South Africa


South Africa’s 24-hour trend report – 21 April 2020

South Africa’s 24-hour trend report – 21 April 2020
President Cyril Ramaphosa. (Photo: GCIS)

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 21 April 2020.

President’s Address

A prediction by @AdvoBarryRoux that the lockdown would be extended was the top post by reach and impact for the day.

The announcement of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s address by @MbalulaFikile was the third biggest post by reach and impact.

The president’s address drove two spikes in volume, between 10am and 11am and from 9pm to 10am.

At 9.55am, the Presidency’s announcement of the national address on additional economic and social relief measures in response to the Covid-19 pandemic was retweeted over 3,000 times and had over 900 comments. 

Other ministers, including Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize and Minister of Transport, Mbalula Fikile, also tweeted the announcement, garnering significant engagement.

But the time of address was not mentioned in any posts, creating confusion until 7pm, when the official @PresidencyZA account confirmed the address would be at 8.30pm. 

The announcement of the president’s address early in the day led to speculation that the lockdown would be extended.

@AdvoBarryRoux tweeted: “Dear Fellow South Africans, Lockdown will continue till June”. Several references were made to Somizi who landed in hot water for predicting a lockdown extension, citing Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula as his source. 

Many hoped the announcement would include lifting the ban on alcohol and cigarette sales, referring to both as “social relief measures”. 

Others highlighted their inability to support their families and hoped the president would announce some financial respite.

South Africans engaged with @PresidencyZA throughout the address.

Twitter sighed with relief when President Ramaphosa began with “Compatriots” instead of his usual “Fellow South Africans”: many took this as an indication that the lockdown would not be extended. 

The most engagement was around the six-month financial relief payout for the unemployed and for child welfare. Some speculated that the six-month relief window was an indication that the lockdown may continue for a while. 

Many South Africans praised the president for his bold leadership, while some disagreed, saying Ramaphosa was “failing us” and ”too weak”. 

Financial Relief

The top two trending phrases for the day were “R500-billion” (99% burst) and “6 months” (97% burst).

The second biggest tweet by impact was posted by @tito_mboweni about RSA’s IMF entitlement.

A tweet by @AdvoBarryRoux speculating about the cost of Covid relief was the fourth biggest post by reach.

President Ramaphosa announced a temporary R350 a month grant for unemployed people who do not receive any other form of social grant or UIF payment. The grant will be provided for six months. About 10 million people may be eligible. 

A post by @Emma_Tsebe stating “Unemployed grant of R350 must never stop even after lockdown” was one of the top tweets by reach. 

Many South Africans called on the president to turn the short-term grant into a permanent Universal Basic Income style grant. 

The president also announced an increase in the child support grant for the next six months, which was welcomed by many families who are struggling to put food on their tables. 

Twitter was torn over the increase in the Child Support Grant: while many NGOs, activists and parents welcomed the announcement, many believed it would create a new problem for South Africa. 

Twitter users said it would be impossible to reduce the grant after the initial six-month period. 

The biggest debate centred on no respite for taxpayers. @89judy’s tweeted: “Welcome to South Africa where the government has the funds for unemployed citizens and child grants and does not have for people who are actually working and contributing to tax. Talk about a disappointment.”

Vibe FM tweeted after the address that the Social Development Department has partnered with the Solidarity Fund to roll out food vouchers for people to receive further assistance. 

Other conversations around the topic of Sassa were negative. Responders to a tweet about ghost recipients of the social grants expressed concern over corruption and looting of funds by those tasked with distributing the social grants. 

Another post showed the “man on the phone” meme accompanied by the tweet “Me: tryna get one of my unemployed cousins to register my daughter ko Sassa”. 

Shahan R of eNews tweeted about the R350 per month distress grant for unemployed people. 

While some responders welcomed the news, many questioned the implementation, asking whether university students and recent graduates could apply.

@AfricaFactsZone – a Twitter account with a following of more than 300,000 –  provided details of the support package, mentioning amounts in dollars. The tweet has over 100 comments and indicates support for the president. 

Just before the president’s address Minister of Finance @tito_mboweni tweeted that South Africa is entitled to $4.2-billion in emergency funding from the IMF, if we requested the support.

Over 1,500 people discussed this, and the post was retweeted over 800 times. 

Many expressed concern over the burden on future generations of South Africans who would have to pay off the loans taken now over many years. 

The narrative around corruption appeared a few times as South Africans wanted to understand how access to the funding would be managed.

Lockdown in Effect

Conversation related to the SANDF was the 5th highest trending topic for the day, bursting at 91%.

A video message from the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cape Town to parents of students was the fifth biggest post by reach.

A blog “The lockdown diary of a single mom: Week 4” was the number two news story and the sixth biggest post by impact for the day.

News about the further deployment of the SANDF broke just before the president’s address.

The deployment of the army to maintain law and order around Africa drove a spike in conversation between 8pm and 9pm. The conversation was 192% bigger than the previous day and this conversation is expected to grow further as South Africans engage with the story on Wednesday.

A News24 tweet directing readers to the full article at 8.11pm had about 2,000 people talking about it. Conspiracy theorists responded that the further deployment of the SANDF implied that there was more than the virus at play.

A tweet by UCT VC @FabAcademic at 12:08 asked parents to support emergency remote learning in the second term while students are at home. 

The video was viewed over 51,000 times and retweeted about 1,000 times. The VC engaged with responders throughout the day and received a lot of love, many respectfully referring to her as “Mama”. 

@nafronat asked how rural children who do not have the same electricity and internet services as their urban peers will be able to study online.

WC community safety MEC, Albert Fritz, says looting and malicious damage to property continues as it is a struggle for many to put food on the table.

This followed news early this week that food trucks had been stoned and looted.

A video of the looting was distributed widely on social media.

President Ramaphosa said he had received complaints about mishandling of food parcels, and those involved would face the full might of the law. 

A tweet by @IanCameron23 resurfaced throughout the day showing the looting of a small shop in Macassar in the Western Cape. The person recording the video is heard saying “look at the children… the police are standing there, too scared to come in”. The video was viewed 3 ,900 times. 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 


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