analysisBy Frank Joseph
JUST like other countries in the world, politics in Tanzania today dominates in social networks, which include facebook, twitter and blogs. Such new platforms have allowed people to divert their attention to online networking, where people comment and express their views on what they think is the right way of shaping the country's system of administration, as well as criticizing it.
In supporting the current trend, the Civic United Front (CUF) Public Relations Officer Mr Silali Bwire says in today's world social networks help boost political agenda. "This is a new forum that gives politicians opportunities to speak out their stand on various issues of public interest," he says, adding: "We have twitter, facebook and you tube accounts because we know the trend is dynamic and politics is extremely competitive all over the world.
With the social media we can reach our party members and discuss with them various issues," says Bwire. He considers social networking as a modern culture in the political arena, where people especially in urban areas, students in secondary schools and universities as well as media consultants have opted for and diverted from other electronic and manual genres of communication.
Kigoma North Member of Parliament Zuberi Zitto Kabwe (Chadema) says Tanzania's landscape has changed drastically and social media is one of the means to reaching out to young people. Mr Kabwe stress that social networks in politics can expand depending on who starts and spearheads a topic. "We have seen many debates and discussions online. Interaction could play a big part as in the United States, it can influence opinion, drive home a point, push for policy change and spur a revolution and bring down a government.
The Arab Spring started with facebook and twitter," says Zitto. He said that seeking closeness with friends and relatives was what attracts people to the social networks. But this also brought together people who did not, however, know each other. Zitto appreciates that the good thing about social networking is information sharing, exchanging and engaging in constructive conversations.
It is a fact that democracy involves exchange of information and views. People have opportunities to engage in practices which define them as a society. Social networks make have turned into being a think tank for politicians to draw public thoughts whenever they ought to discuss issues of public interest. Mr Enno Kamfipo, a Tanzania Labour Party (TLP) cadre differs from Zitto and Bwire and says ever since politics dominated social networks, there have been no contributions to political development because people with good ideas do not impose them in social networks.
"I know some people are very good in politics and other social issues, but they do not impose them through social networks. Electronic and physical platforms are still used by them," explains Mr Kamfipo. The idea was, however, criticized by Walter Kimbise specializing in Political Science and Public Administration. He recommends that political parties should now get involved with online networking, especially with the youth, as they have progressive ideas.
"The youth influence rapid changes so the only means to win support from them is through engaging in social activities of their choice which include social networking." he said. Citing the 'Arab spring' in Tunisia and Egypt both Mr Zitto and Bwire said the 2010/2011 revolutions were organized, supported and driven through the use of social media. Facebook, twitter and mobile phone technology allowed for extensive political expression against government corruption both on and offline.
The springs alerted the world especially African countries on the influence that social media have in political arena, the long serving regimes in both Tunisia and Egypt were removed from power through movements accelerated by social networks. Social networks is a genre of mass media that has dominated politics all over the world. It consents to more conversations and sufficiently exchange of thoughts and information.
It is a new technology that connects world at individual and organizational level. It officially started in 1990s (blogging) before the invention of networks like facebook and twitter later in 2004 and 2006 respectively. Currently there are millions of blogs; more than eight hundred million active facebook and five hundred twitter users.