March 19, 2019

Top business people, human rights defenders bemoan cyber-bullying by MDC supporters

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ZIMBABWE’S top business people and human rights defenders have spoken strongly against the lack of tolerance of diversity of opinion by senior MDC figures as well as rank-and file supporters especially on social media.

Executive producer of TV cultural programme Identities/Umhlobo/Zvatiri, Nyari Teurai Mashayamombe has come out guns blazing against bullies who hounded Tsitsi Masiyiwa and husband Strive out of Twitter for expressing their opinions.

In an interview with ZOOMZimbabwe, Mashayamombe said it was unfortunate that much of the social media vitriol against the Masiyiwas was coming from people who should be pushing for real democracy.

“Women leaders in Zimbabwe such as Tsitsi Masiyiwa have endured an astonishing amount of bullying, aggression and misogyny in the last year and its already spilling into the new year. And as we’ve said even during the elections, a lot of violence has unfortunately come from those who should be pushing for real democracy.

“Any divergence view against the the opposition has unfortunately resulted into aggression and violence. The said bullies who responded to Mrs Masiyiwa were fast to point out ‘her privilege’ and this has happened before.

“Zimbabweans need to remember that the Masiyiwas’ have worked for where they are, and just because they are wealthy through their hard work they shouldn’t be refused an opinion in this country, especially when we consider the amount of help they are providing our children’s education through HigherLife Foundation, the jobs they have created through Econet Wireless and its many subsidiaries, the orphans they look after and pastors through their other charitable initiatives.”

Nyari t. Mashayamombe

She added that much of the anger against the Masiyiwas can be construed to be stemming from polarisation around the results of the July 2018 elections as well as the outcome of the Commission of Inquiry into the August 1 post-election killings.

“Zimbabweans have mastered the art of aggression, abuse by targeting someone’s ‘seemingly weak point’. For the Masiyiwa’s it’s their wealth they are always thrown back in their faces, and for any female leader they are quickly titled ‘Hure’.

Nyaradzo Mashayamombe

“It’s even interesting that just this morning a certain young women joked about Tsitsi Masiyiwa and said ‘Tsitsi runs her mouth uyu, tichamutorera murume brain dzidzoke nxa’. I had a confrontation with the young woman who was adamant to say she’s joking and i challenged her to say why do jokes have to be about sexualising and objectifying other women rather than speaking good and protecting each other?

“I immediately became a target of other comments. So yes she’s bullying of her hard work, she’s bullied cause of her wealth and absolutely because the post she put on tweeter could be believed to have been about the polarisation on the results of August 1 Inquiry, she certainly was targeted anybody with a divergence view was targeted.”

Political and economic commentator Mr. Maxwell Saungweme told
ZOOMZimbabwe that what happened to the Masiyiwas was a microscosm of intolerance which has gripped Zimbabwe since the pre-Independence era.

“It (attack on Masiyiwa) is indeed cyber bullying. But it’s a microcosm of the growing scourge of intolerance in Zimbabwe that’s started way before Independence with race based intolerance then tribal intolerance soon after independence then political intolerance since 2000.”

Maxwell Saungweme

Mr. Saungweme further toldZOOMZimbabwe that it was high time Zimbabweans learned to respect and tolerate each other, and that we should all converge towards our common goal: Zimbabwe’s prosperity.

“The social media is just an additional platform where intolerance plays out in real time, live and wide.

“As a nation we need to respect the humanity in each other, we need empathy and compassion and understand that beyond those wrongs and rights there is a field we meet where we have common ground and that field is Zimbabwe and it’s prosperity. We all want that.”

maxwell saungweme

MDC-T national spokesperson Linda Masarira said: “Firstly, everyone has a right to freedom of expression. The moment we attack someone for their voice we have also become part of the problem.

“Whatever issue that may have been discussed, the mere fact that we as individuals have individual ways of expressing ourselves is enough,” she told ZOOMZimbabwe.

Masarira, who herself has been subjected to online attacks countless times, added: “I do view the attacks as cyber bullying and as evidence of a society that is so afraid of divergent thinking the only way we know how to deal with unique thought processes is by attack. Cyber bullying is in the forefront of these attacks on personal opinions.

“Social media like all forms of media preceding them are prone to manipulation. This is a fact we should not ignore, because once we understand that then we know not to be idealistic in proffering solutions to this social media crisis.”

linda masarira

Masarira also called for the tightening of laws that deal with online bullying.

“One of the ways we can make twitter and other social media platforms safe is by accepting the fact that trolls are a harmful pandemic to the psychology of other users. We must begin to look at cyber bullying as an offence. The evidence is the digital foot print on users accounts.”

Linda Masarira

She was quick to point out that tightening of laws should not mean silencing those having negative commentary on others.

“This is not to say that people are being silenced for having negative commentary on others, no. What I mean is that as humanity we must be able to give constructive criticism and argue with intelligence, not resort to demeaning comments that add no value.

“Tightening laws should not be taken to assume the general public. Tightening laws should mean putting into place measures to curb abusers of social media,” said Masarira.

Mashayamombe, who is also a human rights activists, called on political leadership to stop using people and riding on their frustrations for political mileage. She also called upon civil society leaders to desist from overstepping their bounds into politics.

“It is a long journey to freedom, for me it’s largely about change in political attitudes in Zimbabwe. People must be able to share divergence views without being targeted or without being victims of others. Leadership in these political parties must stop using people and riding on desperate and angry populations.

“Leaders also in civil society must not be politically affiliated but lead in tolerance. The problem in Zimbabwe right now in the civil society is that people are so invested in political parties they can hardly separate the lines hence the inability to accept different views.

“Is it appropriate to tighten laws and compromise on some ‘freedoms’? How do we strike a balance? There has to be a balance as you say between freedom of speech and protection of citizens from bullying, there has to be a carefully crafted bill of law that is careful to not be extremist in any way, and we can learn from other countries who have gone before us.”

MDC-T deputy president Obert Gutu has also come out saying cyber-bullying was real as he was a target on a daily basis especially in the past year when he chose not to work with MDC leader Nelson Chamisa.

Writing on Twitter, Gutu said:

“Cyber-bullying is real. I have been a victim of weird, vulgar, hateful & hurtful cyber attacks on social media but since my skin is as thick as an elephant’s, I have taken it in my stride. I have also used vitriol to respond to cyber bullies. This year, I will be a nice guy.”

obert gutu

The same tweet drew cyberbullies in huge numbers!

Media mogul and prominent publisher Trevor Ncube has also lamented the the existence of intolerance on the cyberspace, saying he had lent moral and financial support to the MDC for long but felt “disappointed.”

“I am 100% with Strive Masiyiwa on this. For decades some of us supported the opposition MDC financially and otherwise.

“The opposition has disappointed many times. We have democratic right to change our minds. Sanctions are hurting all Zimbabweans.

“I have personally funded MDC making it possible for you chaps to have an opposition. But we now refuse to continue supporting this type of MDC.”

trevor ncube

Businessmanan and former senior pastor of Faith Ministries, Dr. Shingi Munyeza concurred with Ncube. Munyeza said he stood with Masiyiwa and Trevor Ncube, and laughed off some attacks that followed immediately after his response.

MDC leader Nelso Chamisa (left) and Trevor Ncube

MDC leader Nelson Chamisa’s supporter, Patson Dzamara said those “with lesser money” were also entitled to their views.

Said Dzamara: “Indeed you have every right to change your minds but that doesn’t mean everyone must follow you. You are entitled to your views and positions the same way every other person is including those with lesser money than you.”

Dzamara torched the storm in mid-December against Tsitsi Masiyiwa that led her to close down her page after trolls came in huge numbers attacking her.

Strive and Tsitsi Masiyiwa

Tsitsi Masiyiwa got a backlash which forced her to close her twitter account about two weeks ago when she tweeted: “Some outcries and actions in pursuit of justice seem and look so right until you discover the source of the outcry and sponsor of the cause. Take a step back and reflect on some of the things we consider good and just causes.”

Patson Dzamara, whose brother Itai disappeared three years ago, responded:  “What is the bottom line? Justice is the bottom line. Whether any quest for justice emanates from a volcano or is sponsored by a storm, it remains noble and progressive. We will not tire neither shall we let injustice prevail in our midst, whatever it takes.”

Dewa Mavhinga of Human Rights Watch tweeted: “If you are implying that all and any outcry and pursuit of justice is sponsored then that really is sad. When your husband pursued his fight to be licensed it was a just cause. In such position of privilege, you should choose your words more carefully, lest you promote injustice.”

Trevor Ncube, who owns the NewsDay, Independent and The Standard newspapers, had this to say to Dzamara: “The same rich people that you are now abusing made it possible for MDC to be launched and fight elections. They poured millions into MDC. Try and find out why they have changed their minds instead of abusing them.” — ZOOMZimbabwe

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