Zanu PF supporters were some of the most hostile people on social media as they published false information while threatening government critics and opposition activists during the election period, the European Union (EU) has said.
According to a final report by the EU Elections Observation Mission (EU EOM), the Zanu PF trolls were also guilty of spreading propaganda ahead of the disputed August elections.
The EU EOM observed hundreds of social media accounts, which were using pseudonyms, while posting offensive content and propaganda.
Politicians and their supporters were active on social media, mainly X, Facebook and WhatsApp to canvas for votes.
In its report, the EU EOM noted that Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) and Zanu PF activists were active on online platforms, with their engagements characterised by hate speech, threats and intimidation.
The EU EOM analysed 153 posts published by social media trolls’ accounts, in which 115 promoted pro-Zanu PF and anti-CCC narratives, while 38 promoted pro-CCC and anti-Zanu PF narratives.
“The EU EOM Zimbabwe 2023 was targeted by a defamatory and discrediting campaign on social media, before and after the elections,” the report reads.
“Some main narratives accused the EU EOM of being biased towards the CCC (36%) and of writing Nelson Chamisa's speech notes (14%).”
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The report adds: “False comments and actions allegedly carried out by EU observers (26%) were also spread on X. "The mission received derogatory remarks online.
“Some of them portrayed EU observers as ‘western puppets’, ‘regime change fanatics’, ‘thugs in suits’, ‘Chamisa´s handlers’ ‘planning violence’ and ‘sponsors of human rights violators.’
“The EU EOM noted a group of pro-Zanu PF troll accounts systematically discrediting the mission on X.”
Although the EU EOM did not name the trolls’ accounts, government and ruling party officials have been under spotlight for promoting hate speech and threatening participants online.
George Charamba, the deputy chief secretary to the office of the President and Cabinet who is also president Emmerson Mnangagwa’s spokesperson had his two X accounts under the pseudonyms @Jamwanda2 and @tinoedzazvimwe1 suspended for breaking X “hateful conduct rule”.
Charamba had his @tinoedzazvimwe1 suspended following a series of tweets in August threatening the Southern African Development Community elections observation mission head, Never Mumba.
He now goes by the name dhonzamusoro007 on X.
Zanu PF spokesperson Chrisptopher Mutsvangwa admitted that ruling party trolls were abusive on social media.
“There are people who would be Zanu Pf but would have ulterior motives,” Mutsavngwa said.
“Being a democracy we can’t regulate what people think, but we try to use the persuasive capacity and the Chitepo ideological school to teach people the laws and etiquettes on social media.”
According to the EUEOM observations, CCC legislator Fadzai Mahere, spokesperson Gift Siziba, former legislator Temba Mliswa and Zanu PF legislator Energy Mutodi were the most active National Assembly candidates on X.