HARARE – Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai “has not banned party members from using social media such as WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter” according to a statement issued by party spokesman Obert Gutu on Monday.
Gutu described Tsvangirai as “a champion of democracy and free speech” and said his track record “as the country’s most popular politician speaks for itself.”
Last week it was reported that the party had ordered its members to shut down groups on the social messaging platform Whatsapp, “to stop the spread of lies.”
MDC Secretary General Douglas Mwonzora was quoted saying; “What the president has directed is that we shut down the social media groups first and then those who want to open them will then open them subject to certain rules that we are going to give them. There is no need to use social media to divide the party, to engage in hate language.”
Last month Mwonzora wrote to the Chitungwiza provincial executive threatening disciplinary if they did not stop using social media to propagate hate speech against the party leadership, fanning factionalism and disrespecting MDC rules and procedures.
A document purporting to come from Tsvangirai’s office was then circulated on social media on Friday.
“I issue the following order: Any Whatsapp group administered by anyone who is an MDC member, without exception, be shut down with immediate effect,” it read.
But on Monday Gutu said “Throughout his political activism, Tsvangirai has personally championed the cause for the opening up of both the public and private media space to enable all Zimbabweans to freely articulate and propagate their political and other views.”
“As a voluntary association, the MDC is bound by certain rules and regulations. Indeed, all voluntary associations the world over (including churches and business associations); have to abide by a certain code of conduct in order to achieve stability, unity and cohesion.
“MDC members are a disciplined group of cadres who very much appreciate the need to use social media platforms for the purpose of maintaining and promoting party discipline, unity and cohesion. The insinuation that party members are no longer allowed to use social media is thus palpably false misleading, preposterous and malicious,” Gutu said.
“Party members are free to use social media in accordance with the guidelines and standards that are being set up by the party leadership. Social media platforms should not be abused to promote hatred, division, gossiping and rumour -mongering.
“These guidelines are being made available to all party members who would like to use social media platforms to communicate amongst themselves. Should there be any doubt as to what these guidelines are, my office is more than willing and able to assist any party members who are keen to activate their social media platforms,” Gutu added.