Politics at Play: TikTok and Digital Persuasion in Zimbabwe's 2023 General Elections

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Zimbabwe's August 2023 elections were held against the backdrop of outcry over the outcomes of previous elections, which opposition political parties accusedthe ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front party of rigging. Access to the public media is among the issues of contestation. Opposition political parties claim that they are not given equal space for campaigning purposes. Social networking sites such as X (formerly Twitter) and Facebook have recently provided spaces for political communication, where all parties have unfettered access to the electorate. Recently, TikTok has emerged as a popular social networking site, rivaling established applications in terms of its uptake, particularly among youths. Research on the social media application suggests that it is largely used for trivial purposes and does not contribute to critical dialogue. However, lately there is evidence that TikTok is being used for “serious” purposes, including activism. The study sought to find out how political actors in Zimbabwe used the TikTok platform for political communication in the run-up to the 2023 elections. The paper also examines the nature of digital persuasion on TikTok and how this enriches or trivialises political discourse. Findings show that TikTok was used to urge Zimbabwean youths to register to vote as well as to provide visual evidence of the good and the bad associated with particular political parties, as they competed for voters. It was used as a politainment tool, combining political messaging with the entertainment affordances of TikTok.

Original languageEnglish
JournalAfrica Spectrum
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2024


  • digital persuasion
  • political communication
  • social networking sites
  • TikTok
  • Zimbabwe

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Development
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


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