Facebook blogger goads Zimbabwe's ruling party

Tue Jul 23, 2013 1:31pm EDT
 
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By Ed Cropley

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - A mysterious Facebook blogger purporting to be a disgruntled "Deep Throat" in President Robert Mugabe's party has become an unlikely election campaign star in Zimbabwe, attracting 275,000 online followers and the fury of the ZANU-PF establishment.

With a daily stream of social tittle-tattle, outrageous personal slurs and explosive - if true - political allegations, "Baba Jukwa" ( here ) has created an unprecedented stir in the run-up to the July 31 poll.

His popularity reflects the rapid expansion of Internet access and social media since the end in 2008 of a long economic meltdown, and the thirst of Zimbabwe's 13 million people for information beyond the ZANU-PF propaganda that dominates state media.

It also flirts with serious reprisals in a country where sensitive political matters are discussed only behind closed doors for fear of Mugabe's secret police, who can tap phones and intercept Internet traffic in the name of national security.

Although senior figures in Mugabe's ZANU-PF party dismiss his posts as the ramblings of a disaffected lunatic, Baba Jukwa has ruffled enough feathers to merit denunciation in the Herald, Mugabe's state-controlled print mouthpiece.

"Baba Jukwa's thunder is waning as the stories become more and more ridiculous," the paper said in an editorial on Tuesday after Baba Jukwa alleged that police chief Augustine Chihuri had organized the secret printing of extra ballot papers.

"They are not based on any solid grassroots work and is mere gossip, which can never translate into electoral victory," it added, proclaiming ZANU-PF's primacy in the "social network battle" for votes.

In a socially conservative nation where public criticism of elders and political leaders remains taboo - Mugabe, aged 89 and in power for 33 years, qualifies easily on both counts - a mere mention of Baba Jukwa is enough to elicit a furious response.   Continued...

 
Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe (L) and his wife Grace wave during an election rally in Chinhoyi, 115 km (70 miles) northwest of Harare, July 18, 2013. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo