Hate speech and misinformation on the rise ahead of poll

Incidents of hate speech and suspected misinformation are on the rise as Zimbabwe heads ever closer to the July 31st election, with observers saying this ‘psychological warfare’ threatens any chance of a credible poll.

The worst hate speech has been seen in the Herald newspaper, which serves as the voice of ZANU PF propaganda and anti-opposition spin. Regular columnist Nathaniel Manheru, said to be Robert Mugabe’s spokesman George Charamba, has ratcheted up his rhetoric to new levels in his recent columns, lashing out at the MDC-T with acerbic regularity.

The hate speech has also come from other quarters, including the much praised ‘Baba Jukwa’ personality that has set tongues wagging in Zimbabwe. Using Facebook as his platform, the alleged ZANU PF insider has amassed a huge following with his ‘inside information’ of ZANU PF.

But he drew harsh criticism with his open hate speech last week, when he threatened people of Jewish descent living in Zimbabwe. This was in an attempt to lash out at the Israeli owned company Nikuv, which is accused of manipulating the voters roll.

“…and to these Jews who are manipulating our voters roll, your days are numbered in our country, we will surely do the Hitler style on you because you don’t want people respecting you,” Baba Jukwa wrote.

Political analyst Clifford Mashiri said any hate speech, from whatever quarter, must be condemned. He said it threatens a peaceful election process, because “it can cause violence.”

“The state media in particular is very provocative, and it can result in a violent reaction. So hate speech of any kind must not be tolerated,” Mashiri said.

He also warned that misinformation can be just as damaging, reacting to reports of an alleged assassination plot Mugabe had brokered, targeting South Africa’s Jacob Zuma and Lindiwe Zulu. The reports, citing leaked documents, have been received with luke warm attention, with many people dismissing it as deliberate misinformation aimed at undermining ZANU PF.

Mashiri said this tactic does not work, saying it is “propaganda and psychological warfare that could have a serious impact on the elections.”

Misinformation has turned Zimbabwe’s news space into a mine-field, often making it difficult for journalists to do their job properly. The media is repeatedly blamed in Zimbabwe for getting things wrong, and a pool of incorrect information being fed into the media space makes it even more challenging. – SW Radio Africa News

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