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Tuesday, 27 June, 2000, 19:16 GMT 20:16 UK
Zimbabwe's online campaign
MDC website
The MDC site grew as fast as the party

By BBC News Online's Justin Pearce

While supporters of Zimbabwe's ruling party used old-fashioned intimidation as part of their election strategy, the opposition benefited from a more up-to-date style of campaigning.

Campaigners and ordinary citizens took advantage of the internet and e-mail to share information and promote their views.

It is true that few Zimbabweans have access to computers and modems - so activists working in fear of ruling party attacks used the wind as much as the web to get their message across as they scattered leaflets around the countryside.

But the web proved an effective way of getting the opposition message across to foreign governments, businesses and journalists - as well as sharing information among those Zimbabweans who do have the privilege of web access.

The web site of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change reports having seen "a huge amount" of increased traffic on Monday, as election results started coming in.

"Our steadily increasing audience shot to over 15,000 unique visitors by early [Tuesday] morning," the website says.

Up to date

The MDC site has grown as fast as the young political party that launched it.

What started as not much more than a statement of the party's manifesto has grown into a resource that includes press clippings, profiles of prominent candidates, and contact numbers for organisations monitoring political violence.

Anonym site
The Anonym site offers music that may not be broadcast in Zimbabwe
As votes were counted after the weekend's polling, the site kept up with the incoming results and presents a detailed breakdown of how the various regions voted.

In a defiant gesture against censorship, the MDC site also shows readers how to access tracks by Zimbabwean musician Thomas Mapfumo, which have been banned from airplay by the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation.

The anti-Mugabe songs "Disaster" and "Mamvemve" are available in MP3 format from the Anonym Records site, which is linked off the MDC homepage.

Another useful resource is the site of the London-based Zimbabwe Democracy Trust - a non-party political organisation which nevertheless appears resolutely anti-Mugabe.

Personal stories

But individuals as well as organisations took advantage of the world-wide web.

During the months when the self-styled war veterans terrorised farmers and farm workers, e-mail chain letters zoomed around Zimbabwe and to friends abroad, sharing the fears of the people living on the farms.

At BBC News Online, the land crisis in Zimbabwe began to rival the war between Ethiopia and Eritrea as the favourite topic for readers' e-mails.

"Born in Zimbabwe, raised in Zimbabwe, forced to leave because of the colour of my skin," was a typical comment.

Another asked "why the western sympathy for the white farmers?" recalling that many have been guilty of inhumane treatment towards their employees.

Meanwhile, Lorraine Mienie, who describes herself as a "wife, mother and grandmother" living on a Zimbabwean farm set up her own website to record her experiences, hopes and fears.

"You won't get a history lesson - you'll get a running documentary as each day unfolds," she wrote in the introduction to her site.

"And you'll get it from my point of view, and how it is affecting me, personally, in my everyday life."

Less enterprising are the Zanu-PF and the government websites. The government site is a dry list of ministers and portfolios - the ruling party site is a great source of information on President Mugabe's academic qualifications, but is unfortunately very difficult to access.


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19 Apr 00 | Talking Point
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