'Citizen army' to monitor Zimbabwe polls

HARARE (July 31, 2013): Fears that President Robert Mugabe (pix) allies will rig Zimbabwe's election on Wednesday have prompted a citizen army of blogging, tweeting poll monitors.

Pressure groups and a cult 'mole' blogging from inside Mugabe's ZANU-PF party have promised to report and collate any accounts of abuses and voting irregularities across the country.

Already a popular Facebook blogger, Baba Jukwa -- or Jukwa's father -- is promising to release election results before the official announcement.

The anonymous blogger has received a cult following for exposing Mugabe government secrets, at times giving out mobile telephone numbers of prominent people asking ordinary people to call them to tell them they know what's going on.

The law states election results must only be announced by the chairperson of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC).

Mugabe has gone as far as to threaten his rival Morgan Tsvangirai with arrest if he declares the results before the ZEC.

But with rumours rife that the military will get a sneak peak at the results before they are released to the world, Baba Jukwa's tally could be explosive.

Already Baba Jukwa has attracted over 300,000 Facebook followers since he started exposing what he calls "evil deeds" of Mugabe's ZANU-PF party and their purported plans to rig polls.

"Zimbabwe I would like to announce to you that I will be official, giving you results and outcome of the election," Baba Jukwa posted on his page on Monday.

"I will as well announce the winner without fear or favour despite the unfair and not free environment."

Meanwhile non-governmental organisations such as Sokwanele and the Election Resource Centre (ERC) are planning to update people on what will be happening during the voting day through their websites, twitter and Facebook.

"We are engaging the people through social media so that we tap what will be happening from the good, bad and ugly things on this election," said Tawanda Chimhini, the director of the Election Resource Centre (ERC).

"We will be using social media from Facebook, WhatsApp and email to expand the power of the people."

"This is our small way of engaging the people to expand the power of the vote and that people will not merely be voting only but they also interrogate what will be happening."

He said information that will be shared include results that will be posted outside polling stations.

"It is legal, nothing stops us from doing that," Chimhini said.

The ERC has deployed 210 mobile observers in all of the country's constituencies to monitor the elections.

Although only a fraction of Zimbabwe's population have access to Internet or data services, the opposition has accused Mugabe's government of trying to prevent the spread of information.

"They have started interfering with mobile Internet so that there will be no movement of information," said Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) spokesperson Douglas Mwonzora.

"They have also started interfering with Whatsapp as well as bulk sms. This is meant to slow down information during and after the voting process," he added.

"It is certainly the state security agency, the CIO (Central Intelligence Organisation). We know these are people who want to rig elections." – AFP