THE underfire Zanu-PF government has hired a new breed of social media bashers, popularly known as ‘Varakashi‘, to attack and demean its opponents on social media after the previous team of paid trolls started complaining that the ruling party was making too many blunders for them to spin.
Varakashi is the Shona word for “destroyers.” They troll social media platforms — especially Twitter — and criticize anyone who dares to challenge Mnangagwa’s policies or leadership.
Their mandate is clearly laid out. They have no doubt about their mission and execute it with relentless fervor: Zimbabwe’s online army defends President Emmerson Mnangagwa on just about any issue.
The Zanu-PF Government and the First Family have been taking a lot of heat especially on Facebook and Twitter where internal sources in key Ministries are leaking sensitive information to the media.
A hired basher, from the previous generation of paid trolls who started ‘work’ three months before the 2018 elections, told the Zimbabwe Voice that they had been ‘released’ from their contracts and will be replaced by a new team.
“The new team starts ‘work’ this Monday, 22 June,” said the 27-year-old Harare male, who goes by a female profile on Twitter.
“We haven’t of late been able to defend the President and Government, and that’s not entirely our fault. Zanu-PF and Government have been making too many blunders to be defended.
“Imagine one week our acting national spokesperson Patrick Chinamasa addressed an unnecessary press conference attacking some journalists and online media houses for spreading fake news about corruption scandals over Covid-19 tenders. Then the next week, a close ally of the President is arrested and ZACC quizzes top NatPharm bosses and arrests the Health Minister.
“How do we defend these stupendous blunders? Besides Government being of late indefensible, some of us had also started to complain that Zanu-PF had moved away from being a party of the majority and was now serving a select few.”
The Zimbabwe Voice also heard that apart from defending the party and Head of State from attacks by traditional opposition politicians and Western embassy missions, the new breed of trolls is also going after Zanu-PF members who have of late questioned the conduct of corrupt people close to the First Family.
“Of particular interest is that Zanu-PF members such as Reason Wafawarova, who was instrumental in bringing down Mugabe in favour of President Emmerson Mnangagwa, is now the subject of the trolls.
“You’ll see that these trolls will flood his Facebook posts where he is clearly disgruntled with President Mnangagwa, and they’ll seek to create a narrative that Wafawarova is bitter that his dream job as government spokesperson was given to Nick Mangwana,” a source said.
However, Wafawarova has previously said he never aimed for a Government job as he left Government on his own volition.
According to sources, the new breed of social media bashers last Thursday received their full operational kits which include multiple devices such as mobile phones, SIM cards and laptops, as well as data packages and “a little payment to oil up things”.
Varakashi members range from government-sponsored stalwarts to ruling Zanu-PF supporters. Their overarching aim is to push the narrative that anyone who disagrees with the Zimbabwean government is an agent of foreign powers — and therefore unpatriotic.
Although some of them are paid and well resourced, others work individually and defend the party and President for no monetary gain, but to protect their own businesses or sources of income which in some cases depend on Zanu-PF being in power.
Yet another tiny brigade of the trolls, admittedly, defend the Zanu-PF Government and the President for virtually no gain at all, but simply dislike the MDC Alliance led by Nelson Chamisa.
The genesis of the Varakashi can be traced back to March 2018, just before the presidential and parliamentary elections that were scheduled for July the same year, when President Mnangagwa instructed his ruling Zanu-PF party youth league to batter his opponent Chamisa on social media.
“We are not techno-savvy. Don’t be beaten to the game. Get in there and dominate social media,” President Mnangagwa told the youth party members at the Zanu-PF youth league National Assembly.
“Some of us are old; you are still youthful and masters of technology. The new digital chatrooms are war rooms. Jump in and hammer party enemies online. Don’t play second fiddle.
“I should commend you for spearheading the social media campaign blitz you christened #EDhasMyVote. Rakashai vanhu vakomana,” he said.
In response, the MDC Alliance also relied on its generally vulgar and brutal “Nerrorists” who also labelled and attacked anyone who criticized their political idol, Chamisa.
Today, the varakashi are on call 24 hours a day. Whether an emerging online conversation is about failing hospitals or looming starvation, the varakashi are quickly out of the blocks.
New Twitter accounts — with deceptive avatars — are registered in under two minutes, then the disruption begins. Chat threads are spammed, and eventually slowed, with a barrage of hyperlinks. Or they are driven off-topic by volleys of disingenuous interjections.
Will the new breed of Varakashi win the social media war, or they will, like their just retired predecessors, find Government blunders “unspinnable”? – Zimbabwe Voice