I said it before and I’ll say it again: welcome to the election season in Zimbabwe. The last time we had nation wide elections the internet penetration rate was just above 40%. Now the rate is above 52% and yup we can see the difference. There is a frenzy on social media: debates, citizen journalsim and fake news…
So yesterday there were allegations that some members of the police force at Ross Camp in Bulawayo who were exercising the postal vote ahead of the harmonised elections that are a few weeks away were being forced to do so in front of their superiors. This prompted observers and opposition parties to go and check it out.
However, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission had said there was no such voting that was taking place and then a few hours later the same ZEC official confirmed that there had been exercise of the postal vote at Ross Camp.
The ZRP reading the riot act
This morning the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) together with ZEC held a press conference to clarify on some of these inconsistencies and other issues surrounding the elections. Well all this had nothing to do with us the techies except perhaps that these conversations are happening in the glare of social media especially Twitter.
That was until the ZRP commander for the elections, Erasmus Makodza then said the following:
We will track those behind the posting of misleading information about police voting on social media and those special courts are waiting for them,
The special courts that the police refer to must be the courts that were set up by the judiciary in April this year to deal with politically motivated violence. We are not sure how these courts could sit on the issue of fake news as I am supposing the man is referring to fake news when he says misleading information.
Back in April when the courts were set up Erasmus Makodza described the courts in more generic terms and did not limit their jurisdiction to violence. He said:
The judiciary in liaison with the police and other stakeholders, has set up special courts throughout the country to speedily deal with politically motivated crimes
I will have to consult with lawyers how spreading info on social media (true or fake) can be interpreted to be a criminal offense. There has to be something that sticks, I am sure the commander knows what he’s talking about.
The nuisance of fake news
I don’t know about the specifics of the particular case the ZRP was responding to but I do know there is a huge problem of fake news in Zimbabwe right now. It’s a nuisance and I don’t understand why some people think it’s fun to misinform. I get it when politicians do it for well political reasons but when my neighbor just decides to lie about something it puzzles me and annoys me at the same time.
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