An election in 44 fake Tweets: How @zanu_pf won Zimbabwe
- Richard Poplak
- 05 Aug 2013 (South Africa)
The sensitive soul(s) who work the Zanu-PF Twitter account must be recovering from a busy week. Those 13,592 of us who follow it were somewhat dispirited by the marked lack of activity in the weeks leading up to the 31 July ballot. We needn’t have worried. Everything you need to know about party’s current state of mind, its electioneering techniques and its curious bravura can be gleaned from the Tweets below. We’re not sure if this piece represents the first comprehensive critique of a liberation party’s fake Twitter campaign during a fraught (fake?) election, and nor are we sure whether what follows could be considered “comprehensive”. But we do wish there was a better way to understand the past few days other than by parsing acid-tinged, midnight-black satire. By RICHARD POPLAK.
The @zanu_pf Twitter campaign properly begins with the following four representative Tweets:
The opposition are playing dirty tricks against us on social media. They are twitting fake rubbish Tweets. Cheap.
We are going to seek help from our Chinese sisters to ensure that this Twitter thing and Facebook things are blocked.
We will turn off the Internet soon. Too much ungovernable nonsense.
It's clear judging by all racist imperialist nonsense & porn on twitter that this thing is controlled by external forces.
These Tweets should be considered the first sputtering of the Zanu jet as it taxis down Victory Runway. We find the general distaste for imperialism and porn, which tend to fly alongside each other on Zanu Airways, along with the one-two punch of paranoia (note “external forces”) followed by a threat (banning social media sites), which is classic Zanu. That Twitter and Facebook are governed by external forces—i.e., that Zanu didn’t invent and doesn’t operate either social media site—are, of course, part of the joke.
The day’s Tweets end with a poetical injunction:
Don't run away, vote ZANU-PF and stay.
Everyone loves rhymes!
We deny having paid police to wear political outfits, we deny them beating anyone and we deny disrupting MDC rallies.
It's criminals who are beaten. Not comrades or puppets.
No word, however, on how many slaps to the head one receives for stealing an election.
If USA or Britain is having elections, they don't ask 4observers from Africa or from Asia. But when we have elections, they want observers.
The Tweeter has a point: the next time a Bush runs in a US presidential election (Jeb is eying 2016), perhaps posting Zimbabwean observers in Florida could save the free world a whole bunch of trouble.
We have never eaten our children.
That is probably true.
Things are kicking off in earnest a day before the polls open. Which means it’s time to rip South Africa a new one:
Cde Mantashe is foolish, how can he accuse us of funding that political party of @Julius_S_Malema? And so what if we r?
Actually we don't need the ANC. They need us, we have huge influence in SA and the continent at large.
These Tweets are shocking, largely because they represent some of the more complimentary broadsides aimed at the ANC by the Zanu Tweeter in recent memory—it’s safe to say that the Tweeter does not have a Zuma bobblehead on the mantle. The first Tweet apparently refers to some remarks ANC Secretary General Gwede Mantashe made about Julius Malema’s new EFF political venture. And even Malema, who once praised Comrade Mugabe effusively—“We need more people like President Mugabe who will say no to imperialists. Not leaders who are voted by the people but when the imperialists ask them to jump, they don't ask why but how high”—has come in for serious opprobrium from the Zanu Tweeter. Friends last about as long on Zanu’s fake Twitter account as they do in the real Zanu.
We're so popular in Zimbabwe, we will give Tsvangson & his side kicks a hiding they never expected. Victory is certain.
Yup: Victory is certain.
Wow what a lovely, peaceful, engaging and fruitful election we are having!
The show is about to begin! Free fair harmonised elections for the world and its media to see! Victory is certain.
It’s worth repeating: Victory is certain.
Then, this exchange, between the comedian Chester Missing—who actually is a puppet—and the fake Zanu Tweeter. States Chester, sardonically:
Twitter, the only place anyone can really verify the number of @zanu_pf followers.
To which the Tweeter replies:
@chestermissing we have millions of followers, but Twitter is imperialist owned so they have rigged the number.
Again, Chester is a puppet. Zanu are not big on puppets.
Anyway, back to business:
Retweet for a chance to win a free farm #votezanupf - lets get this trending!
Where was Twitter back in ’99? The whole farm business could have been handled through retweets.
Then, a salvo:
#votezanupf because it’s the safe option.
#votezanupf to save the poor children.
#votezanupf to stop rape.
#votezanupf because we care.
#votezanupf we are pro-life.
Regarding the last item, Zanu are so pro-life that over a million dead voters were on the roll, backed up by 109,000 voters over the age of one hundred. Beat that, Rick Perry!
#votezanupf tomorrow, if you want to vote for another party you must vote on Thursday.
#votezanupf it's going to be the best thing you ever did for your family.
It’s election day! Time to repeat the substantive issues, reiterate the differences in policy with the opposition, emphasise the positive, and highlight all the real changes that voters can expect should Zanu win.
(Note: the last is probably not a reference to Chester Missing).
#voteforzanupf so we don't become another South Africa.
#voteforzanupf and save us from the kakstad gorilla @helenzille
#voteforzanupf to protect us from racist thugs like @steve_hofmeyr
It’s fair to say the fake Zanu Tweeter has significant obsessions with both Democratic Alliance leader Helen Zille, and crooner/amateur crime theorist Steve Hofmeyr. They get a lot of airtime around these parts.
Now, it’s time to get sexy:
#voteforzanupf for a longer love life.
#voteforzanupf to love long and prosper.
#voteforzanupf or what will you say to your wife when she marries a woman?
#voteforzanupf to save sex as we know it.
Now, it’s time for a spoiler:
Our president has voted for ZANU-PF! The future is bright not white!
Now, it’s time to get threat-y:
#votezanupf remember there are finger prints on the ballots we can see who you voted for. Vote wise, vote safe!
And now, it’s time to get inside baseball (keeping in mind that Morgan Tsvangarai’s wife was killed in a car accident several years ago. Tsvangarai narrowly escaped with his life):
#votezanupf to avoid car accidents.
Wrapped up with:
Thank you to our millions of followers! We love you too.
We don't know the results, but we will accept any result announced by the ZEC. Sources are for chips, not news.
It took me a moment to get that one, but I did get it.
Things are looking good for Zanu, vote-count wise, which means it’s time for another go at Steve Hofmeyr:
@steve_hofmeyr you are one of those whites who scare people with your long ears. You racist whites and your lies.
Then, as a landslide win for Comrade Bob and the troops seems more and more likely:
So what if u think elections were rigged? Who and what is anyone going to do about it? All talk. > Can't touch this.
Which leads me to a thought I’d been having lately: what would really bring Zanu alongside the American Democratic party as a sophisticated, high-tech 21st century vote-getting machine is quoting more M.C. Hammer lyrics. I’d also recommend some Vanilla Ice, but I’m guessing that wouldn’t fly.
Looks like everything is in the bag for Zanu, with the AU declaring the elections a reasonable approximation of elections, and the forty-three million observers seeming to have missed observing what they were sent to observe in the first place. Time for a little gloating:
Triple hash tag? Ouch.
Game, set and match. All fixed for another five years. It's a great day in Zimbabwe, blue label, champaign and tea!
I assume the use of the term “fixed” was inadvertent?
Chester Missing would own in Zimbabwe!
I see what they did there!
Long live justice, long live peace, long live Zimbabwe. We will protect Zimbabwe from the Western Boogy monsters.
Duly protected. Zimbabwe is once again firmly in the Zanu wheelhouse, and with President Mugabe still sprightly at 89, it’s time to party like it’s 1999 (Did MC Hammer record a version of that Prince hit? One can only hope). The fake Zanu Tweeter will be left taking shots at Jacob Zuma, Helen Zille, Steve Hofmeyr and Julius Malema (is there anyone in SA that the Tweeter likes, besides @chestermissing?) and the country will go on teaching the rest of us a lesson.
Now if only Twitter would show the true number of real Zanu-PF followers, Zimbabwe would be in business, imperialist-free, a leading light to nations everywhere. While the rest of us are left to acknowledge that a fake Twitter account did just as fine a job explaining the Zim elections as did the hordes of media the Zanu Tweeter was so busy lampooning. DM
Photo: Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe addresses a media conference at State house in Harare, on the eve of the country's general elections, July 30, 2013. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo