Civil society groups have expressed concern over the negative use of social media during the just-ended general elections, saying there was need to engage citizens on the implications of misuse of the platforms.

“We Have Time For #ChigumbaChallenge Because We Are Unemployed 364 Days!”

Speaking during a Women Institute for Leadership Development, (WILD)’s live election review on Skyz Metro FM yesterday, social commentator, Patience Phiri said the election period was a true reflection of what society thought of each other, particularly women.

“Audio messages are circulating and people are using them to insult each other over losing the election. For example, people in rural areas are being insulted for allegedly voting for Zanu PF, but we always talk of democracy, (and) democracy allows one to choose who they want to vote for,” Phiri said.

“People are confusing abuse of social media to their right to freedom of expression, but you cannot exercise your right while infringing on other people’s rights.”

She said social media had become a conduit for hate speech, especially targeted at women leaders like MDC-T leader Thokozani Khupe and Zimbabwe Electoral Commission chairperson Justice Priscilla Chigumba.

“Fellow women were sending messages ridiculing Khupe for dividing votes, saying she should have known that the race is for men,” Phiri said.

“There were also countless pictures of what was termed the ‘Chigumba challenge’, where women were mimicking Chigumba’s looks on the day she announced the presidential results.”

Election Situation Room chairperson, Jenny Williams said the abuse of the platforms was due to inadequate information.

“We do not have proper access to information and this has created a skewed understanding of the role of social media, hence we had all these issues of supposed rigging and so on via social media platforms,” she said.

“As civic society, we need to intensify in giving access to information to citizens and caution them on abuse of such platforms, which are meant to allow easy access of information to us.”

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