EDITORIAL COMMENT: Social media real threat to governance

SOCIAL-MEDIA-GRAPHIC2SOCIAL media are as important as they are dangerous to human life. Like the Central Nervous System which helps the body function by processing information from all its parts as well as the outside world, social media connect all humans in various parts of the world. Not all humans were born with social media already invented, but none among the living can imagine life without. Social media are now a part of us, as important as communication itself. Social media are the new institutional memory. All of whom we are. The paradox of our time, however, is that we have mastered the art of turning what is good for us into a weapon that hurts and kills us.

Cybercrime has become the order of the day. Our moral being has not been spared. We loiter on social media, caught up in the World Wide Web (WWW) of moral decadence. Fellow human beings are violated, raped, abused, demeaned and we are the audience. “Reposting”, “liking” and “pinning” the misery of others. So much for a Global Village. (Another paradox of the information age — a village of the immoral)

It is against this background that we welcome President Mugabe’s creation of a Ministry of Cyber Security, Threat Detection and Mitigation. Hard on the heels of three pieces of draft legislation on cybercrime, electronic transactions and data protection, the new ministry, led by former Attorney-General Patrick Chinamasa has a Herculean task ahead. We must be saved from ourselves before it’s too late. Self-proclaimed advocates of human rights and free speech will as expected, “cry wolf”.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights says freedom of expression is the right of every individual to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers. Freedom of expression is not the posting of insults, nudes, sex acts or promotion of public despondency. Cyber bullying is not moral panic: it is real!

We have said it before here that with every right comes responsibility. Social media are here to stay and Government is alive to this: which is why there’s a whole Ministry of Information Communication Technology promoting computer literacy and social media use. Government is also alive to the dangers of social media abuse which is why the new Ministry of Cyber Security, Threat Detection and Mitigation has been put in place. We are also reminded of a timeless quote by Albert Einstein who said: “It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity.” And the Universal Declaration of Human Rights unfortunately preceded social media.

Who will protect the weak? Who will protect the children? Obviously not rights groups. They are also abusing social media. They are so obsessed with regime change through social media; they do not care about the carnage. But if they are half as intelligent as they claim to be, they will know that the new ministry has always been coming. In August President Mugabe lamented cybercrime that is growing rapidly, with the country’s detractors taking to social media and other Internet platforms to peddle falsehoods on the situation in the country.

He was addressing tens of thousands of people during the commemoration of Heroes’ Day at the National Heroes Acre, saying while Internet was good for education and knowledge enhancement, others were using it as a weapon of destruction and immorality. Last week, the President said Zimbabwe wants to work with South Africa to fight elements using the cyber space to sabotage the economy, while speaking at the high-level Zimbabwe-South Africa Bi-National Commission held at the Sefako Makgatho Presidential Guest House in Pretoria.

His comments followed panic buying witnessed recently in the country after people believed a false social media message warning of an impending shortage of basic commodities like cooking oil. And yesterday during the swearing-in of ministers including Patrick Chinamasa, Presidential spokesperson George Charamba told the media that the new ministry “is coming against the background of the abuse that we saw not too far back on the social media where the social media then causes some kind of excitement to the country not on the basis of fact, but generation of copy which is in fact calculated to trigger a sense of panic in the economy.

“And of course to use his (President Mugabe’s) words again, it’s called a protective ministry which means to protect the interests of the State,” Mr Charamba said.

You are spot on Cde President, spot on!

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  • Chamunorwa

    Why can’t SK Moyo or Mandiwanzira deal with social media? In any event, interaction on social media is not territorial. A Zimbabwean minister cannot control what is posted outside Zim.

  • Rasta!

    You cannot control the internet, no matter how hard you try. The biggest issue here is that ZANU PF can no longer control the narrative as the Internet allows divergent views. You either embrace it of die gnashing your teeth.

  • xyz

    Corruption has destroyed Zimbabwe more than social media. Infact social media has helped expose what our leaders would like us not to see e.g. when they sleep at conferences or their escapades in hotels rooms in foreign lands. The country would have been served well if we had a ministry dealing with corruption than social media especially now that the fox has been given keys to the henhouse!

  • Rasta!

    You have nothing despite trying to appear smarter than me….absolutely nothing.