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Namibia and Zimbabwe politicians confront new technology
Following the recent ’Twitter-Facebook inspired revolutions’ in Libya, Tunisia, Egypt and other Middle East countries, Namibian leader, President Hifikepunye Pohamba, has sent a strong warning to his party’s inner circle. Meanwhile, in neighbouring Zimbabwe, political propaganda are increasingly dependent on text messaging with Mugabe’s party being the latest to jump on the bandwagon.

Mr Pohamba has ordered his Swapo party members to stop discussing succession issues within the party on social media networks particularly facebook.

According to information gleaned from several media outlets, Mr Pohamba made the call during an address to Central Committee members this week were he “took issue with the manner in which some party members discuss party and Government issues in the media or other external platforms such as Facebook without first discussing such issues within party structures”.

Though Namibia is not in an election year until 2014, reports indicate that four senior Swapo members are planning to take over from Mr Pohamba. Current vice president Mr Hage Geingob, secretary general Mr Pendukeni Livula-Ithana, Mr Jerry Ekandjo and Mr Nahas Angula are front runners on social networks discussions which is gaining popularity among party members.

“It is important to protect the party from the reactionary tendencies that wish to portray our party as divided and plagued by factions … we should not wash dirty laundry in public for all to see”, Mr Pohamba, who advised party members to remain vigilant and not to entertain any actions that could compromise the party’s stability from within is quoted saying.

Reports say Swapo Party Youth League secretary Mr Elijah Ngurare and National Council member Mrs Margaret Mensah-Williams were singled out as being responsible for advancing the succession debate on Facebook.

Mugabe’s use of new technology

However, while Mr Pohamba is attempting to stifle free flow of information, his Zimbabwean counterpart Mr Robert Mugabe is making full use of mobile communication, at least to his advantage.

After the European Union revised its travel sanctions in February Mr Mugabe launched what he termed an Anti-Sanctions Petition during which state run mobile subscribers received unsolicited text messages urging them to append their signatures on the petition forms.

Ironically, the former ruling party protested after MDC-T courted a private owned mobile phone service provider to broadcast its campaign messages, and threatened to cancel its operating license in the heat of the presidential election run-off campaign in June 2008.

One of the messages sent to NetOne subscribers read: “The time has come for every Zimbabwean to sign the petition or dial 0044 7893227001 for the removal of illegal sanctions imposed by the European Union and the United States of America.”

Cellular telephones are potentially an important medium for electoral communication as ownership and access to cellular phones far outstrips access to landlines. This disparity is especially apparent in Zimbabwe and many African nations where cellphones have potential as a “broadcasting” medium that is not comparable to traditional landlines, with many offering access to Facebook and Twitter.


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