South Africa’s 24-hour trend report: 18 April 2020

South Africa’s 24-hour trend report: 18 April 2020
A male lion rests on a street in the Kruger National Park in South Africa, 10 December 2009. EPA/GERNOT HENSEL

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 on 18 April 2020.

South African Covid-19 numbers  

Infection Rates was the top topic by impact and reach for the day.

Conversation about the total number of cases, new cases and the death toll trended with 100% bursts.

The hashtag #Covid_19 cases was used more than 2 000 times on 18 April and was trending with a burst of 93%.

South Africa has reported the second highest spike in infections since the lockdown began – 3 034.

This announcement immediately increased conversation about the infection rate by 17%, with 49% more authors joining the conversation.

Many people are suggesting what South Africans can do to help, like using homemade cloth masks.

The update that 123 000 people have been tested in South Africa has drawn online attention.

The 5 000 tests conducted daily is seen as a positive performance, but it has been pointed out that 98% of testing has been undertaken by the private health sector.

The World Health Organisation has warned that South Africa can expect numbers to go from thousands to potentially millions of infections in the next three to six months.

Discussion on the topic in social media was fairly quiet, considering the alarming scale of the insight. This could be due to diminished online activity over weekends. This narrative is expected to grow dramatically on Monday, especially with the mock account AdvoBarryRoux weighing in.

Perceptions of China

As China emerges from lockdown, reports of anti-African sentiment in China – closely coupled with increasing global suspicion towards China – is building into a strong theme, despite senior Chinese politicians refuting claims of prejudice.

These two trends are now growing mutually as each camp builds an increasingly vocal group to counter the other.

With videos of access for Africans being restricted on the basis of race in China, there is increasing evidence of intentional action by the Chinese leadership to strengthen internal relationships among the Chinese (the in-group) at the expense of Africans (the out-group).

Underlying this is a growing narrative which falsely promotes the notion that Covid-19 originated in Africa, not China.

The revised Wuhan death rate (50% higher than initial reports) and global anti-Chinese narratives are increasingly raising public concern over intentional mis/disinformation by China.

Suspicion is being cast on Chinese people living in other countries. For example, in France, French-Chinese citizens are facing potential prosecution for handing out “Covid Kits”.  Public opinion is vilifying all Chinese people and blaming them for taking part in a Chinese government conspiracy to spread the infection.

Online education solutions

Conversation about the capacity of tertiary institutions to provide distance learning to remote locations peaked as universities across South Africa announced online distance learning initiatives on 17 April.

A second surge on 18 April matched the previous day’s conversation in volume.

Wits University has made 5 000 additional laptops available in their “Computer Bank” for students who need support.

The response was mixed: some applauded Wits as an example for other universities to follow, while others noted that 5 000 laptops was not enough and called for more to be distributed.

Last week, the University of Johannesburg announced it would start the new semester using virtual platforms on Monday 20 April.

This is expected to improve efficiency but presents some problems: the cost of internet services and data, and the lack of internet coverage in some areas.

On 17 April FabAcademic (UCT’s Vice Chancellor with 175 000 followers) announced  UCT was offering free remote courses during lockdown.

This has inspired over  2 000 retweets, 100 replies and 3 100 likes, applauding FabAcademic for providing meaningful solutions for students in need.

Kruger lions

A short article by was the second biggest post by impact on 18 April: it showed a pride of lions taking advantage of a quiet Kruger National Park road by lounging, unhindered, in the sun.

Stay-at-home protest

A News24 article brought stories of stay-at-home protests in the US and elsewhere into the SA social media conversation. DM

The Centre for Analytics and Behavioural Change (CABC) is a non-profit organisation incubated at the Graduate School of Business at the University of Cape Town. The CABC stimulates positive social change through engagement, dialogue and advocacy. 


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