Baba Jukwa and the Digital Repertoires of Connective Action in a ‘Competitive Authoritarian Regime’: The Case of Zimbabwe

  • Admire MareEmail author


One of the direct offshoots of the ‘Arab Spring’ and its concomitant globalization of the protest culture across the globe was the launch of the infamous Baba Jukwa Facebook page in Zimbabwe. Despite the popularity and criminal investigations which accompanied the Facebook page, there has been lack of interests among researchers in examining the blog from a social movement perspective. This chapter, which draws much of its data from social media ethnography, qualitative content analysis and in-depth interviews with some of the fans of the Baba Jukwa Facebook page, identifies various digital repertoires of contention, which were deployed by the administrators and fans to mobilize people against the authoritarian nationalist regime during the 2013 harmonized elections. It also highlights the problems associated with most of the digital repertoires of contention utilized especially as it pertains to exposing fans to surveillance, leaving digital footprints and use of real names as well as pseudonyms. It critically assesses cyber-optimistic and pessimistic claims about the potential of social media to drive political change in societies where most of the people are disconnected from the internet and are politically and economically disenfranchised. It argues that online activism backed by limited offline activism feeds into the cult of clicktivism, free-rider problem and neglects the importance of face-to-face mobilization and strategic planning. The chapter also illustrates the limitations of Facebook activism.


Social Movement Authoritarian Regime Qualitative Content Analysis Social Media Platform Framing Theory 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Agarwal, N., Lim, M., & Wigand, R.T. (2012). Raising and rising voices in social media: A novel methodological approach in studying Cyber-collective movements. Business and Information systems Engineering, 4(3), 113–126.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Anderson, B. (1991). Imagined communities: Reflections on the origin and spread of nationalism (Rev. edn.). London and New York: Verso.Google Scholar
  3. Aouragh, M. (2012). Social media, mediation and the Arab revolutions. TripleC, 10(2), 518–536.Google Scholar
  4. Ayres, J.M. (1999). From the streets to the Internet: The cyber-diffusion of contention. Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 566, 132–143.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bauman, Z. (2004). Wasted lives. London: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  6. Benford, R.D., & Snow, D.A. (2000). Framing processes and social movements: An overview and assessment. Annual Review of Sociology, 26, 611–639.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bennett, W.L., & Segerberg, A. (2012). The logic of connective action. Information, Communication & Society, 15(5), 739–768.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bosch, T. (2016). Twitter activism and youth in South Africa: The case of #RhodesMustFall. Information, Communication & Society, 1–12.Google Scholar
  9. Bratton, M., & Masunungure, E. (2011, January). The anatomy of political predation: Leaders, elites and coalitions in Zimbabwe, 1980–2010. The Developmental Leadership Program (DLP).Google Scholar
  10. Castells, M. (2012). Networks of outrage and hope. Social movements in the Internet age (p. 786). Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  11. Cornwall, A. (2002). Making spaces, changing spaces: Situating participation. Development. IDS Working Paper. Brighton: Institutive of Development Studies.Google Scholar
  12. Della Porta, D., & Diani, M. (1999). Social movements: An introduction. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.Google Scholar
  13. Diamond, L. (2010). Liberation technologies. Journal of Democracy, 21(3), 69–83.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Diani, M. (2000). Social movement networks virtual and real. Information, Communication and Society, 3(3), 386–401.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Edwards, A. (2004). The Dutch women’s movement online: Internet and the organizational infrastructure of a social movement. In W. van de Donk, B. D. Loader, P. G. Nixon, and D. Rucht (Eds.), Cyberprotest: New media, citizens, and social movements. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  16. Gamson, W.A. (1992). The social psychology of collective action. In A.D. Morris, & C.M. Mueller (Eds.), Frontiers in social movement theory. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  17. Gamson, W.A., & Meyer, D. (1996). Framing political opportunity. In D. McAdam, J.M. McCarthy, & M. Zald (Eds.), Comparative perspectives on social movements. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  18. Garrett, R.K. (2006). Protest in an information society. Information, Communication and Society, 9(2), 202–224.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Gerbaudo, P. (2012). Tweets and the streets: Social media and contemporary activism. London: Pluto Press.Google Scholar
  20. Gerbaudo, P. (2016). Rousing the Facebook crowd: Digital enthusiasm and emotional contagion in the 2011 protests in Egypt and Spain. International Journal of Communication, 10, 254–273.Google Scholar
  21. Gitlin, T. (1980). The whole world is watching. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  22. Gladwell, M. (2010, October 4). Small change. Why the revolution will not be tweeted. The New Yorker. Retrieved from Accessed 18 November 2011.
  23. González-Bailón, S. et al. (2011, December 15). The Dynamics of protest recruitment through an online network. Scientific Reports, 1(197). doi:  10.1038/srep00197.Google Scholar
  24. Harlow, S.D. (2012). Social media and social movements: Facebook and an online Guatemalan justice movement that moved offline. New Media & Society, 14(2), 225–243.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Herrera, L. (2012). Youth and citizenship in the digital age: A view from Egypt. Harvard Educational Review, 82(3), 333–352.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Honwana, A. M. (2013). Youth and revolution in Tunisia. London: Zed Books.Google Scholar
  27. Kim, J., & Kim, E.J. (2008). Theorizing dialogic deliberation: Everyday political talk as communicative action and dialogue. Communication Theory, 18(1), 51–70.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Klandermans, B. (1984). Mobilization and participation: Social-psychological expansions of resource mobilization theory. American Sociological Review, 49, 583–600.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Kriger, N. J. (2003). Guerrilla veterans in post-war Zimbabwe: Symbolic and violent politics, 1980–1987. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  30. Levitsky, S., & Way, L.A. (2010). Competitive authoritarianism: Hybrid regimes after the cold war. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Lim, M. (2012). Clicks, cabs, and coffee houses: Social media and oppositional movements in Egypt, 2004–2011. Journal of Communication, 62, 231–248.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Lim, M. (2014). Seeing spatially: People, networks and movements in digital and urban spaces, International Development and Planning Review, 36(1), 51–72.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Mao, W., & Wang, F. (2012). New advances in intelligence and security informatics. Oxford: Zhejiang University Press.Google Scholar
  34. Mare, A. (2014). Social media: The new protest drums in Southern Africa? In B. Pătruţ and M. Pătruţ (Eds.), Social media in politics: Case studies on the political power of social media. Public administration and information technology. Canton of Bern: Springer.Google Scholar
  35. McCandless, E. (2009). Polarization and transformation in Zimbabwe: Social movements, strategy dilemmas and change. Durban, University of KwaZulu-Natal Press.Google Scholar
  36. McCaughey, M., & Ayers, M.D. (Eds.). 2003. Cyber activism: Online Activism in theory and practice. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  37. Melucci, A. (1989). Nomads of the present: Social movements and individual needs in contemporary society. London, UK: Hutchinson.Google Scholar
  38. Melucci, A. (1996). Challenging codes: Collective action in the information age. Cambridge: CambridgeUniversity Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Morozov, E. (2011). The net delusion: The dark side of internet freedom. New York: Public Affairs.Google Scholar
  40. Morozov, E. (2014). To save everything, click here: The folly of technological solutionism. New York: Public Affairs.Google Scholar
  41. Moyo, J.N. (1993). Civil society in Zimbabwe. Zambezia, 20(1), 1–13.Google Scholar
  42. Mujere, J., & Mwatwara, W. (2015). Citizen journalism and national politics in Zimbabwe: The case of the 2008 and 2013 elections. In B Mutsvairo (Ed.),. 2015. Perspectives on participatory politics and citizen journalism in a Networked Africa: A connected continent. London: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  43. Mutsvairo, B., & Sirks, L. (2015). Examining the contribution of social media in reinforcing political participation in Zimbabwe. Journal of African Media Studies, 7(3), 329–344.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Muzondidya, J. (2014). Zimbabwe beyond July 2013: Prospects for rebuilding vibrant social movements. Durban: HSRC.Google Scholar
  45. Nedelman, B. (1987). Individuals and parties–changes in processes of political mobilization. European Sociological Review, 3(3), 181–202.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Neumayer, C., & Raffl, C. (2008). Facebook for protest? The value of social software for political activism in the anti-FARC rallies. DigiActive Research Series, December 2008. Retrieved from Accessed 13 April 2011.
  47. Palczewski, C.H. (2001). Cyber-movements, new social movements, and counterpublics. In R. Asen and D. C. Brouwer (Eds.), Counterpublics and the state. Albany: State University of New York Press.Google Scholar
  48. Papacharissi, Z. (2010). A private sphere: Democracy in a digital age. Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  49. Postill, J., & Pink, S. (2012). Social media ethnography: The digital researcher in a messy web. Media International Australia, 145, 123–134.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Prive, T. (2012). What is crowd-funding and How does it benefit the economy. Accessed 23 March 2015.
  51. Shirky, C. (2011). The political power of social media. Foreign Affairs, 90(1), 28–41.Google Scholar
  52. Švelch, J. & Štětka, V. (2016, January). The coup that flopped: Facebook as a platform for emotional protest. First Monday, 21, (1–4).Google Scholar
  53. Tilly, C. (1978). From mobilization to revolution. London: Longman.Google Scholar
  54. Tarrow, S. (1998). Power in movement: social movements, collective action and politics (2nd edn.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Valenzuela, S. (2013). Unpacking the use of social media for protest behavior: The roles of information, opinion expression, and activism. American Behavioural Scientist, 57(7), 920–942.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. van de Donk, W., Loader, B.D., Nixon, P.G., & Rucht, D. (Eds.). (2004). Cyberprotest: New media, citizens and social movements. London, UK: Routledge.Google Scholar
  57. Van Laer, J., & Van Aelst, P. (2010). Internet and social movement action repertoires: Opportunities and limitations. Information, Communication and Society, 13(8), 1146–1174.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Williams, R.H. (2004). The cultural contexts of collective action: Constraints, opportunities, and the symbolic life of social movements. In D.A. Snow, S.A. Soule, & H. Kriesi (Eds.), The Blackwell companion to social movements. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing.Google Scholar
  59. Win, E. (2004). When sharing female identity is not enough: Coalition building in the midst of political polarisation in Zimbabwe. Gender and Development, 12, 1.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Zeilig, L. (2008). Student politics and activism in Zimbabwe: The frustrated transition. Journal of Asian and African Studies, 43(2), 215–237.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Zeilig, L. (2010). Zimbabwe: Struggle, dictatorship and the response of the social movements. Links, 28 June. Accessed 30 November 2016.
  62. Zimbabwe All Media Products Survey (ZAMPS). (2013). Harare: Zimbabwe advertising research foundation.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Film, Television and Journalism, Faculty of HumanitiesUniversity of JohannesburgJohannesburgSouth Africa

Personalised recommendations