Zimbabwe authorities wary of OTT ‘abuse’

2016-02-03 15:53 - Memory Mataranyika
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Harare – Authorities in Zimbabwe are increasingly wary of social media comments by politicians and the general populace, prompting experts to express concerns over a trend they fear could lead to regulation of over the top services (OTT).

President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF party has been allegedly displeased by social media comments by former information minister, Jonathan Moyo (current higher education minister) who has fallen out with fellow ministers and officials from the party.

Simon Khaya Moyo, spokesperson in Mugabe’s party, said “the President said we must avoid social media” and added that “issues of transgressions should be brought to the party through relevant” structures.

A telecom consultant in Harare said on Wednesday that the close attention that officials were giving to social media usage could “lead to imposition of laws and policies” to regulate usage.

Moyo is accused of using his Twitter handle to criticise and lash-out at Mugabe’s spokesperson, fellow ministers and other politicians.

“Anyone who uses their real name, image & identity in any media cannot abuse that media without accountability,” Moyo said in one of his numerous tweets this week.

This week, Police Commissioner General, Augustine Chihuri also raised concern over social media abuse in the country. Zimbabwean mobile companies have increasingly turned to OTT services to boost income and cover for declining voice revenues.

“We read a lot of insulting stories in the newspapers everyday. Social media is not to be outdone… I am not a social media person. I would not want to disappoint myself by reading the so­called social media which is full of negative things,” Chihuri said in an address to the police force’s members who departed the country on a United Nations peacekeeping mission in South Sudan.

This has prompted the Zanu PF party to put social media abuse on its agenda for the next politburo meeting. Mugabe has previously stated that party members should use party structures to raise grievances and not take issues to social media platforms as this humiliated the party.

“This account defends Pres Mugabe, the Party, Gov & country & opposes successionists (sic) without any apology whatsoever!,” Moyo said in another tweet on Tuesday following criticism that he was using the platform to attack other party and government officials.

The Zimbabwean police commissioner appeared to be discouraging police officers in Zimbabwe from using social media.

Social media has been used to expose dirty goings on in Mugabe’s party through the Baba Jukwa character on Facebook ahead of elections in 2013.

“Some of my police officers are joining social media. They are also getting excitable about it, also writing nonsense on these social media. I urge them to be responsible citizens who contribute to our wellbeing and peace­-building,” said Chihuri.

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