South Africa’s 24-hour trend report — 13 April 2020

South Africa’s 24-hour trend report — 13 April 2020
Eleven police officers have been arrested in connection with alcohol-related crimes, says national police spokesman Brigadier Vish Naidoo. (Photo: Gallo Images / Sowetan / Sandile Ndlovu)

This is a summary of the trending, highest-impact and most active themes and narratives related to social cohesion in South African public-domain social media conversations.


Peaking three times in the day, the theme occupied about 4.5% of total conversation and focused on fake announcements, further divisions between those for and against the ban, and the EFF, which supports the ban.

The topic spikes dramatically between 5pm and 8pm daily, indicating a push-force from “market demand”.

A doctored photo of a press briefing updated the bottom ticker-tape to make it appear that a minister was going to announce a change to liquor store opening hours. The message appeared convincing and raised some concerns and uncertainty.

But it was almost immediately met by more than 250 responses and call-outs decrying it as fake. SABC News then provided the credibility needed to end the discussion.

As the ban continues, its full impact on individuals and businesses is becoming apparent.

The Gauteng Liquor Forum, with 20,000 SMME members, has written to the President asking for a lifting of the ban on the sale of alcohol, with a threat of legal action. They cite the failure of businesses as a direct result of the ban.

Within the conversation of individuals, various voices come forward but none consolidate a strong following.

The EFF’s support for the ban has resulted in strong public support — quickly gaining 1,300 retweets, 4,100 likes and 484 replies.

Interesting sub-narratives are emerging:

Anti-EFF: as the ban doesn’t affect the party leaders, who already have enough alcohol

Pro-EFF: maintaining that the ban ensures minorities don’t profit off the majority

Anti-EFF: a minor easing would make a significant difference to individuals’ quality of life

Pro-EFF: alcohol is seen as a social lubricant that will break down social distancing


Conversation about the cigarettes and tobacco ban was very low but spiked significantly between 9am and 10am off the back of the CDC tobacco report and one arrest for illicit trade.

The topic resurfaced in the evening, with a 83% burst between 8pm and 9pm – this time focusing on the lost tax income as a result of the ban, cited at between R595 million and R1.1 billion.

Opposition to the ban focuses on not supporting illicit trade and an underground market and on lost tax revenue. 

A petition has been started by Bev Maclean. It has 15,000 signatures but with little discussion taking place on social media.

Support for the ban is part of the conversation but is unconsolidated and without real direction.

SAPS posted a series of photos on Twitter of a tobacco bust in Eldorado Park in which one person was arrested: a good example of active policing on one hand, but raising questions on another – the value of the highly publicised bust was R100. 


“Lady was walking back home” was the highest-trending phrase of the day, referring to an incident involving the SA National Defence Force and a woman in Alexandra.

Twitter posts mentioning Alexandra or Alexander made up 2.53% of total conversation on 12 April, a 720% increase in volume compared to 11 April.

Reports of the death of a man from Alexandra, allegedly at the hands of the SANDF, has again sparked feelings of distrust.

The story broke on 11 April and was widely shared on 12 April. This incident is being linked to other incidents and accusations against security forces, stoked by footage of SAPS and SANDF members imposing unlawful punishment on civilians, like forcing a woman returning home with shopping in Alexandra Township to do physical exercises.

With new accusations and reports continually coming to light, such conversation is likely to deepen distrust towards the SAPS and SANDF.

The volume of conversation related to arrests dropped by 37% on 12 April compared to the previous day, with three particular stories contributing to peaks in conversation.

Two related to alcohol – the announcement of 21 people arrested for looting, as well as the arrest of two Mpumalanga police offices for assisting a tavern owner to contravene the alcohol ban. The third trending story was the arrest of a self-proclaimed prophet for posting a video of himself stating that the lockdown is not working and the government does not believe in prayer, which sparked the most engagement.  People questioned the place of free-speech amid the harm such false claims could cause.


Before 12 April, conversation about Zimbabwe was driven by traditional media warning about an impending crisis.

This shifted on Sunday when Zimbabwe’s Justice Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi announced that the peddling of falsehoods relating to the Covid-19 pandemic had become a level 14 offence with 20-year jail sentences for the guilty — drawing both support and ire from South African social media.

Relocation camps

The Western Cape ANC and DA are at loggerheads about the Strandfontein site to house the homeless.

The ANC condemned the site after the alleged rape of an 18-year-old girl. ANC legislature leader Cameron Dugmore said: “We have been warning for days that unilaterally setting up the camp for people who live on our streets was a recipe for disaster.”

Twitter user @realNeoM created a stir by visiting the site and posting a video of Strandfontein bustling with life and music. He said, “The #ANC et al in Western Cape has been peddling fake news about the City of Cape Town’s temporary homeless shelter.” This tweet has since been shared widely on Twitter, with more than 134,000 impressions.

A temporary shelter in Gauteng’s Centurion area is dealing with its own problems as a picture posted by Social Cohesion activist Yusuf Abramjee caught Twitterati’s attention. With almost 1.3 million impressions, the picture showed homeless people escaping the Lyttelton Sports park by jumping over a fence, mattresses in hand, despite increased security by TMPD.

The second and third most-used phrases of the day — “increase of 145” and “cases in South Africa is 2173” — both related to South Africa’s infection numbers, the focus of conversation on Sunday.

Easter messages from South African religious leaders and local and international political leaders were shared widely. Other Easter cheer, such as Andrea Bocelli’s singing at the Duomo Cathedral, were also retweeted and reposted frequently. DM

Issued by the Centre for Analytics and Behavioural Change.

See for daily reports

A deep analysis on any of these issues is available on request.

About CABC

The Centre for Analytics and Behavioural Change (CABC) is a non-profit organisation based at UCTs Graduate School of Business and incubated by the Allan Gray Centre for Values-Based Leadership. It was established to track and counter mis- and disinformation, fake news and divisive and polarising rhetoric that is promulgated online to undermine social cohesion, democratic integrity, and the stability of nation states.

For media enquiries, please contact Praveen Naidoo, [email protected], 082-299-1368


"Information pertaining to Covid-19, vaccines, how to control the spread of the virus and potential treatments is ever-changing. Under the South African Disaster Management Act Regulation 11(5)(c) it is prohibited to publish information through any medium with the intention to deceive people on government measures to address COVID-19. We are therefore disabling the comment section on this article in order to protect both the commenting member and ourselves from potential liability. Should you have additional information that you think we should know, please email [email protected]"

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