South Africa’s 24-hour trend report – 9 April 2020
This is a summary of the trending, highest impact, and most active themes and their narratives related to social cohesion and division in South African public-domain social media conversations.
On 9 April at 8pm, President Cyril Ramaphosa made the decision to extend the 21-day lockdown by a further two weeks. The extension formed one of the top three conversations by both impact and reach. Six of the top 15 topics by volume were driven by the anticipation and announcement of the extension as well as announced salary cuts.
Building on the anticipation from April 7th when eNCA announced the President was still undecided on a lockdown extension, many wondered what the 8pm Presidential address was about.
Twitter was abuzz with citizens either supporting or opposing an extension prior to the address. Many highlighted the plight of the poor and the irreparable damage the economy would see if the extension continued. Others still highlighted that the economy can be repaired but death was a zero-sum game.
On April 9th, President Ramaphosa announced a two-week extension to the existing 21-day lockdown stating that ending the lockdown too soon could risk a “massive and uncontrollable resurgence” of the coronavirus.
The President highlighted that all existing lockdown measures would stay in place until the end of April.
A phased recovery of the economy will be devised and announced and the R40 billion UIF fund will be made available to all those whose livelihoods have been affected by the lockdown.
A welcome announcement during the President’s lockdown extension speech was the decision that the President, Deputy President, Ministers, Deputy Ministers and Premiers of the provinces will take a 30% salary cut.
This salary cut will be donated to the Solidarity Fund to help support the fight against COVID-19. The Solidarity Fund has helped the most vulnerable in our society by providing food parcels, medical care, and prevention and detection of the pandemic.
Praise and criticism for decision
There appears to be limited praise at this time as South Africans grapple with what an additional 2-week lockdown will mean for them and the economy.
Some have said that Ramaphosa’s decision was between a rock and a hard place, while others still believe that current violators of the lockdown rules are forcing Ramaphosa’s hand.
While there was widespread criticism of the extension on social media, the most ardent and vocal critic was the DA. The DA stressed their belief that a lockdown extension would spell disaster for the national economy and would have preferred a phased relaxation of lockdown measures.
Most criticism revolves around the looming economic collapse and hunger and starvation that will be inevitable in vulnerable communities.
Also highlighted was the heightened potential of looting.
The EFF came out in full support of a lockdown extension and even announced a 30% salary cut for their public representatives to be donated to the Solidarity Fund.
The conversation about the Elsies Rivier liquor store looting was the highest trending topic of the day. The burning of Bambazi High School was a primary driver for the spike in conversation around 08:00 to 10:00.
These instigating incidents started a broader conversation on each narrative, discussing similar events over the lockdown period.
Looting of Liquor Stores
Across the country reports of bottle stores and other shops being vandalised and looted has been a recurring narrative. In this instance, a bottle store in Western Cape was looted and the incident was recorded on video and posted on social media from at least two angles.
In this conversation, there are those who are angry at the civil unrest and breach of both the law and the special constraints of the lockdown. Conversely, there is also a substantial volume of empathetic conversation from those who understand and stand in solidarity with people who need to steal to survive at this time.
Destruction of Schools
As with the looting narrative, recurring incidents of destruction of public property – especially schools – is present. Bambazi High School in Bergville (KZN) is the most recent casualty with video footage being made available on Social Media.
Public and educators alike are frustrated, upset and concerned about this trend. There is room for conspiracy theory here, given that the small communities around the school are unable to determine the perpetrators, which is unusual for such small communities.
In the past week, there has been an influx of stories from around the world about political, religious & civic leaders spreading misinformation, perpetuating false narratives and shifting the blame to others.
Two particular stories trended in the South African conversation on 09 April.
Brazil’s Education Minister
The Brazilian Education Minister, Abraham Weintraub, has been making news in his home country and in China for his repeated inflammatory rhetoric against China.
He explained on Wednesday that China has been unwilling to sell ventilators to Brazil and linked this, once again, to his vision of China’s “plan for world domination”.
This topic gained international attention and the growing narrative included many racists and accusatory remarks he had made on previous occasions – further flaming the anger.
United States President
After a Tweet on Wednesday by Donald Trump, in which he accused the WHO of being “China-Centric” and criticising their advice, global social media had a field day.
He followed this with statements at a press conference that he may withhold America’s financial contributions to the WHO.
In response, African leaders, including President Ramaphosa have come out in strong support of the WHO, it’s actions and it’s leadership.
A number of global news publications and op-eds have fueled this narrative.
Questions and conversation touching on rental commitments have permeated through other narratives over the past week but had not received sufficient engagement to stand alone as a theme of conversation until 9 April.
Uncertainty regarding assistance packages, regulations & changes during the lockdown has sparked conversation regarding the legality of charging rent during the lockdown.
Rumours suggesting that tenants will not need to pay rent, as well as citizens genuinely questioning the rules, have left many confused in the absence of information from trusted sources.
Conversation by, or about, those who need to pay rent (as opposed to collect it) was the largest narrative in this Theme.
Although confusion is evident in most conversations, the driving topic is the inability to pay due to loss of income.
This conversation does not seem to have many anti-landlord tendencies and is still pleading rather than combative.
Discussion by and about the potential impact of this confusion on landlords was a much smaller & isolated narrative in this theme.
The majority of this conversation took place on forums, blogs and in the news.
The preference of long-format platforms for this narrative may indicate a need by the authors to explain themselves in greater detail, or an aversion to the high-paced, critical environment of Twitter.
Anti-African Sentiment in China
Instigating Incident: China is reported to have evicted “over 100” Kenyans in Wuhan.
Originally reported by an influential freelance journalist in the UK, James Hall, this topic gained some social media attention within South Africa with 146 total replies, 765 retweets and 704 likes.
Instigating Incident: Andile Nzimande took issue with the poor quality of News24 reporting, generally questionable tactics and use of content without approval of authors.
Published at approximately 9:30am it gained quick and clear support.
This topic gained strong traction in South Africa with 3,200 Retweets and 8,400 likes on the original post alone – resulting in a series of deeper engagements within the community.
Car Insurance Rates
Instigating: @Tumisole appealed to the public to work together to put pressure on the insurance industry to drop premiums as “we are not driving anyway”.
It was posted at 20:48, after the President’s Address at 20:00. The post by @Tumisole received enough engagement and retweets to be a noticeable driver of the 20:00-22:00 spike in conversation volume. The tweet received 4,800 retweets, 4,200 likes and 687 replies. DM
Issued by the Centre for Analytics and Behavioural Change.
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A deep analysis on any of these issues is available on request.
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