The latest embarrassing guff by the court-created pseudo-opposition MDC-T leader, Douglas Mwonzora – in which he appeared to ridicule and demean educational standards and relevance of the country’s polytechnic colleges, during his online tiff with MDC Alliance activist, Pedzisai Ruhanya – finally pushed me to publicly answer a question that I have been asked oftentimes.
Why do I not have a large social media footprint?
Well, the response to that is quite simple – the vast majority of Zimbabweans suffering the brunt of the ruling elite’s unacceptable and unjust corruption, oppression, and mismanagement (whose plight troubles me day and night) do not live in cyberspace, but are found in the real world.
However, what we have witnessed of late, is the disturbing obsession, by some, to spend what appears an unreasonable and, quite frankly, unhealthy amount of time engrossed and immersed in social media space, such that they seem to have completely divorced themselves from the reality of the ordinary people in the villages, in the urban areas, and even on the streets.
As painful as it to say, but the fight for the ever-suffering and overly-repressed people of Zimbabwe has become elitist – fought on the streets and corridors of cyberspace, with little or no contact with the very people we claim to be speaking out, and standing up, for.
Is it, then, any wonder when a political leader, as Mwonzora, would find himself in such an extremely humiliating corner – because of his irreversible faux pas.
What led him to lose self-control on such a platform is exactly what I am talking about – most political and rights activists have turned cyberspace into their little worlds (which the ordinary folk on the street is not a part of) such that they become so entranced in trivial arguments and personal kerfuffles (as if captivated by an unseen enchanted spirit) that, one can so easily lose it.
Most times, I feel so angry and disappointed with my fellow activists – as I go through some of their tweets (where they seem lost in their little cyber world) – apparently unaware, or forgotten, that the people who need our help, concern, and voice, are actually in a more physical space…where they need us to be there with them, talking with them, and standing with them.
That is why every time my social media data bundles expire, it takes me a while debating with myself, whether it is really worth it – but, then I end up concluding that, at least, I can use the five or so minutes I spend on social media to post my articles for wider coverage, and just go through one or two posts to keep abreast with others’ thoughts.
Nonetheless, I genuinely believe that the people who need us the most are nowhere near cyberspace, have no access to social media, are not even interested in social media, and are more concerned about where to get the next meal.
If we would remember that, where would we find the time to argue and insult each other on Twitter, Facebook, or any other such platforms?
If I were to spend a better part of the day calling a ruling ZANU PF official, or devout supporter, all manner of unspeakable names, whilst engaged in heated arguments and quarrels – how would that change the fact that there is a gogo in the rural areas who has nothing to eat, or give to her orphaned grandchildren?
Do we ever think about that, or are we more concerned about humiliating our assumed rivals, trying to prove them wrong, and making a name for ourselves – as our comments go viral, and make sensational headlines in the media?
My fervent prayer is that especially as human rights defenders, we go back to basics – back to those days when standing up for people’s rights meant being with them on the ground.
Let us not hide behind the COVID-19 pandemic, and the subsequent lockdowns, since there are numerous means of making a phenomenal change in ordinary people’s lives within our environs, whilst still operating within the confines of the law.
If we focus on doing that, honestly where will we get the time to engage in meaningless arguments and hauling insults at each other – leading some to make embarrassing statements, which they will be forced to retract?
Social media is a very good and powerful tool for change – yet, what we are witnessing proves that we have seriously lost the plot, since we have allowed ourselves to be trapped in our little cyberworlds.
We have lost all contact with reality. We have lost touch with real people, who are suffering and enduring daily struggles (seemingly on their own) – since those with the power to do something are entranced by their phones or computers.
© Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice activist, writer, author, and political commentator. Please feel free to contact him on WhatsApp/Call: +263715667700 / +263782283975, or Calls Only: +263788897936 / +263733399640, or email: firstname.lastname@example.org