21 November 2012

Zimbabwe: Parties Turn to Social Media

Photo: Google
President Mugabe and Prime Minister Tsvangirai

THE country's main political parties have all turned to social media to tap into the youth support base as the country heads for make-or-break elections next year.

The number of urban youths with access to social media is rising across the country as mobile phone networks engage in a fierce battle for subscribers, which has led to a huge price slash in the cost of cell phones and Subscriber Identity Module cards as well as improved internet connectivity.

Analysts contend that the party that would be able to appeal to the youths could easily win the next election.

There is therefore a stampede for visibility in social media among the main political parties in Zimbabwe namely ZANU-PF and the two Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) formations.

Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's party has, as a result, launched an internet-based campaign strategy targeting young first time voters in Harare in a project set to be rolled out across the country.

The campaign uses social media such as Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp and Android-based communication to reach out to young first time voters in metropolitan Harare.

MDC-T Harare provincial spokesperson and senator for Chisipiti, Obert Gutu, said his party was using this e-campaign to encourage the youth to register as voters and participate in next year's watershed harmonised elections, which are expected to be a closely fought affair.

"This is an ambitious project that has been inspired by Barack Obama's cutting edge micro-politicking campaign in the recently held Presidential elections in the United States. We have a team of razor sharp computer experts who are rolling out the campaign in cyberspace," he said.

Gutu said preliminary results from the latest ZimStat population census show that metropolitan Harare, (Harare, Ruwa, Norton and Chitungwiza) has a population of about 3,5 million. Out of this number, Gutu said 65 percent of them are below the age of 40 and can be categorised as youths.

"There are two million people from 18 years of age to 40 who are eligible to vote in Harare metropolitan. Already, I've started mobilising these numbers to register and the response on my Facebook page has been phenomenal," said Gutu.

Welshman Ncube's MDC has also been on a massive e-campaign with officials constantly taking to the internet to communicate their policies and issue statements. They have also used platforms such as Facebook to advertise their campaign rallies, posting pictures and events. Some are resorting to using their own sites and blogs.

In terms of internet presence, all three major political parties, the two MDCs and ZANU-PF have websites, only differing on how frequent the sites are updated.

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