South Africa


South Africa’s 24 hour trend report – 30 April 2020

South Africa’s 24 hour trend report – 30 April 2020
Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga. (Photo: Phill Magakoe/Gallo Images via Getty Images)

This is a summary of themes and narratives trending in South African social media on 30 April 2020.


School fees, back to school and tertiary education were the top three posts by reach.

Education Minister Angie Motshekga and Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande addressed the public on resuming schools and universities amid the Covid-19 pandemic. 

News reporter @ShahanR had the highest impact with his tweet on Blade Nzimande and medical students. 

NSFAS became a popular topic of conversation after Minister Blade Nzimande announced that funding for all students will continue during the lockdown. He said NSFAS may need more funding due to the extension of the academic year. 

@mbali_ndlela was a big contributor to the NSFAS conversation after she tweeted what she had heard from Minister Nzimande – NSFAS students may get laptops for studying remotely. 

@SayEntrepreneur tweeted that campus-based learning would not open under level 4 and all NSFAS students would receive laptops, raising questions about students who did not get NSFAS funding but could not afford their own laptop.

“Medical Students” was the 3rd highest trending topic for the day after Minister Nzimande confirmed that final year medical students would go back to university as soon as possible, but under strict conditions. 

A tweet by Shahan Ramkissoon led the conversation and was retweeted over 700 times.


Conversation regarding the medical students peaked at 5pm and continued through the night.

Minister Motshekga announced that schools may only begin phasing students back in June, with Grade 7 and Grade 12 learners returning first. 

The plan depends on the readiness of schools to minimise the threat of exposure to the coronavirus. 

The hashtags #angiemotshekga and #basiceducation received very negative sentiment, along with a burst of 100%, indicating that they were widely discussed and criticised throughout the day.

The main driver of the  #angiemotshekga spike was a tweet by News24 saying the Minister had asked parents to continue paying school fees during lockdown, and to approach schools directly if they could not afford it.

Tobacco Sales

Conversations around cigarettes and tobacco dominated the news cycle and social media on Thursday.  “Crooks will be partying tonight” was the top news story and had the highest impact.

The conversation was dominated by the government’s u-turn on lifting the ban on tobacco sales. 

Influential voices such as author James Styan and social cohesion activist Yusuf Abramjee took part in the conversation. 

The Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Health, Sibongiseni Dhlomo, defended the government’s turn on tobacco sales. He stated that after careful consideration his committee backed the government’s stance. He said:  “smoking is bordering on personal hygiene”, referring to the practise of rolling and sharing “zol” cigarettes. He said smokers were more likely to contract Covid-19.

The Fair-Trade Independent Tobacco Association (FITA) strongly opposed the “draconian” ban, saying they would pursue legal action.

Tax Justice South Africa, which exposes illicit trade and corruption, also lambasted the decision, saying crime syndicates dealing in illicit trade “will be partying tonight”.

Some social media users backed the government’s decision.

@MightiJamie said cigarettes not only impaired lung health but also reduced immunity, which combined to increase the likelihood of getting Covid-19. 

@KhandaniM said: “The lockdown is economic vs healthcare, cigarette is healthcare period!”.

@lavidaNOTA shared a personal story about how he used lockdown as an opportunity to quit smoking. 

Nina Teicholz cited a recent UK study which found that heart diseases and obesity were the greatest risks to Covid-19, while smoking was placed 11th as a risk. 

News reporters and social media users voiced concerns about the inefficiency of the ban on tobacco sales, saying the only party winning was the illicit trade.

The ban on alcohol and tobacco is costing South Africa R1.5 billion in lost tax revenue. Reporter Lindsay Dentlinger tweeted “SARS commissioner Edward Kieswetter says the ban on cigarette sales has cost the revenue service over R300m in the past month.”

Abramjee stated that the ban was impoverishing the nation, enriching criminals and destroying the public’s faith in the lockdown. 


One day before lockdown Level 4 came into effect, South Africa continued to seek clarification around the new regulations.

A post about the confusion and resistance to Level 4 was fourth by reach. 

Arrests by private security companies was the second biggest news story. 

Price hikes for masks was seventh by impact and the Tourism Industry Ruling was fifth by reach.

Trending as the fourth post by reach, SAfm Sunrise started the day by asking: “Are the new regulations overkill or necessary to save us from Covid-19?”. The question received significant engagement on Twitter, with South Africans questioning the rationale behind the Level 4 regulations. 

The DA  described Level 4 lockdown regulations as a “means to control the state & lives of ordinary citizens”. Social media users did not take kindly to this and asked the DA to  address the government directly instead of contributing to the confusion.

Confusion was the theme of the day as South Africans asked for clarity around the Level 4 regulations. 

On Thursday the High Court ruled in favour of the Department of Tourism’s proposal to use BEE compliance as a minimum requirement for financial assistance.

Kallie Kriel, chief executive of AfriForum, said: “Minority communities will have to realise that they are solely dependent on their own communities and that steps will have to be taken to ensure members of minority communities support one another to ensure their survival.”

This quote, along with several provocative articles, were quickly shared on social media. The fury, frustration and division that was ignited continued throughout the night.

Accusations of reverse apartheid, grand manipulation by the state, and corruption were plentiful. Racist rhetoric and in/out-group behaviour characterised this narrative. 

A total of 171 arrests were made in an operation that has been called “Covid-19 clean-up”.

The Private Security Industry Regulatory Authority (PSiRA) conducted inspections and found that many security officers were operating without service permits.

@ThapeloRabalao1 posed questions to the department of labour and the presidency: if private security companies and municipalities don’t pay these workers during lockdown, what should they do? 

The story of the clampdown on private security companies was tied to the News24 tweet about the President considering the release of 19 000 inmates to suppress the spread of the virus in prisons.

@Fatalmoves tweeted, “Just what we need while our private security patrols are banned.”

Narratives about price hikes and unscrupulous business practices resurfaced after the story broke that Matus was fined R5.9 million for inflating the prices of face masks and other Personal Protective Equipment.

Matus also has to contribute an additional R5 million to the Solidarity Fund. 

MTN has agreed to reduce their prices from 1 May following pressure from the competition commission. The 1GB monthly data bundle will be reduced from R149 to R99. 

Vodacom will also have to reach an agreement with  the regulator on reducing the price of data.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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