Social media influences on Zimbabwean Catholics in Botswana and subversion of the mainstream traditional Catholic religious norms.
This paper explores how social media has facilitated the Zimbabwean diasporan Catholics to integrate in Botswana community whilst remaining active in discourses in the country of origin. It further seeks to establish how social media has gradually subverted the hierarchical structures within the Roman Catholic Church by expanding the arenas for a significantly larger number of actors to participate in church discourse. For example, the literate, illiterate, men, women, children, and other minorities are now able to utilise the social media platforms to evangelise, share the word of God and contribute to other conversations in the Roman Catholic Church. The paper relies on data gathered from the Gaborone Catholic community originating from Zimbabwe. Data was gathered from key informant interviews, group WhatsApp chats and videos including church websites from mid-January 2019 to end of April 2019. The information was analysed qualitatively through content and discourse analysis. The proliferation of social media has potential to result in increased religious interface and tolerance. Social media specifically WhatsApp as the faster and cheaper means of transacting ideas can be a double edged sword, watering down and in some cases potentially promoting extremist positions. Whilst it can promote other players, social media can also be harnessed to build and cascade more consensuses building. The paper concludes that migrants specifically Zimbabwean Catholics in Gaborone, utilise WhatsApp platforms to establish and maintain relationships with family, friends, and other Catholics in various communities globally including the home country. The study established that the WhatsApp platform has also facilitated the participation of laity in the evangelising roles that had previously been dominated by the ordained members of the church.