As politicians wrangle over the precise date of Zimbabwe’s imminent presidential and parliamentary elections, the clarion call of “Baba Jukwa” has cut through the din.
Claiming to be a disgruntled insider from President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party, the gossipy Facebook page belonging to this mysterious character, whose name echoes that of a spirit medium, has drawn more than 185,000 “likes” in just three months, with hundreds of responses to every post.
Some think Baba Jukwa is a sort of Zimbabwean Robin Hood, stealing secrets from the ruling party and sharing them with the disfranchised masses.
Every day the blogger names and shames politicians for alleged corruption and brutality, often including their mobile-phone numbers with instructions to call and demand answers. Other posts encourage Zimbabweans to register to vote. “Asijiki!” Baba Jukwa signs off. “No turning back!”
Zimbabweans tend to believe that this pseudonymous rabble-rouser really is an insider.
An editorial in Newsday, an independent daily, told its readers to “take Baba Jukwa seriously”, adding that “It will be naive to ignore what this Facebook character says as we go towards watershed elections.”
The state-controlled Herald newspaper, slavishly pro-Mugabe, denounced the “sinister elements” and “stooges” behind Baba Jukwa.
As elections approach, his warnings of violence are beginning to resonate grimly.
Baba Jukwa has been credited with predicting the death of Edward Chindori-Chininga, a Zanu-PF member of parliament who died on June 19th in a car accident after issuing a report on his party’s theft of vast revenues from the diamond fields at Marange, in the country’s east.
After months of confusion it is still unclear when Zimbabwe will hold its first elections since the harrowing ones of 2008, when Mr Mugabe lost the first round of the presidential race to Morgan Tsvangirai, whose party was then bludgeoned by Zanu-PF thugs into aborting the run-off.
Though Mr Mugabe at first got his constitutional court to set the date for July 31st, he is now seeking an extension until August 14th in response to pressure from the Southern African Development Community, a regional club.
No less worrying for Mr Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change, the timetable issued at Mr Mugabe’s behest allows for six weeks between the first round of the presidential poll and the run-off.
It was during this period last time that Mr Mugabe’s party militias and the security forces clobbered the opposition, especially in the countryside, killing some 200 of its people and forcing Mr Tsvangirai to give up.
As prime minister since 2009 in an awkward ruling coalition, he has asked for a longer delay before the polls go ahead.
It had been agreed that the voters’ register, the state security machine and the media laws should all be reformed before the poll. But none of this has happened. “An early and rapid election will play in Zanu-PF’s favour in that it is easy to rig where preparations are done rapidly,” says Baba Jukwa.
As there has been “no time to implement key electoral reforms, my party is in full control of the current system.” The Economist