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Zambia: Social Media Harnessed to Monitor Polls in Sep 20 Election

Bantu Watch, a civil society-driven web site utilising the power of social media, has been launched to monitor incidents related to Zambia’s September 20, 2011, elections.

Built on the Ushahidi crowdsourcing platform, Bantu Watch encourages registered voters and interested parties to report incidents involving election-related violence, hate speech, corruption and other matters both online via the web site and via text message.

Bantu Watch, which has also has a presence on Facebook, is automatically compiling Twitter posts with the hashtag #Zambialections, a stream of which is also running on the website.

An entry on Facebook about Bantu Watch explains the group’s mission:

Protect YOUR vote in this year’s election by reporting electoral offences to BantuWatch – send an SMS to 3018 or report online on www.bantuwatch.org YOUR reports will be online next to those of formal observers. Become part of a national monitoring exercise. In every step of the process you remain anonymous You can make a difference – Watch and Report!

One of the reports of alleged bribery of voters from the Copperbelt Province carrying the disclaimer “unverified” reads:

MMD is districting (distributing) maize in masati constitency todaytoday (sic) they are at lumano basic school

Another “unverified” report apparently made by the ruling MMD in the Eastern Province district of Katete reads:

The polling offices are being bribed by some political party in katete-MMD.

On Twitter, messages like the following are running:

@Kamukwape: Zambian President to commision Ndola Stadium a day before elections, after campaign is over…#copperbelt #bantuwatch

The Electoral Commission of Zambia set September 18 as the last day of campaigning for the elections, in which votes will be cast for the republican president, members of parliament and local government. But the incumbent, President Rupiah Banda, is scheduled to open the Chinese-built stadium a day before elections. The move is seen as a campaign tactic by Mr Banda, who took over as president in 2008 following the death of President Levy Mwanawasa.

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