Facebook character stirs up Zimbabwe politics

  • 24 May 2013
  • From the section Africa
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Baba Jukwa Facebook page

Is it a practical joke? A laughable ego trip? A crude piece of opposition propaganda? Or the first real insight that Zimbabweans have been offered into the inner-workings of the party that has ruled their country for decades?

I have been following Baba Jukwa on Facebook for a few months now, on the advice of a businessman and friend in Harare who was convinced that this was something special, something important - a genuine insider's account of the factional battles and corruption with President Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF.

It is certainly been an interesting read at an important time in Zimbabwe, with elections likely within the next few months.

In a daily blizzard of posts, Baba Jukwa has waged a furious information war against Zanu-PF - the party of which he claims to be a member.

The stories - some of them more salacious gossip than whistle blowing - include allegations of rape, murder and corruption by senior Zanu-PF officials, and are often accompanied by the mobile phone numbers of those accused, with calls for the public to bombard them with questions.

The onslaught has clearly rattled a few of Mr Mugabe's supporters.

Some officials insist that Baba Jukwa must be the creation of Zanu-PF's bitter political rivals - now uneasy partners in a power-sharing government - the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

But it is worth noting that the heavily pro-Zanu-PF state-run newspaper, The Herald, has leant credibility to the idea that he is a traitor from within the party.

Baba Jukwa, wrote one Herald columnist, is "destructive, malicious… an imperialist takeover… working to destroy the revolutionary party from within by engaging in malicious and unholy alliances with the MDC-T party".

'A Robin Hood figure?'

So who is Baba Jukwa?

Is he one man, or - as the changing tone and style of writing might imply - a collective?

Robert Mugabe
Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF party is offering large rewards for the true identity of Baba Jukwa

His site gleefully champions the notion that he is a Robin Hood figure - constantly battling to evade detection from Zanu-PF's cyber-warriors - and running digital rings around them in the process, as they offer large rewards for anyone who can reveal his true identity.

On his page, Baba Jukwa describes himself as a disillusioned Zanu-PF member, and as a "concerned father, fighting nepotism".

Significantly, more than 80,000 people have clicked the "like" button on his Facebook page - a substantial figure in a small country like Zimbabwe - and it is widely believed that many more follow him anonymously.

In response another Facebook character called Amai Jukwa has launched a page, with posts that are in support of Mr Mugabe - she has about 18,000 "likes".

Earlier this week I was one of several journalists to receive a direct email from Baba Jukwa, urging me to "spread the news".

I replied, asking if we might be able to meet on my next visit to Zimbabwe. He has not responded yet.

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