Is social media the new age advocacy platform for young Batswana?

We are not a ‘toyi toyi’ nation- Michael Hall


Before the popularisation of social media people used to take to the streets to protest against oppressive regimes and social ills using banners, music and dance. At the heart of these protests was the toyi toyi dance which to this day stands out as a powerful resistance tool against the status quo during protests. The power and efficacy of the dance was a clear indication from protesters that they were not going to settle for anything less than an overthrow of the status quo.

Fast forward to the digital age where social media sites commands daily attention from users. Essentially this medium has become the de facto  protest platform  and much like its predecessors has gained some measure of success in bringing forth the plight of the disaffected.

According to Michael Hall, who holds a Professional Diploma in Digital Marketing and works as a Social Media Manager, social media has been the go-to advocacy platform for years, citing   former US president Barack Obama’s famous use of Facebook and twitter to secure a second term in office.

“We have seen in the past few years how big of a voice social media has had in terms of major decisions being made, be it political, corporate or personal.  Having the biggest audience that you can directly engage with available to you at any given time is among the benefits of social media, but it also has the potential to get you hired or  fired when abused,” he opined.

A recent example of how social media as an advocacy tool has exponentially spurred collective action was during last week’s  trending issue of sexual abuse in Botswana. Due to frustrations on how her case rape was handled by Botswana Police Services, Zinedine Karabo Gioia  took to social media to solicit support to get justice and over three days managed to garner over 25 000 signatures from sympathizers across the the country and the  globe.   Her posts opened up more dialogue on social media and encouraged other victims to share their stories, an action that caught the attention of the minister of Trade and Industry, Bogolo Kenewendo and  Dorcas Makgatho-Malesu who joined in the collective condemnation.

“Please DM me your contacts. I called the commissioner about your case and he needs more information on the station handling your case etc. I hope this will get you closer to some sort of peace and justice,” Kenewendo responded to the victim on Twitter.

Hall further argues that Batswana are not a ‘toyi toying’ nation and the that petition was a worthwhile exercise. “It proves to whomever it is presented to that a certain number of people are supporting the cause in solidarity. This is presented in real time, not estimated numbers. On the other end of the spectrum is the potential misuses of the media which includes cyber bullying among others,” he said while urging social media users to use its power responsibly.