Comment on the use of social media and politics in #Tanzania #GermanAfricaInitiative
I was answering the following question in a panel debate during the ‘Africa Initiative’ in Berlin on December 11 2012:
‘Mr. Kabwe, you are among the youngest parliamentarians in Tanzania and you are using primarily Twitter to communicate with your fans and friends. Can social media reduce corruption and lethargy in African democracies?’
(Part of the answer to the question is inserted below. The question is explained in German at the beginning of the video clip. Please note that the quality is a bit shaky at the beginning, but improves.)
Social media in itself cannot reduce corruption or create democracy. It is a tool, and it works differently in different African countries.
I use both ways, traditional way of communicating through political rallies etc. I definitely believe that social media has made information easier to access, and that it brings a new level of interactivity between the media and the people, but also between politicians and other leaders and people.
I was recently interviewed by one of the leading social media platforms in East Africa (www.JamiiForums.com). It was a record interview, 8 hours consecutively where I responded to 85 very pertinent questions in a day, gathered from members of the forum. The people who asked these questions were from everywhere in the world. The interview is still accessible and anyone visiting the page can read and comment. This would not be possible through traditional media. An 8 hours long interview, I believe, is the longest one any politician has been subjected to.
Through my personal blog (www.zittokabwe.com), Facebook Pages and Twitter account (@zittokabwe), followers could read and react on the private motion I had on billions of Tanzanian shillings in Swiss accounts by Tanzanian citizens. The motion was passed by the Parliament that the Executive must investigate the Swiss billions held by Tanzanians and report back to the Parliament during the April 2013 parliamentary session.
In April 2012 I moved a motion in Parliament to censure a Prime Minister following misuse of public funds by ministers as evidenced by the Controller and Auditor General. I used social media (primarily Twitter) to ask citizens to call their MPs to sign a petition (hashtagged #sahihi70) – 70 signatures needed to qualify to move a vote of no confidence against a Prime Minister (#VoteOfNoConfidence). My party has 48 MPs only, but the petition was signed by 75 MPs. It was an uncomfortable topic for some members of the ruling party but with all the attention drawn on these issues through independent social media it was hard for the government to ignore the issue and they had to respond to questions. Eventually the President sacked 8 ministers including Ministers of Finance and Energy, key ministries.
Social media was very instrumental in both of these examples I have given. Social media is also an accountability tool used by citizens to reach politicians. I am regularly questioned a number of issues on social media and I respond. I am asked questions by people who would never get such an opportunity because of the distances the traditional media keep between politicians and the people.
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