Conspiracy of silence
The news spread like a veld fire in the dry season. A Zimbabwean living in the Middle East tweeted that it was the first time in five years to see a Zimbabwean story covered in an Arabic newspaper. It was news in China, New Zealand, Canada and practically everywhere around the world. That Grace Mugabe, wife of Zimbabwe’s leader, President Robert Mugabe had assaulted and hurt a young woman in a fit of rage was the kind of story that was bound to draw the attention of global media, worse because it happened in a foreign country. It was a story which in any other country with a free and open media, would have attracted broad coverage, critical commentary and national debate.
However, for the average Zimbabwean who relies only on the state media for news, chances are that they would not have known that their First Lady was in the global spotlight for all the wrong reasons. They would not have known because Zimbabwe’s state media and pseudo-private radio stations have chosen to exclude the story from its coverage. To be sure, thanks to technology, the average Zimbabwean might have come across some information on social media, but given the conflicting messages and the proliferation of fake news, they might still have been unsure of what was really happening. For example, in a few WhatsApp groups, it took a while before some Zimbabwe-based members were convinced that the news being shared was true. Even so, they still wanted confirmation from state media or local radio stations, which never came. Only later, as global media coverage intensified did they finally accept that the news was true. But not everyone has such access to multiple sources of information. Much of the 67% that live in the rural areas have to rely on traditional sources which simply refused to cover the story.
While Zimbabwe is not a classic totalitarian state, it nevertheless has some elements that might be found in such a state. Tight and rigid control of information by the state, a key feature of a classic totalitarian system, is one of the pillars of the Zimbabwean regime. Few incidents illustrate the totalitarian face of the Zimbabwean regime as this current case involving Grace Mugabe’s embarrassing moment in South Africa, where she allegedly beat up a young woman whom she found in the company of her two sons, Robert Jnr and Chatunga. ZANU PF-controlled media’s answer to bad news is simple: don’t write about it and don’t speak about it and thereby create an alternative reality to readers and listeners that it never happened.
As far as information is concerned, Zimbabwe runs a tight ship. It still has a communist-style state media which controls radio, television and newspapers. Thirty-seven years after independence, Zimbabwe still has just one national television station, which is heavily controlled by the state. The so-called private radio stations are run by associates and cronies of ZANU PF, who were awarded licences a few years ago. ZANU PF politicians have also acquired key shareholdings in some of the private newspapers. Unsurprisingly, bar the private papers, there has been a deafening silence in state media and related pseudo-private radio stations over the Grace Mugabe incident. While the rest of the world is awash with news of the incident, Zimbabwe’s state press has been conspiratorially silent. It’s as if nothing happened. The exclusion of the story from coverage is deliberately designed to create and impose a reality upon its traditional audience which forms the core of its support base. For ZANU PF, bad news is best kept away from its core base. It may be said that ZANU PF has not yet commented on the matter. But actually, the silence is loud enough to be heard around the world.
Orwell’s 1984: the man who saw the future
The name George Orwell is familiar to most Zimbabweans who have passed through its education system. They would have come across it at one point or another during their schooldays either as an English Literature set-book or as casual reading upon the teacher’s recommendation. It’s a simple but profound allegory which by some uncanny coincidence, they have seen unfold before their own eyes in their country. The once-glorious revolution has gone sour. They have seen the pigs move into the Farmer Jones’ house before they began to mimic Farmer Jones and became more equal than other animals. Animal Farm is therefore a familiar tale; one that Zimbabweans can very easily relate to as they mourn the ill-fortune that has befallen their country under Mugabe’s rule. In a land where religious men trading as prophets are highly revered, if he were alive today, George Orwell might well have commanded a huge and loyal following as one of the great prophets given the foresight in Animal Farm.
There is another Orwell classic with which more Zimbabweans must become familiar. That novel is called 1984, a profound work which has had a resurgence in the Western world in recent months thanks to the emergence of the doctrine of “alternative facts” infamously introduced to the world by one of President Donald Trump’s advisers back in January 2017. President Trump’s spokesperson had lied about the numbers at his inauguration in January, saying it was the biggest of such gatherings in history. Kellyanne Conway, another of Trump’s advisers defended the lie as “alternative facts” prompting a severe backlash from critics. Many were reminded of Orwell’s novel, 1984, which had prophetically foretold such phenomena. This prompted a sudden rise of interest in the book.
1984, the novel describes life in a dystopian state called Oceania in which the government is determined to create its own reality using various techniques including manipulating citizens’ minds, propaganda, physical torture and intimidation, controlling language and history and use of technology for surveillance and control. The book was written in 1949 as a warning of the dangers of communist ideology and totalitarianism that is found in communist states. Having been to Russia and Spain, Orwell had first-hand experience of life in a communist state and was well aware of the extremes to which communist regimes were prepared to go in order to protect and enhance their power and to control citizens. 1984 was a warning to Western audiences of the challenges experienced in a totalitarian regime if the communist ideology was allowed to prevail.
Although communism did not gain a strong foothold in the West and while it eventually collapsed in the East at the end of the Cold War, Orwell’s 1984 remains relevant now as it was when it was written. Commentators agree that a lot of what was predicted in that novel has come to pass. “Big Brother is Watching You,” one of the key slogans in the novel is as important today as it was then. In the novel, the sign was everywhere, reminding citizens of the omnipresence of this Big Brother figure, presented as a protector but also warning that the citizen’s every move was always under scrutiny by a higher authority. In that way, it was a way of controlling people’s minds and their behaviour.
Today’s Big Brother appears in various forms – through cameras on the streets and in buildings, through technology which collects and stores data, and other mechanisms. The individual feels like they are being watched all the time. In countries like Zimbabwe, Big Brother appears in many forms. As I have written previously using the analogy of the Panopticon, in the rural areas, the traditional authorities and youth officers are constant reminders that Big Brother is always watching. Everywhere, it is symbolised by the ubiquitous presence of the leader’s portrait which appears on the walls of every office, whether public or private. You enter a bank, a church building or the passport office and Mugabe’s face stares back at you from one of the walls.
Like Winston Smith, the hero of 1984, an average Zimbabwean is confronted by the image of Big Brother wherever they are. Many people have been arrested, detained and jailed for allegedly undermining the authority of the President after making comments about Mugabe. In one of the most absurd cases, a few years ago, Douglas Mwonzora, Secretary-General of the MDC-T, the official opposition party was arrested because he had allegedly insulted President Mugabe’s portrait. In 2015, one James Mwaya was arrested for a similar offence after commenting to a ZANU PF politician that Mugabe was too old. This was after Mugabe had read the wrong speech at the Official Opening of Parliament in 2015. There have been more arrests and harassment of persons who have allegedly insulted Mugabe.
Control and manipulation of the mind in 1984
In the novel 1984, Winston Smith is a low-ranking member of the ruling Party in Oceania. He’s disappointed and frustrated by the totalitarian rule of his Party. The Party has total and rigid control of virtually everything in the country, including history, language and thought. Individual freedoms are curtailed and everyone is expected to conform to the Party line and the collective. It creates conflicts in families by recruiting children into a spy militia. The children are trained to spy on family members, including their parents. Significantly, there is Thoughtcrime by which any rebellious thoughts are criminalised. Under this crime, one can be jailed for holding critical or rebellious thoughts. The Thought police are responsible for enforcing these Thoughtcrimes. In this state, everyone is suspicious of each other.
The Party has total control of all information. It controls what is packaged as information and how it is stored and distributed to the citizens. It determines whether information should be withheld or distributed to the citizens. In this way, the Party creates the reality in that things that it does not wish the people to know are simply withheld from them and they might never know. A country like North Korea runs pretty much along these lines. Experts say people who live there have no idea what goes on in the rest of the world simply because the information is never disseminated. Even the internet is tightly controlled to ensure no information from the outside world gets in. In Oceania, the Party even goes to the extent of inventing a new language called Newspeak the aim of which is to replace English and eliminate all words that might give rise to rebellious thoughts among citizens. The Party also relies on physical pain –including torture and intimidation – in order to control the minds of its citizens.
Winston Smith works for the Ministry of Truth in Oceania. His job is to change and manipulate historical records so that they fit into the party’s narrative. “if all other accepted the lie which the Party imposed – if all records told the same tale – then the lie passed into history and became truth”. The Party’s slogan was, “Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.” An ever-present technique in this mind manipulation exercise is doublethink – whereby one holds two contradictory thoughts at the same time. It is illustrated by the Party’s slogan “War is Peace; Freedom is Slavery; Ignorance is Strength” which communicates contradictory messages. War is the antithesis of peace, and freedom and slavery are supposed to be opposites. But they represent two contradicting messages representing a state in which a citizen has one thought and another that is imposed upon him. In other words, the citizen has his own belief but he must also believe what the party tells him to believe.
People in totalitarian systems are forced into doublethink – whereby they believe in one thing and another contradictory one in order to please the regime. The reason is that these authoritarian regimes use a variety of techniques that manipulate and weaken the mind so much that people end up believing anything even if it is illogical and does not make sense. Thus in Oceania, Winston works for the Ministry of Truth even though it specialises in falsification of information and history; there is also a Ministry of Love, even though its job is to torture and inflict pain; there is the Ministry of Peace, even though it wages war and there is a Ministry of Plenty even though it presides over severe shortages.
In fact, the regime in Oceania has so much power and control over information that failures are reported as successes and weaknesses are presented as strengths. Interestingly, even though people know that what they are being told is not true, they still believe what they are told. Indeed, Winston reaches the conclusion that “in the end the Party would announce that two plus two made five, and you would have to believe it”. At the end of the novel, after he has been severely tortured at the Ministry of Love, Winston sits at a dusty café table and writes two plus two equal five, although he knows it should be two plus two equal four. Indeed, he had previously written, “Freedom is the freedom to say two and two make four. If that is granted, all else follows”. His collapse at the end symbolises how he has been beaten into submission to the point that had to believe what the regime expected of him, not what he believed in. He also discovers that history had been distorted so much that people end up not knowing what the past was like and have to believe whatever the Party told them. As Winston sees it, “The Party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command”.
Winston’s experiences and observations in 1984 are important as we analyse the state of the citizen in Zimbabwe and how the regime uses techniques to manipulate the mind of the citizen. The tight control of information in regard to the Grace Mugabe incident provides an excellent example of how the regime goes about accomplishing this task.
When they make you believe 2 + 2 = 5
Most Zimbabweans (and indeed other Africans) reading the above brief summary of Winston’s experiences and observations in 1984 might be struck by the similarities between his world and theirs. The observations are so strikingly similar that it does seem like Orwell foresaw precisely what would happen in Zimbabwe. The regime and its elements like to create their own reality which they want to impose upon the people. Without flinching, ZANU PF’s politicians report failures as successes. They can pretend that something did not happen and create their own reality. Hence when Mugabe stumbled and fell at the airport a few years ago, and although this incident happened in full view of cameras, Professor Jonathan Moyo who was the Information Minister told the world that Mugabe had not fallen but that he “broke the fall”. When George Charamba, Mugabe’s spokesperson spoke about his bosses sleeping habits, he told the world that when Mugabe’s eyes are closed he won’t be sleeping but he would be avoiding light. These are classic examples of realities they create – the listeners end up with two contradictory messages: that he is sleeping or he fell, as they actually saw and that was simply avoiding the light or he did not fall, as they are told.
A few weeks ago, Psychology Maziwisa, a ZANU PF MP shocked the nation when he claimed, with a straight face, that ZANU PF had created the 2.2 million jobs which it promised in its 2013 election manifesto. This clear falsehood runs contrary to the reality that unemployment is now upwards of 90 per cent and most college graduates are jobless and idle. It’s Maziwisa’s version of “alternative facts”. Not to be outdone, Zalerah Makari, the ZANU PF MP for Epworth also claimed, with extreme arrogance, that she had empowered young people who were eking out a living through vending in her deprived constituency. They are not even embarrassed to make these absurd claims. They know its absolute nonsense but they are taught that two and two make five and it is the same message they must parrot to their audience.
Their behaviour fits excellently into what Orwell described in 1984. These are characters who create a reality and want everyone else to believe it, even though it runs contrary to the facts. Since 2013, The Herald has never stopped announcing “mega-deals” with China and wherever Mugabe goes on his numerous trips. It does not matter that none of these so-called “mega-deals” have ever actually materialised, they will still blow the trumpet. The propaganda is designed to reinforce the idea that the ZANU PF government is doing well, despite the reality of clear and continuing failure. As in Oceania, failure is reported as success and small steps are magnified to appear great. So Mugabe goes around opening internet cafes and this is magnified as some great achievement.
Most observers are surprised that Mugabe and ZANU PF still have thousands of people in attendance at their rallies. While there are loyal supporters, the Orwellian state in which Zimbabweans live, where “Big Brother is Always Watching”, means many have no choice. In some cases, especially in the rural areas, they are made to believe that their votes are not secret, but that Big Brother sees everything. For self-preservation, they must conform and do as they believe they are expected to do. They might disagree with Mugabe and ZANU PF, and sympathise with the opposition, but as Winston found out in 1984, the truth is what the Party tells you to be the truth. Therefore, even if you know it isn’t, 2 + 2 = 5. Because the party says so.
The manipulation of history is an important feature in 1984 and Winston is right at the centre of it. Zimbabweans are also familiar with what the late historian Terrence Ranger and other scholars have referred to as “Patriotic History” whereby ZANU PF has sought to re-make and re-configure history to suit its own narrative in accordance with its own definition of what constitutes patriotism. This history is taught in schools and is covered in newspapers, with voices being given to veterans of struggle to tell history with a particular inclination. In this narrative, the role of Mugabe as the most central figure of the liberation struggle is falsified and magnified. Other key actors in the struggle are air-brushed from history or their role is minimised. It is a deliberate distortion of history in order to advance a limited and partisan agenda. This is very similar to the job that Winston Smith was performing in Oceania at Ministry of Truth, where he was responsible for re-making historical records to suit the Party’s narrative – a project they called “rectification”.
Packaging a disgrace
This is the context in which the Grace Mugabe incident has been handled by the Zimbabwean regime and media. Apart from a couple of papers, the rest of the national media is now in the hands of either the government or persons connected to the government. While the government opened up the airwaves and licenced radio stations, most are held by persons who are connected to ZANU PF. As indicated already, there is only one television station in the entire country. When the Grace Mugabe incident happened, for the first two days there was virtually no coverage of the story in the state and pseudo-private media. Only the few private newspapers and internet-based media covered the story. Thanks to social media, the story was able to reach a broader audience in the country. Nevertheless, those who rely on radio or television or state media would not have known what happened because the story was simply ignored. This is typical of what happens in the dystopian state that Orwell described in 1984: the government maintains tight control on information, deciding what the citizens can consume as news.
A few years ago, I wrote about the structures of power in a nation-state. Drawing from Susan Strange’s theory of power in international relations, I explained that information is one of the key structures of power. Those who control information – what qualifies as news, how it is packaged, how it is delivered to the public – wield enormous power over those who do not possess the same power. They can magnify good news about themselves while excluding the bad news. They can also magnify bad news about their opponents while excluding their positive news. This is why the violence that rocked the MDC-T two weeks ago in Bulawayo received great coverage in the state media, while Grace Mugabe’s similarly violent incident barely got a mention in the first two days after it happened. It was too embarrassing to include in the news but the MDC-T violence was useful to portray the opponent in bad light.
Why does it matter? Would ZANU PF supporters be swayed by the bad news coming from South Africa? For a start, the matter was just too embarrassing to cover. Grace Mugabe had violently beaten up a young girl in a frenzied attack, leaving her with horrific head injuries. Just two weeks back, Grace Mugabe had lambasted George Charamba, who oversees state media for the bad publicity they were giving to her allies. She demanded positive coverage and just this week, state media announced that there would be a supplement to cover Grace Mugabe’s philanthropic activities. How could they cover news of her violence against this background? They chose to remain silent, pretending nothing had happened.
Second, ZANU PF supporters are divided between the two main factions: Lacoste and G40. Grace Mugabe’s embarrassing incident was not just an embarrassment for ZANU PF but for her faction, G40. Her opponents in Lacoste would have enjoyed the moment, having already chided her for failing to be a good mother to her children. Covering the story would have put the state media editors under the spotlight. It would have embarrassed not just ZANU PF but Grace Mugabe and G40. It is not far-fetched that the embarrassing story might have turned opinion against her within ZANU PF in the context of the succession battles. Nevertheless, her core supporters would have remained loyal.
Third, ZANU PF knows that while it has its core supporters, it cannot take their loyalty for granted. They had to keep the bad news out of the state media because it was not in its interests. Why would it want to share bad information? Instead, elements began to drop misleading information into social media, claiming for example that it was Grace Mugabe who had been attacked by a white girl – which was a lie not because she was not the victim but also because the victim of the attack was not white but of mixed-race origin. All this was designed to sow confusion in the minds of the public so that it would begin to doubt whether or not the incident had really happened.
Know your audience
To understand ZANU PF’s strategy, it is important to appreciate that it knows its audience well. The core of its support resides in the rural areas. That is where, according to the 2012 census, 67 per cent of the population live. This audience is not technologically advanced. For news, it relies mostly on radio, word of mouth and occasionally, newspapers. Information is also disseminated through party officials and agents at regular meetings held in the communities. It is possible that while social media is awash with information on the Grace Mugabe incident, in ZANU PF strongholds, information is scant or confusing. True, social media, especially WhatsApp has brought a new channel of information, but the avalanche of information that it brings can itself become a source of confusion.
It is indeed ironic that in an age when there is so much information, most people are either uninformed or misinformed by the high levels of disinformation. That’s why we saw falsified messages suggesting that it was the First Lady who had in fact been attacked by a white girl. Other false messages suggested that the girl was in fact a drug dealer who was being punished for supplying hard drugs to Mugabe’s two sons. Although the source of these rumours is unknown, it served the purpose of creating some moral justification for Grace Mugabe’s disgraceful conduct. While ZANU PF has not officially commented on the matter, persons associated with it or Grace Mugabe have already begun a defensive campaign, no doubt aimed at damage limitation. It is not surprising that some people began to write in her defence, arguing that she did what any mother would have done to protect her children. Those defending her are not uneducated people with little sources of information. They are educated, urbane and have a veneer of sophistication. They know exactly what they are doing: trying to rescue a bad situation. Their primary concern is their Zimbabwean audience, which has been deliberately starved of official information relating to the story.
The fact that most of the core audience relies on radio and newspapers explains why for five days after the embarrassing incident, ZANU PF and its media chose not to speak about it at all. They were fully aware that the best way was to exclude the bad news completely, thereby creating its own reality for its audience. Winston Smith, Orwell’s main character in 1984, was familiar with these strategies used by the Party, whereby it sought to create a new reality which was far divorced from the actual reality by controlling information. That is precisely what ZANU PF did in the days after the embarrassing incident. It simply determined that it wasn’t news and that it would not be aired, thereby ensuring that a large majority of the population was uninformed and if they got bits of information from social media, they were left confused as to what had really happened. They were waiting for an opportunity to construct a narrative that would be more palatable and easier to sell to the public.
This opportunity soon presented itself when it emerged that AfriForum, a South African rights organisation which is predominantly associated with the white Afrikaner community, had waded into the case, as the legal representatives of the young survivor of Grace Mugabe’s attack. AfriForum’s entrance was a generous gift to the ZANU PF propaganda machine. Some think the propaganda is valueless because it cannot affect the court case. But this view misses the point completely because the propaganda is not aimed at influencing the court case but merely to manage the political fallout from this embarrassing incident. The propaganda is primarily intended for its audience in Zimbabwe with an eye on next year’s elections and the succession race within ZANU PF. Grace Mugabe’s supporters know the damage this incident could do to her reputation within the Zimbabwean political market, if not nationally, then certainly within her party where two factions are locked in a bitter race to succeed her husband, Robert Mugabe.
The incident has been a huge embarrassment for Grace Mugabe’s allies in G40, which was cruising against its opponent Lacoste. A few weeks ago, I pointed out that just a small thing could affect the course of the succession race and even if it does not turn out to be a turning point, this incident has caused a serious diversion and drawn energy that could otherwise be spent elsewhere. Grace Mugabe’s backers were desperate for something they could use to spin the case for their audience. AfriForum’s presence in the case has given them a chance to reconfigure the narrative, presenting the Mugabe family as victims of some manufactured white conspiracy. To understand how this works for them, one has to have a better view of the history between AfriForum and the ZANU PF government led by Mugabe.
There is no love lost between AfriForum and the ZANU PF government. They have had previous legal battles all of which have revolved around the highly controversial land issue. After ZANU PF led the occupation of land formerly owned by white farmers in Zimbabwe, AfriForum has been involved in cases at the SADC Tribunal and in South African courts seeking redress for the white farmers. Just last year, AfriForum was involved in a high profile legal battle over a Cape Town property belonging to the Zimbabwean government, which they wanted to auction to recover legal costs incurred in the land cases. For the Zimbabwean propaganda machine, AfriForum is an easy target since it can easily be presented as a defender of white interests. Predictably, they have already started to argue that AfriForum’s interest in the matter is merely to avenge the loss of land. The baggage of history that AfriForum’s involvement brings to the case is unhelpful. Now, a case of domestic violence which must be dealt with as such has assumed a new life, given the baggage of history between ZANU PF and AfriForum. The ZANU PF propaganda machine will use it to deflect attention from the main case, in which the First Lady does not appear to have any solid defence. Instead, she will be cast as a victim of an unfair attack. This message will be directed to its audience. One hopes that the victim of Grace Mugabe’s abuse does not end up as a victim of abuse by the different actors pursuing their own bigger goals. Whatever happens, it must always be remembered that she is the victim here and her best interests must come first before anyone else’s interests.
Why the illogical is believable
This might seem illogical to most people who have access to multiple sources of information but ZANU PF knows its audience. This is an audience that actually believes Zimbabwe’s problems have nothing to do with Mugabe’s failures but are due to Western sanctions. This is what has been drummed into them day and night for nearly 20 years. It is an audience that believes that anyone who challenges the ZANU PF government is a Western puppet. It is an audience that actually believes that the land will be given back to white farmers if ZANU PF loses to the opposition. In a nutshell, this is an audience which lives in the Orwellian world described in 1984; an audience which believes that 2 + 2 = 5 as told by the Party, even though deep down they know 2 + 2 = 4. This is an audience which is resigned to the party and believes what it is told to believe. It is an audience which will be brought together with its party by the belief that Grace Mugabe is under attack, when it should be repulsed by her savage attack on a young woman.
Unfortunately, most people do not understand or underestimate the power of propaganda and mind manipulation and therefore, dismiss it as illogical and improbable. But as Winston discovers in 1984, propaganda, mind manipulation, physical pain, new language and distortion of history make you believe even the most illogical of things. As we have observed, the state of doublethink means a person can have two contradictory thoughts at the same time but chooses to believe and follow what the system tells him to believe. Propaganda has a powerful effect on the mind. I have had conversations with some young Zimbabweans who genuinely believe Zimbabwe’s problems are a result of economic sanctions. Some years ago, I was shocked to meet an elderly man in Nyamapanda who swore that until then he had believed that Morgan Tsvangirai was a white person – all on account of ZANU PF propaganda. The opposition cannot afford to take the power of propaganda for granted.
Penalty for the opposition
Unfortunately, the opposition has not shown itself to be properly equipped to deal with and counter ZANU PF’s propaganda. Oft-times the opposition deludes itself by thinking people can see the illogical things and dismiss them. The opposition fails to understand that people can actually believe perfectly illogical things as Winston discovered in 1984. When he sat down to write 2 +2 = 5 on the dusty table, he was merely confirming that the system had beaten him into submission. If people understand the dystopian world described by Orwell in 1984, it would probably be easier to understand why people believe and do things that seem so irrational and illogical such as believing that Grace Mugabe did nothing wrong or that at 93, Mugabe is still the best leader for Zimbabwe.
The opposition has to learn from the way that ZANU PF takes advantage of their own mistakes. When MDC leader, Morgan Tsvangirai was involved in messy personal relationships during the Inclusive Government, ZANU PF made the most of it. Their election campaign capitalised on his social failings. When the MDC was involved in the violent incident in Bulawayo recently, ZANU PF did not waste the opportunity attack the MDC, painting it as a violent party. They even had a time-line of previous instances of violence, reminding people of MDC’s weaknesses. In all those stories, the ZANU PF-controlled media never mentioned its own egregious acts of violence. A casual reader would get the impression that ZANU PF is a peaceful and non-violent party. The MDC was left wounded, its narrative of unity superseded and overshadowed by the narrative of violence.
Barely a week later, Grace Mugabe was involved in an embarrassing incident of domestic violence, but the opposition’s reaction has failed to match ZANU PF’s reaction to its own failings. If an opposition figure had done what Grace did in South Africa, ZANU PF and its media would be blowing the trumpets day and night. The opposition might say it lacks control of traditional media, in which ZANU PF and its associates have a near-monopoly. Nevertheless, that would be a weak excuse in this day and age where social media is there for all to use. Social media has become an important arena of information dissemination and engagement between politicians and citizens. Regrettably, most opposition politicians are still social media-shy. They have yet to discover the potential that lies in social media as a tool of information dissemination and robust engagement with citizens. Instead, ZANU PF politicians tend to dominate social media space, thereby augmenting the propaganda machinery provided by state and pseudo-private media. The Grace Mugabe incident provided a perfect opportunity for the opposition to mount their own social media assault against an opponent at their most vulnerable point. But it’s yet another chance that has gone begging. It’s an open goal, but somehow they are conspiring to miss yet again.