The recent cabinet reshuffle has left a lot of people in awe, with a lot of questions and opinions. Social media use, or rather social media abuse as cited by the government has changed the political dynamics in Zimbabwe, ushering a new way of doing politics and even giving a voice to the voiceless. But was the cabinet reshuffle a reaction to social media?
Not a while ago Pastor Evan Mawarire was arrested for castigating the government over failed economic policies, the introduction of bond notes that drove the stronger currencies away leading to shortages. His message went viral on various social media platforms, with many people even chipping in their thoughts on the matter, adding fuel to the fire.
By Pearson Mbendera
With the creation of a new ministry to govern social media among other cyber crimes, the government sees social media as a threat to its existence. Heading into the 2018 elections, the threat is expected to grow.
Blame on social media
Prior to the cabinet reshuffle, a wave of price hikes and shortages were blamed on social media. While it is hard to either validate or rebuke those claims, social media was blamed for the economic crisis which many believed, and still believe was a long way coming.
It seemed as if Zimbabwe was headed to the 2008 standards famous for empty shelves, long queues, a hyper-inflationary economy among many other economic hardships, and that social media was going to spread panic news to fast-track the backslide.
Only after things had gotten worse (they have always been bad) the government saw the need to change, hence the cabinet reshuffle. One can put it like this, social media gave the glimpse of how bad things are in Zimbabwe.
Shortly after the price hikes that were blamed on social media’s spreading of panic news, the President reshuffled the cabinet. While there was need for some action to be taken, which many will argue giving their own varied opinions, the timing of it is suspicious happening at the backbone of a social media attributed economic meltdown.
Some theorist will make the cabinet reshuffle a G40 vs Lacoste thing, cracking down on the factions that now exist within the ruling party, but some points should be given to social media for necessitating the reshuffle.
The Cyber security ministry and Chinamasa’s reassignment
Perhaps the greatest shock out of the cabinet was the creation of the Cyber Security, Threat Detection and Mitigation ministry to be headed by Patrick Chinamasa who lost his Finance ministry. The government even went on to say that social media abuse had necessitated this new ministry
Having assigned blame to social media for the price hikes amongst other issues, Hon Chinamasa was reassigned to deal with social media, a task which will see him enact some laws that will govern social media use in Zimbabwe.
While it seems like the Cyber Security, Threat Detection and Mitigation ministry take over control of the postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) from the ICT ministry, the power that this ministry will have over the way people in Zimbabwe communicate will be immense.
Given all this, does this really mean that the reshuffle was a reaction to social media? If thats the case, then social media is more powerful than what the people think.