Zimbabwe internet shutdown proves ZANU PF’s illiterate support base

This morning I have been experiencing slow social media connectivity, and was suddenly overcome by a disturbing sense of déjà vu, as I remembered those days in January when the Zimbabwe regime shutdown the internet in the wake of violent protests that rocked the country - and the subsequent, brutal and murderous crackdown unleashed on the people by security forces.

I started wondering if this cowardly regime had resorted to its newly discovered tool of repression – internet shutdown – especially, considering that recently, there had been renewed calls for another stayaway scheduled for today, 11 February 2019.

However, it appears as if there is no internet shutdown today, as the connectivity speed did eventually improve.

I just hope did not speak too soon!

However, the few moments of eerie remembrance of those January internet shutdown days, made me question why a regime would be so frightened of social media influence – especially, when they could so easily counter with their own propaganda?

Instead, of shutting down the internet as a result of the anti-government messages being sent or posted, would it not be wise for the regime to keep the internet on, so that they can also utilise it to send and post their own version of events?

But, then something hit me!

The reason is quite simple, but very telling – the ZANU PF regime does not have enough supporters on social media to widely carry their messages!
All those messages that have been critical of the ZANU PF regime and its blatant brutality had gone viral on social media – and, there is one very vital ingredient for anything to go viral on social media…huge numbers of followers.

This is one ingredient that ZANU PF does not possess, and yet the opposition has in abundance!

How many of us have ever been inaudated with pro-ZANU PF messages on social media?

Possibly, very few!

However, I am sure most of us are flooded with anti-ZANU PF messages, jokes, pictures and videos nearly every minute, such that some of us have to switch off data connection in order to have some breathing space

Why is that?

As, already alluded to, for any message to go viral on social media, there is need for huge numbers of followers.

So, does it mean that ZANU PF does not have a huge support base?

Certainly, not!

This is a party that garnered two thirds of all parliamentary seats in last year’s harmonised elections – although, the presidential election result is still contentious.

So, why would a party that enjoys such a gigantic support base unable to spread their social media messages like wild fire?

Should the situation not be the other way round – whereby, ZANU PF social media messages would be the ones going viral, and the opposition left standing on one leg?

Should the opposition not be the ones crying foul over social media messages, and wishing the internet would be shutdown?

Why would a party with a whole two thirds parliamentary majority fail to have social media dominance?

Why would they be the ones who are actually crying foul – like big Goliaths being relentlessly pelted by little Davids?

The answer is also quite simple, but revealing – ZANU PF support base is mainly composed of rural illiterate folk, whilst the opposition is comprised of savvy educated people.

As such, social media is dominated by the opposition, whilst the ruling party sits on the sidelines whining.

However, the issues go deeper than that – as this is more than just about social media.

What this means cuts through the very essence of Zimbabwe as a country, and why we are always in a mess.

We, as Zimbabweans travel all over the world, and there is one very disturbing question that we have always encountered – why do you guys keep electing such an incompetent party?

Yes, we can answer with the usual ‘rigging of elections’ drivel – but, as expected, we are always told that if we had the numbers, there is no way ZANU PF would successfully rig any elections.

…and that is the unsavory truth!

ZANU PF has the numbers behind them – but, what type of people are these who would continue voting into power a party that clearly does not give a hoot about them, abuses, brulises and even kills innocent citizens, and plunders the nation’s resources till ordinary people have nothing to live on?

The illiterate!

The illiterate can easily be lied to and they will believe ZANU PF yarns hook, line and sinker.

As they do not have access to constructive information, the majority of ZANU PF support base can believe anything, even as daft as sanctions being the source of their suffering.

As a result of their illiteracy, most of ZANU PF supporters do not have real ambitions, and an offer of meagre goodies, as a few groceries, bags of seed, fertilizer and pesticide, would be more than what Santa could ever provide.

Even urban ZANU PF supporters would be more than grateful to be provided finances for a small poultry ‘project’.

However, the savvy literate opposition supporters want more from their education!

They expect to be high-earning engineers, own the latest Ferrari, a mansion in the leafy suburbs – something that the failed ZANU PF regime could never ever enable the country’s economy to provide…not even in a thousand years, let alone before 2030.

As such, it is easier for ZANU PF to galvanise two thirds parliamentary seats, as the majority of Zimbabweans may be ‘literate’ as far as reading and writing are concerned, but are not ‘world literate’.

The majority of Zimbabweans do not know what to demand from their government.

The majority of Zimbabweans do not understand what heights they can soar – if only they had a competent government in place.

The majority of Zimbabweans do not know that the president is their servant – in every sense of the word – and should please their every need, and be at their Beck and Call.

Instead, Zimbabweans believe that they are answerable to the president – no wonder they call top government officials ‘shefu’.

They would rather sit in the blazing sun, chilling cold, or drenching rain – during a rally – whilst, the ‘shefus’ sit in the shade, drinking and eating.

…or, being made to sit in the scorching sun, just to watch a road in Uzumba Maramba Pfungwe being tarred!

The president and his deputies can fly, all over the world, in hired super expensive planes – whilst, ordinary people can not even afford kombi fare to town – and that will still be ‘normal’ for ZANU PF supporters.

They will tell you that “yes, these are ‘shefus’, they deserve all these comforts”.

Correct me if I am wrong, but these were the same people who saw nothing wrong with the White people’s privileged lifestyles during Rhodesia – because, “varungu ka ava”.

Even during those colonial days, they are the same people who needed the educated savvy people to show them that there was everything wrong with the status quo.

Of course, there are a few that have ‘woken up’ to the reality of ZANU PF’s incompetence and callousness, but due to that same illiteracy, they can easily be intimidated – even with the most daft things like, “we can tell who you would have voted for, by using your voter registration numbers”.

As I appreciate that today there is, at least, internet connectivity, I can not help but feel so sad that our country is still at that stage in the evolution of global development.

Zimbabwe still has a long way to go, as far as real literacy is concerned, and as such, it is up to all of us to educate all our fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, sons and daughters on what it means to have a really progressive government.

We need to pass on that knowledge on what standard of living we deserve, and should strive for.

Without the majority of Zimbabweans possessing such an understanding, we will be in the doldrums of the global village for decades to come.

° Taurai J. Pachena is a Zimbabwean political and social commentator and analyst

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