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MDC gags members on social media

MDC Alliance has ordered all its members, regardless of position to desist from discussing party business on social media particularly on WhatsApp, a move widely viewed as a gag order.

The opposition party threatened the party’s WhatsApp group administrators and members, who violated its order with disciplinary action.

This new party guideline was announced after MDC Alliance’s National Standing Committee met on December 2, 2020.

“After noting the corrosive and toxic nature of the WhatsApp groups that were created in the name of the party, the National Standing Committees met on December 2, 2020, and resolved that no member of the MDC Alliance regardless of the position one holds shall be allowed or permitted to discuss debate or converse part issues business on WhatsApp groups,” said the memo from the office of the Secretary-General, which was signed by the deputy – David Chimhini.

“WhatsApp group administration who allow their groups to discuss party business and issues will be disciplined including the members who would have participated in the discussion.”

The memo noted that online activities that violate the above mentioned resolution would subject the member of the party, either from their national position to the branch to disciplinary action

“The party encourages members to strictly adhere to the above resolution to avoid regrets,” Chimini said.

This is not the first time the opposition party has issued such an order as in early 2015 when it was still MDC-T, the then leader, the late president, Morgan Tsvangirai, caused heated debate with the party after he banned members from attacking each other on social media claiming the platform was divisive.

Tsvangirai ordered all WhatsApp groups administered by party activists be closed.

“I, therefore, issue the order that any WhatsApp group administered by anyone who is an MDC member without exception, be shut down. Any party structure which needs to run a social media group should access forms from the office of the president,” Tsvangirai said then.

Later that year in August, the party ordered all party mayors, chairperson and councillors to first seek “guidance” from the party before addressing the media.

This media guideline was spelt out in the party’s local governance blueprint, Smart City Campaign, which said, “All mayors, chairpersons and councillors must recognise the need for careful and consistent message and media management. Where they are unclear about what to say on any issue they should seek guidance from the party in advance.”

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