Zitto Kabwe, a Tanzanian Member of Parliament from the opposition party Chadema was arrested on June 4, 2011, in Central Tanzania soon after holding a public rally. The rally was one of the series of big rallies across the country that Chadema has organised since the beginning of 2011 and sometimes at risk of violence from the police.
As he was taken into police custody, the MP used his mobile phone to tweet the arrest to his 1,640 followers who retweeted, sympathised and tweeted back messages of encouragement. Here are some of Zitto's tweets following his arrest:
@zittokabwe: I finished a rally exactly at 6pm, police came with 2 defenders full of FFU [anti-riot police] ready for chaos. Sensed and call off the meeting. Arrested @ htl
@zittokabwe: I think there is a plan to frustrate our participation during budget session. My arrest is so awkward that these police can't even explain
@zittokabwe: I have been arrested at the Hotel Acqua around 6.35, police ordered the meeting end, heeded. Asked if they hv Clerk's clearance, hawana! [They don't have]
@zittokabwe: I am being locked up
Twitter user @SwahiliStreet asked:
@SwahiliStreet: @zittokabwe pole sana [I sympathise]. do cops need permission of the clerk to arrest an MP?
@zittokabwe: @SwahiliStreet according to PPPA, no 3 of 1988 they must get clearance from the Clerk
The MP was soon released:
@zittokabwe: RCO just got an order from his RPC [Regional Police Commander] to let me off and report tomorrow. Self-bail.
Still shocked after being released, Zitto tweeted:
@zittokabwe: I am still shocked of the arrest, questioning and release! No justification. This is to a legislator, normal citizens must be suffering
A string of tweets sympathising with Zitto followed:
Nathan Chiume wrote:
@chiume: @zittokabwe Dah, pole sana kaka![Oh, I sympathise with you brother] I hope cool heads prevail & all is resolved sooner than later
George Ruhago also wrote:
@GRuhago: @zittokabwe, dont give up “long walk to freedom”
Back to my interest in how social media is applied in Tanzania, and how this is perceived in i.e. Europe, I have to conclude that to me this is no longer about the fascination of the raw facts that a Tanzanian MP tweets and facebooks straight from custody.
That is in fact the surprisingly easy part.
To me the real challenge lies in adressing the issues of why he ended up there, what will happen after and how the instant communication affects politics in a longer term perspective. Another, may be to keep focus on how the government goes about its cyberspace policies in the long term.
If interested in the Tanzanian government's take on the Internet, read along here.
Zitto Kabwe is a Tanzanian MP from the opposition party Chadema [sw], a blogger and an active Twitter user. He usually tweets about political and economic issues that he encounters in parliament and on his political tours around the country. He often uses twitter for conversations with his followers.