hatred and division amongst party cadres. MDC members will be using group social media as a tool to enhance and promote democratic tolerance, peace and tranquility, ” he said.

An MDC-T insider who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals said Mr Tsvangirai’s directive showed that he was not part of the future.

“Save (Tsvangirai’s totem) is embarrasing us now, we always tell the youths that we are the party of the future, and then he comes out fighting against that same future. This will be an own goal because Zanu-PF will have a field day on social media.

“So to him freedom of fornication is more important than freedom of expression.”

Social media has become an integral part of life online as social websites and applications proliferate. Most traditional online media include social components, such as comment fields for users. In business, social media is used to market products, promote brands, connect to current customers and foster new business.

Source : The Herald