A Twitter account that appears to be offering news from inside the crisis in Zimbabwe probably isn’t.
The page appears to be offering insights from the middle of a developing and confusing situation in the country. But those insights appear to be entirely fake.
Very little is actually known about what is currently happening in Zimbabwe’s government. Army officials have appeared on state TV channels, denying that there is a coup – but leader Robert Mugabe is thought to have been deposed and it isn’t clear who is now in charge of the country.
It’s into that lack of understanding that the Twitter account has emerged. It has been embraced apparently because it’s a point of clarity in a very unclear situation.
Many of his tweets have been shared thousands of times. And they were read out on major news broadcasts including the Today programme, which suggested that the account was reporting from inside the middle of the crisis.
And those posts appear to give updates that suggest leader Mr Mugabe is safe and that the government denies that a coup is happening in the country. While both of those facts also reflect what facts can be known about events, the tweets themselves don’t appear to be legitimate.
“There was no coup, only a bloodless transition which saw corrupt and crooked persons being arrested and an elderly man who had been taken advantage of by his wife being detained,” one of the many tweets posted since the crisis began read. “The few bangs that were heard were from crooks who were resisting arrest, but they are now detained.”
It also retweeted posts from an account claiming to represent the Zanu PF Youth League. That account also appears to be fake.
Neither of the famous Zanu PF accounts are verified. The supposedly official Zanu PF account is old but until the crisis began had taken to posting tweets that were apparently intended to be satirical – including attacks on hipsters and McDonald’s – and none of which appeared to actually be linked to the ruling party.
The account has even attempted to discredit other, apparently fake, Twitter accounts. That includes one owned by Emmerson Mnangagwa, the former Zimbabwean vice president who was dismissed earlier this month by Robert Mugabe for allegedly plotting against the government, and may have been involved in the events currently shaking the country.
“Please note and be warned,” it read, apparently referring to a popular parody account that has since been shut down. “Comrade Mnangagwa has not got a twitter account we know of one in his name. It is not him. It’s a supporter or a fake account- but not him.”
The tweet is an inadvertent reminder that not only the many accounts apparently being run in Mnangagwa’s name, but also those of his party, appear to be entirely fake. It isn’t actually clear that any official updates have been posted on the situation in Zimbabwe onto Twitter, with the army instead using TV broadcasts as their primary way of keeping the public updated on what it wants to know about the crisis.