Zimbabweans too hesitant to voice out

Moto Republik heald a Twimbos on transition hosting BrandsEye in an attempt to portray the behaviour of Zimbabweans on the cyberspace or internet from the November 2017 coup, the transition and up to the 2018 election period at an event held at Moto Republik in Harare on 28 June 2018.

By Rumbidzai Nyabako

BrandsEye is an opinion mining company. It is mainly interested in continuously seeking, gathering and storing mentions that help in determining the accuracy of sentiments of masses in a given area.

This company employs a crowd that goes around using the data that would have been sent to them and this crowd helps in analyzing the data and give human insight so that they promote accuracy in the sentiments made.

The main speaker on this event, Liska Kloppers gave a highlight that in their first piece of research conducted in mid-2017 and it assessed the most influential authors in Zimbabwe on social media. She pointed out that their initial enquiry was based on a dataset of 288 652 social media posts from 70 789 authors between 1 May to 31 July 2017.

The methodology they mainly use is by utilizing the unsolicited social media posts that are made publicly available on social media platforms such as Twitter. In comparison to the traditional polling surveys and focus group discussions, the gauge of social media platforms proves to be more accurate as it provides an immediate public response to unfolding political events Kloppers added.

Kloppers went to give an analysis of key authors during the coup and transition of political power. These authors include Fadzayi Mahere, Trevor Ncube, David Coltart and these had the highest engagement throughout this period. David Coltart the former Minister of Education was seen to be supportive of the solidarity march and the impeachment although he cautioned on military intervention and he later became critical of the new Zanu-PF leadership.

However, Kloppers highlighted that not all authors were against the development despite the fact that negative sentiments were passed by the most of the influential authors towards the leading political party. On the sentiments towards military takeover, Kloppers pointed out that BrandsEye measured public sentiments towards the coup, military intervention and the police. Their research showed that the public was grateful to the army and for not being violent and most citizens proved to be confused and some viewed the move as corrupt but they were more positive than negative towards the situation.

On the basis of 2018 elections, Kloppers showed that Zimbabweans mostly urged each other to register and vote. They also voiced concern about the practicalities of the voting process such as requirements to register to vote. The most recent observation showed that a sense of hope as declined in regards to the possibility of achieving free and fair elections. Some sentiments show that people are not sure if ZANU PF is voted it could be ready to step down peacefully and the fact that military control could undermine the chance of free and fair elections.

However, Kloppers acknowledged the fact that not only Zimbabweans were talking about these developments even internationally many countries on the globe are largely concerned.

The crowd that attended asked a couple of questions but most highlighted that most Zimbabweans are not free to express their views on social media because they are scared of publicly declaring who they support. Instead of expressing their views they reshare other people’s posts. Although most people have the impression that people rant and express their feelings on social media it is not likely the case.

In the closing remarks, Kloppers mentioned Civic Society Organizations are not as free as people may observe. One point to note is that once one person says a remark in support of one party and not in favour of the other it is automatically concluded that the person is being sponsored by outside forces. Kloppers pointed out that is why CSOs cannot be used as sample representatives as they are limited but as an individual, one can be free to say more freely and one panellist noted that there is freedom of speech but freedom after the speech is not guaranteed in the political arena of Zimbabwe.