ONCE a captivating force in the run-up to the elections, enthralling his followers with a never-been-seen-before in Zimbabwe brand of whistle blowing, Baba Jukwa’s star appears to have faded in an apparent anticlimax.
Ever since President Robert Mugabe romped to victory in the July 31 elections, Baba Jukwa’s influence has waned as his agenda has shifted from regime change to being a mere watchdog.
Despite his unknown identity, Baba Jukwa’s popularity had grown in leaps and bounds and was the talk in offices, supermarkets and in public transport across Zimbabwe and beyond in the months leading to the elections.
His juicy postings on the inner workings of ZANU-PF provided an unusual source of gossip and sleaze, and an aside in a hotly contested electoral race.
Many, including the media, had hailed the rise of Baba Jukwa as a “democratising” element in Zimbabwe, where stringent media laws have kept the media from delving too deep in their political coverage.
At over 370 000 Facebook likes and his catchy sign-off slogan, “Asijiki, ndinotenda, siyabonga,” loosely translated to mean “we are not backing down, thank you,” Baba Jukwa gained near cult-like following as he lifted the lid on members of ZANU-PF’s top brass, sex scandals, fingered corrupt officials and pledged to rid the country of these “evil old men”.
Debate on the veracity of his Facebook posts reached fever pitch when he intimated weeks before the death of Edward Chindori-Chininga that he was the target of an assassination plot by hawks inside the ruling party.
When Chindori-Chininga died in June, Baba Jukwa’s popularity so-ared and he was cast as an insider who had gone rogue in ZANU-PF.
But two months after the election results were announced, the captivation that Baba Jukwa once held appears to have fizzled away.
A mixture of disappointment and sense of betrayal and disillusionment on Baba Jukwa’s failure to predict the election result, has seen some of his former enthusiasts deserting him.
Trevor Maisiri, a senior analyst at the International Crisis Group, said Baba Jukwa was no longer being taken seriously by the followers that remained on his Facebook page.
“The main interest around the attention he got was election-related. With elections gone and in the manner they did, his followers’ interest now seems low,” said Maisiri.
Edwin Ndlovu, a member of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) led by Welshman Ncube said in some quarters Baba Jukwa was held responsible for causing the failure of the MDC led by Morgan Tsvangirai to remove President Mugabe from power for a third consecutive time.
“Baba Jukwa is no longer relevant and now not an important voice, actually many people believe he deliberately diverted the attention of the MDC-T before elections which led to their losing to ZANU-PF,” said Ndlovu.
“He has lost steam, even his postings are now not as juicy as they used to be.”
Khanyile Mlotshwa, a political commentator said while many Zimbabweans invested a lot of faith in Baba Jukwa and believed that since he was exposing ZANU-PF’s weaknesses, then President Mugabe’s party would fall on its own, he was still holding his own and not fading off the political limelight just yet.
“Baba Jukwa still believes the struggle is not yet over, in the elections the ‘progressive’ forces lost a battle and not the war for democracy and transparency. His self-understanding is that he is still relevant,” said Mlotshwa.
Like calls raging in the MDC-T to have an introspection on its inherent weaknesses, Baba Jukwa may soon find his own followers clamouring that the unknown internet character take stock of his own political future, which hangs in limbo.