It’s official. The ANC Youth League loves Twitter. That evil social network that was lambasted so when some counter-revolutionaries started tweeting under Julius Malema’s name is now Number One. Remember how the League warned it would “closer Twitterer down”(sic). But all that’s changed. And this is not some comment by some official that can be dialled back from later. It’s in the League’s discussion paper on “Communications and the Battle of Ideas in the Age of the Twitter Revolutions”. There, we knew that after reading their economic discussion documents, this would cheer us up.
Like any other discussion document from the League, this starts off with a little lament. The usual “everyone’s against us, nobody likes us, we must make them all eat worms” scenario. The main issue this time, is that the white monopoly capitalists are charging too much for phone calls. Even worse, people’s calls get cut off (and it’s not just Floyd Shivambu putting the phone down on another white journalist). As a result, people have to make the call again, and thus they’re getting screwed. Oddly, there’s no concrete proposal here, just a lament. And the demand for lower prices. But there is, of course, a call for the state to increase its role in the telecommunications sector. It wants government to increase the obligations placed on cellphone companies to roll-out all their services to every part of the country. Just say “whoosh” and it’ll happen, Master Julius. But the League also wants young people to be involved in setting up businesses around these services. Well yes, the National Youth Development Agency has done particularly well so far, hasn’t it?
The League has plenty to say about education and the role of computers and computer literacy at school. It’s a no-brainer and, of course, they’re right. We wish them luck in that: if the League really does have power in government, perhaps something will come of it. But looking at the basic education department’s lack of success in this so far, we won’t hold our breath.
Now we get to the bit you’ve been waiting for. What does the League have in store for the media, and particularly, media freedom. Well, not a lot actually. Quite frankly, we’re gobsmacked. We expected far more bile and the usual flurry of insults. Instead, the League repeats the call for an “investigation” by Parliament into a statutory media appeals tribunal, to augment the fledgling self-regulatory institution, the Press Ombudsman. And that’s it. Really. What happened? Did it forget it was talking about reporters…is someone maybe a little pre-occupied with something else at the moment? All very odd. And no, it doesn’t seem likely that it’s losing enthusiasm for this, but perhaps other political battles are occupying its time.
The League is famous for its rhetoric, particularly issues about which it feels strongly. The best paragraph in the entire document is about the SABC. We feel the whole paragraph is worth a read.
“It is disheartening to note that the SABC remains terminal sick for a range of reasons which have been discussed in many Parliamentary hearings. This crisis needs urgent resolution before we witness the complete collapse of this strategic asset of our people. Instead of daily bickering, it is our view that more time should be spent on discussing the strategic future of the SABC in light of the changes in the media landscape. The advent of more pay TV services, Internet services like Youtube pose threats to the future and stability of public broadcasting services. In future, citizens will not just watch the SABC out of self pity, but the content offered by the public broadcaster should continue to appeal to a wider section of society.”
It’s a goodie, isn’t it? We loved the bit about “citizens will not just watch the SABC out of self-pity”.
The League also reckons with digital television the SABC will have 14 channels. Right now, they don’t have the content for three. So we hope the video rental stores around Auckland Park are well stocked. But it’s an interesting point, because the corporation has been talking about starting a new channel. Could it be that channel will broadcast many live speeches by government ministers? You heard it here first.
The League spends some time discussing whether it has the infrastructure to communicate properly to the general public. Well, it doesn’t. And it doesn’t have the people either. Is this a dig at Shivambu by us? Er, yes. Do we feel bad. No, but we’ll apologise if he’ll take a phone call from a white reporter. Dealing with the League’s press people is good and bad… it depends on who you get. There’s certainly space for it to do much better here.
Right, now, on to the bit about Twitter. The League says while it’s expressed reservations about Twitter in the past, recent events (i.e. the revolutions in North Africa) have convinced it that it can be a force for good. But there’s a warning that right-wing forces can use Twitter and other social networks as easily, and so far more professionally, than can the League. It wants all its branches to have a Twitter account as it’s pretty easy for members to keep up. The smell of coffee has clearly woken someone up. One gets the sense that someone has worked out what Twitter actually is and how it works. For an organisation like the League it can be hugely powerful. It can send out messages to all its members for free. All they need to pick it up is a smart phone. Watch them, if they get it right, the League could be a huge Twitter phenomenon. Its members are keen and the potential is massive.
This document has some good ideas. It doesn’t seem to be written by someone as controlling as the mind that wrote its economic document. It’s not all about control, this is more about empowerment. Of course though, there’s the little detail of how to go about it. But much of what’s contained here could be done by the League itself very simply. You just go to Twitter.com and click on “sign up”. It’s in the top right hand corner. DM
Grootes is an EWN reporter.
Photo: The Daily Maverick.
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