ICT Africa Writer
April 19, 2013
At ICT Africa, we routinely monitor activities on social media to understand their impact on transmission capacity requirements in telecommunication networks throughout Africa.
The fact that there are now more than 30 million Facebook subscribers in Africa has a profound impact on bandwidth requirements on African telecommunication networks. In addition to the impact of the social media on telecommunication networks, we are also following the impact of social media on social behaviour, politics, and individual freedoms - especially the right to free expression.
One of the things that recently caught our attention on Facebook is a fan page of a self-styled anonymous whistle-blower from Zimbabwe who goes by the nom de plume Baba Jukwa
publishes what he claims to be insider information from the highest levels of the ruling party in Zimbabwe. His startling revelations include cases of assassination, looting of multiple farms by the ruling elite, clandestine mining of diamonds by the Chinese in collaboration with the army, and a grand scheme by the ruling party to rig the upcoming elections. Some of the allegations published by Baba have been spread through rumours in the past in Zimbabwe, but the details, including names of perpetrators, places and times gives some credibility to Baba Jukwa
revelations. He even publishes private mobile numbers of senior government officials he reports on.
Only a few weeks after Baba Jukwa
created a fan page, he had more than 20 thousand followers, an accomplishment that even some established companies only dream of. Needless to say, the instantaneous rise in Baba Jukwa
popularity had to do with people, especially from Zimbabwe, finding information on Baba Jukwa
’s page that they could never find anywhere else in the formal media.
Perhaps the most intriguing allegation by Baba Jukwa
that may have helped to propel his fan page to such high levels of popularity is the circumstance around the death of the first Zimbabwean Army commander, General Solomon Mujuru.
General Mujuru died in a mysterious fire that destroyed his farmhouse and instantly killed him, if you believe the official account of his death. In a hastily concluded court proceeding, the General’s course of death was concluded to be accidental but many who followed the proceedings were not convinced and there were always rumours of foul play.
, through his fan page, dismissed the court’s findings on the death of the retired General and asserted that his death was an assassination commissioned by the current army commander Constantine Guveya Chiwenga.
It is almost an open secret that former General Mujuru was pushing for reforms in Zimbabwe, including the retirement of President Robert Mugabe. General Mujuru is also rumoured to have been at loggerheads with one of the most unpopular and yet the most ambitious and most ruthless politician Zimbabwe has ever known. So, the claim by Baba Jukwa
that General Mujuru was assassinated, whether fact or fiction, can easily resonate with many Zimbabweans.
also alleges the looting of multiple farms by those with power, including President Robert Mugabe himself. When Zimbabweans had to shed blood for their independence, there were two key things they wanted to redress – universal adult suffrage and equitable redistribution of land regardless of race.
Universal adult suffrage meant that anybody who had reached the age of majority could freely vote for whoever they chose without regard to race, ethnic origin or gender.
Addressing the land issue meant coming up with a strategy to change the situation where the white minority owned the majority of arable land – it was not about the most powerful of the ruling elite looting whatever land they so pleased. So when Baba Jukwa
names and shames leaders who are supposedly looting multiple farms, it is not surprising that it would resonate with many Zimbabweans.
Then there is colonialism of the second kind. When we thought we had dealt a blow to British and French colonialism in Africa, the Chinese have come and are perpetrating their own form of colonialism. They have been known to use underhanded and unethical tactics to do business and own natural resources in Africa.
According to Baba Jukwa
, the Chinese company building a hotel near the national sports stadium in Harare is also involved in diamond mining in collaboration with the Zimbabwe Defence Industries.
There is nothing new about foreign companies doing business in Africa or any other region of the world for that matter. The only problem, according to Baba Jukwa
, is that the revenue generated from the diamond sales does not make it into the national treasury but instead enriches the Chinese and a few Zimbabweans with enough political muscle. Baba Jukwa seems to be corroborating what the Minister of Finance, Tendai Biti has complained about – diamond sales not generating reasonable revenues for the impoverished country.
To cut a very long story short, in the 1980’s Zimbabwe was undoubtedly one the most transparent countries in Africa. Any cases of corruption or wrong doing by government officials were thoroughly investigated and perpetrators were brought to justice. Even the then Prime Minister, Robert Mugabe, would be grilled by parliamentarians on any issues that the public was not happy about, the Prime Minister's Question Time.
Zimbabweans had learnt to trust and believe in their politicians. Transparency was taken so seriously that when there were rumours of politicians selling their subsidised cars for large profits; Mr. Mugabe initiated a commission of inquiry which led to what became known as the Willogate Scandal. The commission of inquiry for such a relatively small crime, compared to today’s alleged crimes, resulted in a suicide and the resignation of some of the most dedicated, loyal and hardworking ministers in Zimbabwe.
Wary of losing the remainder of his loyal team through resignations Mr. Mugabe apparently resorted to overlooking any other cases of wrongdoing by political leaders. Since then, some in the ruling elite may have taken advantage of the situation to loot the economy and engage in Mafia style, clandestine activities. A lot of Zimbabweans have been reawakened by Baba Jukwa Facebook allegations and the need to get more insider information about the illegal activities of the ruling elite has never been greater.
African leaders should be aware that it is no longer possible to keep the public in the dark about illegal activities perpetrated by members of the ruling elite. The Internet is an easy outlet for anything that happens, however secretive. The danger is that when the public has to rely on anonymous whistle blowers, the accuracy of the information cannot be guaranteed.