2019 has started with a bang already and it’s no surprise that the drama is coming from Twitter. Strive Masiyiwa and his wife Tsitsi quit Twitter because they felt there was cyberbullying being directed towards Tsitsi.
Mrs Masiyiwa had tweeted:
Some outcries and actions in pursuit of justice seem and look so right until you discover the source of the outcry and sponsor of the cause. Take a step back and reflect on some of the things we consider good and just causes.
After getting what seemed like reasonable responses (to me at least) from Dewa Mavhinga and Patson Dzamara the Masiyiwa’s up and left Twitter. Mr Mavhinga tweeted:
If you are implying that all and any outcry and pursuit of justice is sponsored then that really is sad. When your husband pursued his fight to be licensed it was a just cause. In such position of privilege, you should choose your words more carefully, lest you promote injustice.
Patson Dzamara also tweeted sharing his concerns:
What is the bottom line? Justice is the bottom line. Whether any quest for justice emanates from a volcano or is sponsored by a storm, it remains noble and progressive. We will not tire neither shall we let injustice prevail in our midst, whatever it takes.
… I would like to thank all those friends like Trevor Ncube, who have stood up for my wife whilst she was being cyber bullied, shouted down and stalked on platforms like Twitter.
Sadly one of the foremost bullies is a Zimbabwean who works for an international organization that is highly respected for its work on human rights. It’s founder, now 95 is a close family friend. I hope my human rights friend is happy now that he has stopped her from using Twitter. Maybe now he and others like him will stop this pathetic misogyny.
What about the rights of women like my wife to also express an opinion?
Both Patson Dzamara and Dewa Mavhinga are human rights activists and most people believe this statement was directed at Dewa Mavhinga. In my opinion, I didn’t see how Mr Mavhinga Cyber-bullied Mrs Masiyiwa, in fact it seems to me he just expressed concern and was trying to actually understand what Mrs Masiyiwa’s tweet meant but I’m not one to know what distinguishes the thin line between an opinion and an insult…
The T in Twitter stands for Toxic?
Twitter does have a reputation for constantly bringing out the darker side of social media. Last year (it feels weird calling 2018 last year but here we are) the President’s spokesperson George Charamba deleted his Twitter account owing to abuse but then he later claimed that he never had an account to begin with so we don’t know for fact if it was him on the platform.
Trevor Ncube (head of Alpha House Media) and Energy Mudoti (the Deputy Minister of Information) also had a pretty charged interaction on Twitter following an incident including AMH’s price increase for their newspapers.
Cyber-bullying is not unique to Twitter but it does seem that Twitter brings out the worst in people more often compared to other platforms and this has been an on-going discussion for a number of years now. Even in the other parts of the world we see celebrities leave Twitter because of cyber-bullying so it comes as no surprise to see similar behaviour from Zimbabwean personalities.
Will this give the government an excuse for restrictive cyber laws?
The government has been looking into putting in place some cyber laws for a while now and they have been threatening to be very strict for a while now because of people’s behaviour online. I’m not too surprised that this is the position that the government is taking because at the end of the day it seems the gloves are off when people are online and all respect is thrown out of the window.
The United Kingdom is also looking to enforce laws in relation to cyber-bullying. The Zimbabwean Minister of Home Affairs already noted that there is a disease of attacking other people on social media whilst calling for strict regulation. Other ministers have done so as well so it’s clear the government is exhausted by social media and I will be surprised if whatever turns into the law is in any way relaxed.
I can see how the government and a lot more people might welcome strict laws because the extremely popular Strive Masiyiwa has spoken out against cyber bulling. The government might use the popular businessman as a buffer to soften the blow of whatever regulation ends up in place. Titans for freedom of speech in Zimbabwe might be in for a troubling 2019 if what the government has said before is an indicator of what’s to come.