The Patriotic Front (PF) has crafted a strategic plan to train its youths in Information Communications Technologies (ICT) and the use of social media to campaign for the embattled government using the internet.
According to information gathered, the PF wants to train over 3,000 young people in the use of ICT and social media such as Facebook, Twitter and other blogs in order to counter the barrage of online criticism of the current government and campaign for the ruling party in the upcoming election.
Sources close to the training project have alerted that the PF is facing difficulty in this area, mainly because many of the young people selected lack basic education and written communication skills, and were not responding well to the training efforts.
According to the information received, PF leadership realised that the Internet is a source of valuable influence against the Zambian government and the training of cadres was expected to increase the numbers of supporters of the PF online to participate in comment forums, Facebook pages, as well as Twitter conversations.
“Most of the young people being trained are basic call boys, illiterates and those who even have no interest in the use of technology. Don’t be shocked when you find these people in critical public service organisations. There is nothing we can do when we receive such instructions, there is a master plan that shall just blow in people’s faces, especially internet enthusiasts,” the source said.
Currently, the government is portraying the training of its political activists as a national development project.
Last week, 25 PF youths graduated in the use of ICTs in Choma, one of the districts that was created by President Sata recently. The youths had undergone six months training in the use of ICTs and according to Ngosa Simbyakula, the current Minister of Home Affairs who also works as the PF National Project of Poverty Reduction (NPPR) chairman, the training of youths from PF alone was “a major milestone towards national development.”
Simbyakula said the 25 youths were sponsored by the NPPR, but it has emerged that this organisation is a false front PF NGO that was disguised as a true body to accommodate the interests of young people from diverse backgrounds across Zambia.
The NPPR is a PF entity that was established in 2012 to offer covert trainings to PF cadres disguised as empowerment skills to young people. The organisation is being headed by Antony Kasandwe, a sworn PF cadre who has claimed that his office was created to help reduce poverty and unemployment among Zambian youths.
“There is a big problem that has been identified from the Internet. Top officials such as Guy Scott are very upset by online campaigns against the government. Scott is said to have personally contracted the Chinese company Huawei to censor some websites, setting them up at an office located at that building which was grabbed from Frederick Chiluba near Arcades. The idea is to train as many PF people as possible so that these can be able to offer counter voices against those attacking the government,” the source said.
According to the source, the PF had opened several companies and non-governmental organisations to pose as supporters of the current regime when it was actually a ploy to divert people’s thinking into thinking the party was popular when it was struggling.
“You will see, youths from the PF will continue graduating in ICTs from different parts of the country. Zambians must open their eyes as ask why youths must be trained in ICTs when there are other important and immediate needs to be imparted on the young ones,” the source said.
Simbyakula said so far, 35 youths had been trained and would graduate in ICTs and social media in Luapula, 35 in Muchinga and 80 had already graduated from Lusaka province.