Fake news is on the upsurge as Zimbabwe gears up for its watershed elections on 30 July. Mobile internet and social media have become vehicles for spreading a mix of fake news, rumour, hatred, disinformation and misinformation.
This has happened because there are no explicit official rules on the use of social media in an election.
Coming soon after the 2017 military coup that ended Robert Mugabe’s 37 years in power, these are the first elections since independence without his towering and domineering figure. They are also the first elections in many years without opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who died in February.
The polls therefore potentially mark the beginning of a new order in Zimbabwe. The stakes are extremely high.
For the ruling Zanu-PF, the elections are crucial for legitimising President Emmerson Mnangagwa (75)‘s reign, and restoring constitutionalism. The opposition, particularly the MDC-Alliance led by Tsvangirai’s youthful successor, Nelson Chamisa (40), views the elections as a real chance to capture power after Mugabe’s departure.
The intensity of the fight has seen the two parties use desperate measures in a battle for the hearts and minds of voters. They have teams of spin-doctors and “online warriors” (a combination of bots, paid or volunteering youths) to manufacture and disseminate party propaganda on Twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp.
Known as “Varakashi”, (Shona for “destroyers”) Zanu-PF’s “online warriors” are pitted against the MDC’s “Nerrorists” (after Chamisa’s nickname, “Nero”) in the unprecedented online propaganda war to discredit each other.
Besides the fundamental shifts in the Zimbabwean political field, the one thing that distinguishes this election from previous ones is the explosion in mobile internet and social media. Information is generated far more easily. It also spreads much more rapidly and widely than before.
What’s happening in the run-up to the polls should be a warning for those responsible for ensuring the elections are credible.
Seeing is believing
Images shared on social media platforms have become a dominant feature in the spread of fake news ahead of the elections. Both political parties have used doctored images of rallies from the past, or from totally different contexts, to project the false impression of overwhelming support.
Supporters of the MDC-Alliance, which shares the red colour with South Africa’s Economic Freedom Fighters EFF, have been sharing doctored images of EFF rallies – and claiming them as their own – to give the impression of large crowds, according to journalists I interviewed in Harare.
Doctored documents bearing logos of either government, political parties or the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission are being circulated on social media to drive particular agendas. Examples include:
A purported official letter announcing the resignation of the president of the newly formed National Patriotic Front.
The circulation of a fake sample of a ballot paper aimed at discrediting the electoral commission, and
A sensational claim that Chamisa had offered to make controversial former first Lady Grace Mugabe his vice president if he wins.
A number of these fake images and documents have gained credibility, after they were picked up as news by the mainstream media. This speaks to the diminishing capacity of newsrooms to verify information from social media, in the race to be first with the news.
And, contrary to electoral guidelines for public media partisan reporting continues unabated. The state media houses are endorsing Mnangagwa while the private media largely roots for the MDC-Alliance.
Explosion of the internet
These are the first elections in a significantly developed social media environment in Zimbabwe. Mobile internet and social media have been rapidly growing over the years.
That means half the population now has internet access, compared to 11% in 2010.
Ideally, these technologies should be harnessed for the greater good – such as voter education. Instead, they are being used by different interest groups in a way that poses a great danger to the electoral process. This can potentially cloud the electoral field, and even jeopardise the entire process.
A good example are the attacks on the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, which has become a major target of fake news. These attacks threaten to erode its credibility as a neutral arbiter. For example, an app bearing its logo, prompting users to “click to vote”, went viral on WhatsApp. But, responding to the prompt led to a message congratulating the user on voting for Mnangagwa, suggesting that the supposedly independent electoral body had endorsed the Zanu-PF leader.
Numerous other unverified stories have also been doing the rounds on social media, labelling the voters’ roll “shambolic”. This, and claims of bias against it, have forced the commission to persistently issue statements refuting what it dismisses as “fake news”.
Events in Zimbabwe and elsewhere on the continent point to the need for measures to guard against the abuse of social media, and bots to subvert democratic processes. There’s also a need for social media literacy to ensure that citizens appreciate the power the internet gives them - and to use it responsibly.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Saturday assured Zimbabwe's white farmers that their land will not be taken, calling on them to work together with the government ahead of landmark elections on July 30.
Under his predecessor Robert Mugabe, white farmers were evicted in favour of landless black people from 2000 by a controversial policy that wrecked agriculture and triggered an economic collapse.
But less than two weeks to go before Zimbabwe's first elections since Mugabe's ouster, Mnangagwa moved to quash any fears the practice would be repeated.
"This issue of new (land) invasions is a thing of the past. The rule of law must now apply," Mnangagwa told a group of about 200 white and Asian people gathered in the capital Harare, adding that the "animal farm mentality," was a thing of the past.
"I am saying we should cease to talk about who owns the farm in terms of colour. It is criminal talking about that. A farmer, black farmer, a white farmer is a Zimbabwean farmer."
Mnangagwa said his government was "racially blind" and needed the expertise of everyone across the economy.
Zimbabwe's white population has fallen to less than one percent of the country's 16 million after Mugabe imposed the policy to expropriate farms in 2000.
Agricultural output crashed in the aftermath, with investors leaving and mass unemployment forcing millions of Zimbabweans out of the country to seek work.
- 'A lot of encouragement' -
Mnangagwa acknowledged the failure of the land reforms, saying the expertise of white people in the farming sector was still needed and encouraging them to take part in rebuilding Zimbabwe.
"We must build the Zimbabwe we want. We want to restore the status of Zimbabwe as a food basket of the region," he said.
"He gave us a lot of encouragement. We came here to ask for options for farming," Louisa Horsely, 51, told AFP.
"I wanted to know if my husband's expertise is still needed if he wants to farm and wants to help other people to farm and that is what we are interested in. It sounds (like) he wants us to be part of it."
Tara Chatterton, 39, who runs an auctioning business, said she attended the rally to hear what Mnangagwa's plans were since the military intervention last year that resulted in the removal of Robert Mugabe after nearly four decades.
"We are here just to see... what he is aiming at in trying to bring the country back up and trying to get people to work together as one nation," Chatterton said.
Paul Sexton, 71, who works for a printing company, said he was impressed that the leader "didn't make any outlandish promises".
"It's going to take time and that's the truth."
Governor of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe John Mangudya said that there were no plans to re-introduce local currency as purported in messages being posted on social media.
A letter supposedly written by deputy minister of finance Terrence Mukupe to "all citizens and line ministries" and circulating on social media said that the government had resolved to revert to the use of local currency with effect from July 9.
However, Mukupe has since dismissed the letter as false and an attempt to smear his character.
Mangudya weighed in Wednesday dismissing the social media messages and accusing illegal foreign currency dealers of trying to cause confusion in the economy.
"Members of the public should ignore the social media article which has apparently been created and circulated by people who seem bent on manipulating parallel market rates for personal gain at the expense of the unsuspecting members of the public.
"The article is also calculated to cause unnecessary anxiety, panic, alarm and despondency within the national economy," he said.
He gave assurances that the country would continue to use the multi-currency system in line with government policy.
Zimbabwe has a multi-currency basket comprising the Euro, U.S. dollar, British Pound, Australian dollar, Canadian dollar, Chinese yuan, Indian rupee, South African rand and Botswana pula, although the more tradable currencies are the U.S. dollar and the rand.
South Africa’s Alexander Forbes says it has received regulatory approvals to complete its acquisition of African Actuarial Consultants (AAC), Zimbabwe’s largest independent actuarial firm.
The deal, which was initially announced in June last year, gives the South African firm a foothold into the local market which it had exited in 2015 as the economy tanked but believes has significant upside growth potential.
“While it is early days, we (are) optimistic about the future of the country based on the various initiatives that the government is seeking to undertake to attract both domestic and foreign investment. A sustainable growth path is crucial to the success of any country and the financial well-being and security of its people. There are grounds for optimism in Zimbabwe,” said Alexander Forbes chief executive, Andrew Darfoor in a statement.
AAC falls under Alexander Forbes’ Emerging Markets Division, which already has market leading businesses in Botswana, Namibia, Uganda and Nigeria. It also has business interests in Europe and the Middle East.
Alexander Forbes has previously operated in Zimbabwe, but was rebranded to Willis Faber Dumas and Roland (WFDR) Risk Services in 2015 when ZB Holdings sold off its 40 percent shareholdings in the firm.
AAC is led by chief executive Tinashe Mashoko who said the firm has ambition to become one of the leading actuarial and consulting companies in broader sub-Saharan Africa.
“There are significant benefits from being part of Alexander Forbes with whom we share their ambition to grow a distinctly pan-African financial services group. We have aspirations to grow in the region and their acquisition of a significant stake in AAC aligns our regional ambition with that of Alexander Forbes,” said Mashoko.
AAC, which started operating in 1993 as unit of First Mutual Holdings, was in 2016 sold off to Mashoko’s Frankmash Enterprises. Darfoor said the terms of the acquisition were confidential.
On Friday, May 18, 2018, President Emmerson Mnangagwa said Zimbabwe had received a loan from the United Kingdom, which would go towards easing the country’s cash shortages.
“For the first time after nearly 20 years, we have received a soft loan, from the British, of $100 million and the (RBZ) governor has been telling me how he has disbursed the money and as from yesterday almost every single bank in the country had received part of the $100 million received,” The Herald quoted the president as having said.
Mnangagwa was to repeat the claim at a political rally in Mutare on Saturday.
Speaking in Shona, Mnangagwa was quoted by The Sunday Mail saying:
“We now have good relations with Britain, this week, on Tuesday, they gave us $100 million to help us resolve the cash crisis in the country.”
DETAILS OF THE BRITISH LOAN:
On Thursday, May 17, 2018, the Commonwealth Development Corporation (CDC), announced it would partner Standard Chartered Bank in extending an investment facility of up to $100 million to private Zimbabwean businesses seeking capital to grow.
The CDC is the UK’s development finance arm, while Standard Chartered is a leading British bank, whose Zimbabwean unit is the oldest in the southern African country.
The five-year facility will see CDC and Standard Chartered share the default risk on up to US$100 million of new loans originated by Standard Chartered Bank Zimbabwe in the southern African state.
The investment will be used for capital expenditure and for helping businesses meet their day-to-day financing needs. The likely recipients will include firms in the food processing, manufacturing and agriculture sectors.
In an interview with the Financial Times, CDC chief executive Nick O’Donohoe stressed that the funding would not be to Zimbabwe’s government, but private firms.
While the loan will improve Zimbabwean businesses’ access to foreign currency, improve local production and reduce pressure on the country’s current account in the long term, it is incorrect to say, as Mnangagwa claimed, that the British have given Zimbabwe funds to ease its cash crisis.
While the president claimed the funds had already been disbursed to Zimbabwe, the Financial Times, which broke the story, reported that CDC and Standard Chartered Bank were in the process of drawing up a list of private firms to benefit from the facility.
The president’s statement created the impression that the $100 million loan was being directly injected into circulation in Zimbabwe, which is not the case.
President Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa, who has positioned himself as a pro-business president since his November 2018 inauguration, has indicated that his ascension has coincided with an increase in investor interest in Zimbabwe.
On February 8, 2018, the Herald newspaper quoted Mnangagwa saying: “We have secured more than $3bn in foreign direct investment in just seven weeks. We want this country to move forward. We want jobs for our children. For a start, we are addressing the production levels of agriculture where we are modernising all forms of production. We will move into modernising the processing chain.”
Addressing a church gathering in Shamva on April 25, 2018, Mnangagwa announced that investment commitments to Zimbabwe had increased to $11 billion. The Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) quoted the president, who is routinely referred as “ED” by the local media, as saying: “For the past four months, we have been discussing and realised that investment commitments have passed $11 billion as companies are angling themselves for mutual benefit.”
The International Monetary Fund’s Balance of Payments and International Investment Position Manual (BPM6) defines foreign direct investment as international investment by an entity resident in one economy in an enterprise resident in another economy that is made with the objective of obtaining a lasting interest.
The lasting interest implies the existence of a long-term relationship between the direct investor and the enterprise and a significant degree of influence on the management of the enterprise. Direct investment involves both the initial transaction that establishes the relationship between the two entities and all subsequent capital transactions between them and among affiliated enterprises, both incorporated and unincorporated.
According to the IMF, a direct investment enterprise is an incorporated or unincorporated enterprise in which a direct investor that is resident of another economy has 10 percent or more of the ordinary shares or voting power (for an incorporated enterprise) or the equivalent (for an unincorporated enterprise).
The direct investor may be an individual, an incorporated or unincorporated private or public enterprise, a government, or an associated group of individuals or enterprises that has a direct investment enterprise in an economy other than that in which the direct investor resides. The ownership of 10 percent of ordinary shares or voting power is the criterion for determining the existence of a direct investment relationship.
Investment approvals versus commitments
The Zimbabwe Investment Authority (ZIA), the state agency responsible for overseeing and licencing foreign investment into the country, routinely provides information on the value of projects it would have approved. However, ZIA does not provide data on actual investment, within the boundaries of the IMF definition of FDI.
Nevertheless, ZIA’s statistics of projects licenced in the first quarter of 2017 show a wide gap between commitments claimed by Mnangagwa and approved FDI investments. ZIA chief executive Richard Mbaiwa told journalists at the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair that the agency had licenced projects worth about $950 in the first quarter of 2018.
The Herald quotes Mbaiwa saying: “The enquiries that have come to ZIA have increased very significantly. If I look at the first quarter of 2018, comparing to the first quarter of 2017, you see a very significant increase.
“In terms of projects that we have actually licensed, not those that made commitments such as the $4,2 billion by Karo Resources and others and not licensed by ZIA, I am not including those; I mean the ones ZIA has actually licensed, for the first quarter we are standing at just below a billion dollars.
“The figure (for licensed projects) is about $950 million. In the first quarter of 2017 we were at about $150 million. So, you can see the difference, the jump. Normally, the first quarter is the slowest, especially in the previous years. When we had $150 million in the first quarter, by end of the year the figure would have gone up to between $1,5 billion and $2 billion,” he said.
“So we think that this year, with the first quarter just shy of a billion dollars, we are quite positive that by end of the first quarter maybe we would have already surpassed last year’s total figure ($1,2 billion project approvals for whole of 2017).
Expected Direct Investment (EDI) versus actual FDI
Mnangagwa’s presidency has indeed seen a notable increase in foreign investor interest, as shown by several high-profile visits by investors, who include the chief executive of multi-billion dollar British development financier Commonwealth Development Corporation, Nick O’Donohoe, mineral fertilizer mogul Dmtry Mazepin, rated the 61st richest Russian by Forbes in 2015, Sergey Ivanov Jr, the chief executive of the world’s number two diamond miner Alrosa and mining entrepreneur Loucas Pourolis, chairman of the London and Johannesburg-listed Tharisa plc. Pouroulis signed a $4,2 billion deal with the government, to develop a platinum mine and refinery in the country.
In February, a high-level delegation from US multinational conglomerate General Electric visited the country and expressed interest in the 2 400 megawatt Batoka hydropower project, which is estimated to cost $4 billion.
During his April state visit to China, Mnangagwa also met Xiang Guangda, with the president’s aides announcing that Xiang’s Tsingshang Holdings – which lays claim to being China’s second biggest stainless steel manufacturer – was interested in setting up a $4 billion steel plant in Zimbabwe.
Xiang already has interests in Zimbabwe through ferrochrome firm Afrochine Smelting, which was set up in 2012. In 2013, the Chinese firm was reported to be planning to invest in a power plant that would generate as much as 1 000 megawatts to supply its Selous plant, with the surplus power being fed into the national grid. Five years on, it remains unclear if Afrochine is still pursuing the power project.
In an article he wrote for the Sunday Mail, presidential spokesman George Charamba suggested Xiang’s power plant ambitions had been frustrated by the previous administration: “But he (Xiang) has been knocking on Government offices for the past three years, to no avail. Still, he didn’t give up on us.
“In that 30-minute meeting (with Mnangagwa), the investor was able to walk away with concrete commitments on all his requirements, opening the way for an early start to the project.”
Another Chinese billionaire Zhang Li, who is considering investing over $1 billion in the Zimbabwe Iron and Steel Company, also returned, having first come to Zimbabwe in October, 2017, when he was hosted by former President Robert Mugabe.
ZIA statistics of licenced projects, juxtaposed with data from the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), reveal a significant variance between FDI approvals and actual investment. The UNCTAD publishes an annual report on global investment, which provides details of FDI trends at the national, regional and global level. The UNCTAD’s World Investment Report is a widely used resource for FDI data.
While ZIA has approved projects worth an average $1 billion annually over the past few years, Zimbabwe’s FDI has averaged $400 million since 2013.
While ZIA data shows an increase in investor interest in Zimbabwe, with $950 million worth of approved projects comparing favourably with the annual average value of approvals in previous years, there is no evidence to back up Mnangagwa’s February claim, made at a Guruve rally, that the country secured more than US$3 billion in FDI in seven weeks as reported by The Herald.
In subsequent pronouncements, Mnangagwa appears to be cautious as he talks about FDI commitments, not secured investment. As the ZIA and UNCTAD statistics show, approved projects and actual FDI investments vary significantly. As such, commitments to invest demonstrate interest but do not paint the whole picture. - Zimfact
- The Source
The African Development Bank is leading talks with Zimbabwe and its creditors to make plans for the nation to pay off some of its arrears so it can restore relations with lenders, said Akinwumi Adesina, the bank’s president.
During almost two decades of economic mismanagement the southern African nation’s debt surged to more than 70 percent of gross domestic product and the economy has halved in size since 2000, according to the government.
“We’re talking with the government and were looking for a way we can all have a common agreement and hopefully reach a mutually acceptable timeline for an arrears clearance,” Adesina said in an interview on Monday in Johannesburg. “The AfDB is spearheading that conversation with all the creditors.”
While Zimbabwe has paid $110 million of arrears to the International Monetary Fund, it’s still saddled with $1.7 billion of arrears to the AfDB and World Bank. The Finance Ministry forecast total debt of $14.5 billion in the 2018 budget.
It needs to clear the arrears so it can once again seek foreign assistance from lenders such as the IMF.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa took power in November when Robert Mugabe resigned as the nation’s leader after the military temporarily took control and effectively ended his 37-year reign. He has pledged to revive the economy and sell bonds to finance infrastructure development.
“With the new government it creates a new opportunity to support the country to unlock its potential and to stabilize,” Adesina said. A new Zimbabwe is great for “political stability and regional trade in the Southern African Development Community area.”
The nation abandoned its own currency in 2009 as runaway inflation rendered it worthless, opting instead for a basket of currencies that includes the dollar, South Africa’s rand, the pound and Botswana’s pula.
Zimbabwe’s brand architecture after the downfall of Mugabe through the ‘soft’ coup of 15 November 2017 is hard to define.
The replacement of Robert Mugabe after the seizure by the military and his erstwhile Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, contributed to the weakening of an already fragile brand.
Enduring, albeit National Brands are naturally a representation of order strengthened by the consolidation of democratic ethos and values. This explains why the new president is struggling to take brand Zimbabwe on a new and acceptable trajectory.
Zimbabwe, post-Mugabe is facing an existential crisis of creating a brand promise and accompanying experience. This is because the leaders assumed office through force and power seizure rather than through constitutional means. The result of which is supposed to create a social contract, as both the promise by leadership and the ‘experience’ citizens and national stakeholders are supposed to enjoy.
If managed well, the impending 2018 general election is supposed to deal with this dilemma. However, it has become common knowledge that foreign powers like Britain and the European Union seem keen use the electoral process to launder the coup. This will only serve to delay the resolution of the brand crisis of legitimacy and credibility.
It is for the benefit of Brand Zimbabwe if the internal stakeholders engage extensively and build consensus on the electoral conditions that will lead to the plebiscite so that there won’t be any dispute on the outcome. Yet, the prevailing situation is that of an incumbent bent on pleasing outside forces rather than complementing internal stakeholders in building an enduring brand.
We need to examine three major national branding indicators in order assess where Brand Zimbabwe stands after Mugabe’s rule.
Defining the Big Idea
After Mugabe, the new regime seems to be struggling to define a ‘big idea’ that unites the people of Zimbabwe. This has seen the new leaders running around the globe, like proverbial headless chickens, riding on a rather hollow concept: ‘Zimbabwe is open for Business.’ This is a very weak idea, for lack of better phraseology.
It does not mean anything to internal stakeholders. It creates the impression that Zimbabwe is up for sale for pittance. The challenge for the new leadership that emerges from an democratic election which is not disputed would be to craft a big idea that would anchor Brand Zimbabwe. This big idea should become the shining light that will guide citizens in moving the country forward.
United States’ 44th president Barack Obama’s administration was anchored on inspiring its citizens on the promise that the USA could rebuild and reclaim its global leadership through the, “Yes We Can” and “Forward” campaigns. These big ideas served to motivate the citizens to buy into his vision to rebuild America after the debilitating global financial crisis on 2008.
Constant Messaging and Visual Style
Enduring brands are anchored on a constant set of positive messages. The new administration entered office on the promise of a ‘New Dawn! New Era’! This is an ambitiously bold statement which should be made when internal stakeholders are prepared to meet the brand promise.
With more than the definitive 100 days in office having elapsed, a new era is yet to see its dawn! The more things change the more they remain the same. This serves to expose the dysfunctional nature of the team in office. A team that is failing to meet the brand promise for lack of a big idea that will meet the citizens and stakeholders expectations.
Effective use of multiple media platforms
Zimbabwe has a very rich arts, culture, and sports heritage which lies largely untapped because of poor administration. We are home to the likes of World Karate champion Saiko Sensei Samson Muripo; heavyweight boxer, Charles Manyuchi, paralympian Elliot Mujaji; Olympic champion swimmer, Kirsty Coventry along with globally acclaimed musicians and artists who can be effective Brand Zimbabwe ambassadors.
This works if the brand is well managed and is free from the high reputational risk with which it is currently associated with Brand Zimbabwe. When the Big Idea is well defined, the messaging structured, then our media across all platforms can easily carry the message to a global audience.
In many of the instances, countries are focussed mainly on creating an ‘image’ rather than designing and offering a national brand experience. They end up failing to rally the citizens and external stakeholders around a single brand idea.
Countries must be alive to the following experiences that they should subject their citizens and stakeholders to:
Random experiences: Zimbabwe is in the category that delivers sporadic experiences. The citizens are never sure at any given time of what kind of experience to expect when they engage various departments and agencies. Surprisingly the country focuses on tasks and delivery of services, without considering the citizens’ perspective in measuring their impact.
Therefore, you find plenty of ‘very busy people’ but of little impact in delivering value. That’s why the president is all over the map telling whoever cares to listen that ‘we are open for business’, yet few believe him.
At one end the president is preaching free and fair elections, at the other, the military component in the ruling party commissariat are threatening to unleash violence. On one hand the country is pushing the dawn of a new era mantra, and yet on the other, it unleashes soldiers to kick out informal business from the CBD, tear gassing students peacefully petitioning the government to honor fundamental education rights at institutions of higher learning.
Differentiated experience: This is the ultimate approach towards delivering an exceptional citizen centric experience. The countries in this category are few.
Zimbabwe under Emmerson Mnangagwa is a brand without shape and form, mainly because of the means with which the administration usurped power, a military coup. This makes it difficult for it to build consensus through building a brand that appeals to the hearts and minds of a people.
Brand Zimbabwe is without a Big Idea, where citizens endure random experiences.
( The Source)