By Alex Bell
SW Radio Africa
13 May 2014
Zimbabwe’s social media landscape has seen political rivalries being overshadowed by ‘bread and butter issues’, with more Zim citizens using the platforms to seek answers to the social change they want to see.
This is the opinion of commentator Nigel Mugamu, the founder and moderator of the popular Twitter based discussion forum #263chat . Most often referred to by his Twitter name @SirNige Mugamu has since 2012 led and moderated weekly Twitter discussions about issues affecting Zimbabweans.
Mugamu told SW Radio Africa on Tuesday that ‘real’ issues that affect every day living in Zimbabwe are dominating discussions on social platforms, including Facebook, Twitter and even the mobile chat platform, WhatsApp.
“What social media is doing is that it’s enabled us to talk and talk openly. We have these discussions anyway at home and with friends, but now we’re talking about it with people we don’t even know. You realise that you’re not the only person going through those issues. In a way, I’m seeing us learn more from each other,” Mugamu explained.
Mugamu said the voice given to Zimbabweans through social media has grown a lot, but more because people want to see real change to everyday problems. He was reacting to questions about the weekend’s ‘exposure’ of the notorious Facebook character Baba Jukwa.
Baba Jukwa rose to notoriety last year with hundreds of thousands of supporters joining the Facebook page for the alleged inside information about ZANU PF. What started as seemingly well informed posts, soon turned worrying, with Baba Jukwa posting phone numbers and addresses of ZANU PF members, and even calling for potentially violent action.
Baba Jukwa then went quiet after the elections that saw ZANU PF once again claim power in the country. But he was back in the headlines this weekend following a video post on YouTube. The video shows information allegedly taken from the Baba Jukwa email account, and claims that two Zim journalists were behind the online character. The journalists have openly denied being involved.
Mugamu said that the social impact of Baba Jukwa has not lasted, with few people discussing the matter on social media networks.
“The thing is it’s a character, not a person. When it’s a fictional character it makes it difficult for people to take it seriously. People, leading up to the elections, became fans because of the information. But the interest has died down,” Mugamu said.
He said there is more interest in the “bread and butter” issues that affect everyday life.
“I’m not bothered by it (the Baba Jukwa debate.)Talk to me about salarygate, talk to me about corruption. I want to know how we are going to solve those things,” Mugamu said.