“We all know how political opinion was shaped in the Arab Spring and the role of Twitter and Facebook, it is a matter of debate whether word of mouth then took over to complete the revolution. But we can safely say an opinion was nurtured and spread first by the internet,” John Mokwetsi, an online media journalist said.
In addition, large numbers of people, particularly those living in border areas and some remote areas, do not have access to either Zimbabwean radio or television and listen to broadcasts from neighbouring countries.
Only last year, the government, through Transmedia, put up a transmitter in Beitbridge, but the people of that town have more access to, and prefer, South African radio and television than Zimbabwe’s, meaning the transmitter is a little more than a white elephant.
Recent statistics reveal that Zimbabwe, at 92%, has the highest signal piracy percentage in the region, meaning a significant proportion of the country is not confined to ZBC radio and television.
But critics of new media have pointed out that most new media platforms have remained the preserve of a few due to cost.
Mokwetsi reckons that at this stage, new media like mobile phones and the internet can only play a complementary role to traditional media.
“I think the internet still needs newspapers, radio and TV in order to be truly influential in Africa. If something is on the internet and is ignored by other media, it will not reach the general public,” Mokwetsi, a Master’s degree student in digital media said.
“A medium of the masses is needed for people to pay attention and internet in Zimbabwe is not yet a mass medium and that is why radio is Zanu PF’s biggest weapon and indeed many other African countries.”