The influential role social media has played underlines the vast spread of internet use in Zimbabwe, primarily on mobile smartphones.The influential role social media has played underlines the vast spread of internet use in Zimbabwe, primarily on mobile smartphones. It’s a phenomenon reminiscent of the so-called Arab Spring uprisings in 2011, when social media was critical to inspiring and coordinating movements against dictatorship, corruption, poverty, and inequality. Some have even referred to the toppling of Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak as the “Facebook Revolution.”
These predictions of Mugabe’s imminent downfall are wrong.These predictions of Mugabe’s imminent downfall are wrong. The reason is quite simple: the angry urban social media activists and pro-democracy pundits have failed to absorb two key lessons of the Arab Spring. The first is that the role of the military in times of civil unrest is pivotal. The second is that social media activism can never substitute for organized political activity on the ground.
Young Zimbabweans should remember that protesting is not the only way to effect political change.Young Zimbabweans should remember that protesting is not the only way to effect political change. It is striking that many of the young people taking to the streets and venting their anger online are not calling upon each other to register to vote in the next national election, scheduled for 2018. None of the leading hashtag activists and bloggers are calling for youth, whose numbers make them Zimbabwe’s decisive demographic group, to massively register to vote. Young people, urban and rural, do not seem to be discussing among themselves whom they should support in the 2018 election, or what sort of political and economic agenda they want to see for their country.