South Africa

South Africa

ANC Leadership Race: Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and her social media campaign speak in two voices

ANC Leadership Race: Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and her social media campaign speak in two voices

There is a small but discernible change in gear in ANC presidential hopeful Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma’s campaign, thanks to a little more activity on her social media pages. But there appears to be a dissonance between what she’s telling her audience and what is posted for the outside world to see – a bit like the dissonance between what really happened at struggle stalwart Winnie Madikizela-Mandela’s house, and what some news machine wanted us to believe. By CARIEN DU PLESSIS.

If the script posted on Pinky Khoabane’s website is anything to go by, former African Union Commission chairperson Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma used the phrase “white monopoly capital” six times in a speech to an audience of executives and thought leaders at the Gordon Institute of Business Science in Illovo on Tuesday morning.

As it was, Dlamini-Zuma, who glanced at the written speech every so often, didn’t mention the term once. She only spoke about business monopolies standing in the way of job creation and competitiveness – blocking the entry of more black businesspeople and women. After all, the ANC at its policy conference resolved that the enemy was, in fact, the wider “monopoly capital”.

Presumably, disciplined cadres like Dlamini-Zuma would at least make some attempt to stick to this script.

Although her speech was lacking in substance – she greeted questions on the costing of her plans and implementation with very broad responses – it was all pretty standard presidential campaign fare and not nearly as whacky or extremist as some of the things her supporters say.

This discipline is in contrast of those in her campaign team, which includes an army of volunteers, government spokespeople and ANC league leaders, without having a clear co-ordinator.

Take for instance PR practitioner Pinky Khoabane, who on her Twitter profile says she’s been described as “contrarian and controversial” but really is someone who thinks, says and writes “stories that media ignore”. On Tuesday morning she stuck to Dlamini-Zuma’s side – a little like a personal assistant – after the Gibs lecture.

It’s not clear whether Khoabane herself (could she have stepped in where Bell Pottinger fell away?) wrote the speech, but the link to Khoabane’s website containing the soft copy was retweeted on @DlaminiZuma. This official twitter account was created while Dlamini-Zuma was at the AU but now, with its youthful use of abbreviations and shorthand, it is clearly neither being controlled by the candidate herself, nor by a measured communications department, but it is being used to run a campaign.

(That “fake” tweet in April – “… this is what they protecting… hence some of us not part of this rubbish… they must join us for the march for our land they stole” – for instance, was much more in line with the social media posts of her outspoken youngest daughter Thuthukile.)

There is also a tweet referring readers to the website to get the speech.

The site has, however, only been updated twice after April, the same month the Guptas broke their relationship with the PR firm Bell Pottinger, and the speech is a little impossible to find on the site.

Nobody’s ever come forward as the administrator of, and because President Jacob Zuma had reportedly asked Bell Pottinger to look after Dlamini-Zuma’s campaign, the assumption has been that the much-criticised PR firm was responsible.

On the same @DlaminiZuma Twitter account, in between useful quotes, retweeted commentary by audience members and pictures, is a somewhat haphazard and shabby addition to her timeline: a retweet of a link tweeted by apparent fitness freak @robbyseaultr of Dlamini-Zuma saying a few months ago that banks should be owned by blacks. Robby’s tweets liberally use hashtags such as #wmcfall (referring to white monopoly capital) and the timeline bears a striking resemblance to those constructed by a Gupta-controlled twitterbot.

Dlamini-Zuma’s speech on Tuesday morning happened at roughly the same time that a statement dropped from struggle stalwart Winnie Madikizela- Mandela, whose house Dlamini-Zuma visited on Sunday during campaigning in Soweto.

After the visit Dlamini-Zuma briefly told the SABC that Madikizela-Mandela said she supported a woman president. It’s something that could have been vague enough to be a general sentiment, but in the context of the campaign by some in the ANC for Dlamini-Zuma to be president, it could also mean the Mother of the Nation was supporting the woman who was, about two weeks ago, also proclaimed Mother of the Nation on a poster at a KwaZulu-Natal ANC Youth League meeting.

Madikizela-Mandela in the statement said Dlamini-Zuma’s was a courtesy visit only, and was “not intended to influence or endorse political or other outcomes”.

Yet, shortly after the meeting, PR practitioner, former Economic Freedom Fighter and ANN7 commentator Kim Heller tweeted a picture of the meeting with the quote: “I said in 2007 that I want you to lead #ANC as it’s [sic] president and I’m still saying it today.’ #Winnie Mandela to Dr @DlaminiZuma #NDZ”. Although Dlamini-Zuma’s Twitter account reacted to another tweet of the two women together, it said nothing to correct this tweet, which was also quoted in a story in The New Age – a paper known for adhering to journalistic standards of its own. It was recently bought from the Guptas by Zuma and Dlamini-Zuma loyalist Mzwanele Manyi.

Now, there seems to be a renewed drive to define Dlamini-Zuma as a leader in her own right, rather than, primarily, Zuma’s ex-wife and the mother of his four daughters.

Her lengthy CV is read before meetings and was tweeted by an apparent campaigner on Sunday.

A member of her social media team, who is volunteering in between running an IT business, said the plan was to post more pictures and videos of her campaign meetings on her social media pages from this week onwards (formal nominations in the ANC are, coincidentally, expected to open on Spring Day).

Some of those doing the running around for this are student volunteers – one of them said helping with the campaign was a brilliant opportunity for her to expand her skills and learn about leadership from a mentor like Dlamini-Zuma.

Stepping up her social media campaign could be seen as a way for the Dlamini-Zuma campaign to market her beyond the ANC branches, where she’s already done extensive campaigning.

The Sunday Times reported that there was concern among her backers that the party might not pull through in the 2019 elections with Zuma at the helm – or perceived to be in control.

However, if the party fails to win in 2019, her dream of becoming South Africa’s first woman president could remain just that. Could the real Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma please stand up – and take charge of her campaign to show South Africa that she’s capable? DM

Photo: The front-page of Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma’s official website.


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