Manipulated photos and videos are also circulating in large numbers — with both ZANU-PF and the leading opposition party, the Citizens’ Coalition for Change (CCC), making good use of them, analysts say.
“(They) have used doctored images of rallies from the past, or from totally different contexts, to project the false impression of overwhelming support,” said Bhekizulu Tshuma, a media studies professor at the National University of Science and Technology in Zimbabwe.
The parties have also used the tactic to suggest their rivals have few followers, he added.
Campaign messages have been deliberately distorted.
In one example, a clip of CCC leader Nelson Chamisa was edited to make it sound as if he advocated for the reversal of radical land reforms enacted by late president Robert Mugabe — and for the land to be returned to white farmers.
Disinformation can also be easily found on television, where experts say state broadcaster ZBC often depicts the CCC as a party with little support and takes its leader’s speeches out of context.
“It is a matter of public record that ZBC refuses to give any independent or fair coverage to the CCC,” the party’s spokeswoman Fadzayi Mahere wrote on Twitter, which is being rebranded as “X”.
“Not only is the state media’s coverage unequal, but whatever token coverage is accorded to the opposition is biased, derogatory and manipulated.”
Voices critical of ZANU-PF also have limited reach in South Africa, which is home to a large Zimbabwean diaspora, said Mighti.
Zimbabweans abroad, in South Africa and the UK in particular, also play a critical role in amplifying misinformation, analysts say.
“A lot of the discourse about the Zimbabwean election happens on the internet and in South African, European and American media, primarily because of the restrictions in Zimbabwe and the fear of reprisals,” he said.- AFP