South Africa


South Africa’s weekend trend report – 29-31 May 2020

South Africa’s weekend trend report – 29-31 May 2020
Protesters cheer as fire burns outside a Minneapolis police precinct during protests over the arrest of George Floyd, who later died in police custody, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA, 28 May 2020. A bystander's video posted online on 25 May, appeared to show George Floyd, 46, pleading with arresting officers that he couldn't breathe as an officer knelt on his neck. The unarmed black man later died in police custody. )EPA-EFE/Craig Lassig)

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 from 29 to 31 May 2020.

Excessive Force

The killing of George Floyd sparked a massive volume of conversation over the weekend, in the United States and in South Africa. People killed or assaulted by SAPS and SANDF under lockdown trended as the number one topic by volume. In second place was a tweet by Trevor Noah’s daily show discussing the George Floyd incident and another tweet that sparked anti-Trump sentiment.

A primary driver of the conversation around the excessive use of force by police in the US was a video tweeted by @TheDailyShow on 30 May 2020. The video received over 16,000 retweets, close to 40,000 likes and it has been viewed more than one million times. In the video Trevor Noah expresses his thoughts on Amy Cooper, George Floyd and the people of Minneapolis. He said the police brutality was taking place against the backdrop of the coronavirus, with people losing jobs and having to make do, compounded by the absence of any genuine response from leadership. 




Another significant driver within the topic of “Black people”, which trended as the second-highest topic by volume for the weekend, was a tweet posted by @skaijackson that called out people who didn’t think that Donald Trump was racist. The tweet read “Donald Trump called the coronavirus the ‘Chinese virus’ and called black people ‘thugs’ but y’all still think he’s not racist?”. The tweet received over one million likes, with a staggering 249,900 retweets, and building.

In South Africa, the SAPS trended as the top topic by volume within the coronavirus conversation. At 11:28 on 31 May @SamkeloNdlovu tweeted “#blacklivesmatter” and“#justiceforall”, which was retweeted over 700 times. Gaining more traction, a tweet made by @a_va_ca_doos, received close to 4,000 retweets. The tweet includes a compilation created by @mikaylabx of four South Africans who were killed during the lockdown, with accounts of how they died. 

Eusebius McKaiser tweeted at 13:19  on Sunday, “#JusticeforCollinsKhosa #JusticeforGeorgeFloyd” along with an image of a post that he had made on Facebook over the weekend. The post was retweeted over 350 times. @MbuysieniNdlozi also spoke out against the number of black Covid-19 fatalities in the US saying that the street protests brought on by the senseless killings actually serve to make Black Americans more vulnerable to infection. His tweet was retweeted close to 700 times.

Conversations around race took centre stage on Twitter over the weekend as “white South Africans” trended as the number two topic for the day. “Apartheid” also trended as a top topic, coming in at number four by burst and number nine by volume. Both top topics were about white South Africans comparing lockdown to apartheid. 

As outrage surrounding the killing of George Floyd captured international audiences, South Africans expressed their views: on Saturday @dragonstarrr tweeted “don’t forget that white South Africans tried to compare lockdown to apartheid”. The tweet generated over 2 500 retweets and 6 500 likes by this morning. @topatower responded: “white South Africans have also compared lockdown to communist Russia and Nazi Germany. I wish I was joking but this was brought up in a conversation I was part of” . Another user @MbiliTats responded saying “narrow-minded people!” 

Founder of The Throne magazine, @Caron Kganyago tweeted “White South Africans said temporary lockdown, a measure put in place to protect their very lives, was comparable to apartheid and Fascism. I will never forget”. The tweet had over 2,600 retweets and 5,900 likes.

On Saturday businesswoman and council member at the Institute of Race Relations, Unathi Kwaza, tweeted “Black people were better off under apartheid. It’s time we admit this. At least those of us with honour”. The tweet has generated over 2,400 retweets and 1,500 likes. The tweet immediately drew criticism from many, including public figures such as @VusiThembekwayo who said “This is the definition of talking ‘alostro’. I am now convinced that there is a clinical mental issue here”. Former Mayor of Johannesburg @HermanMashaba tweeted “I don’t think i would agree with this. Two wrongs don’t make a right. Black people had a rough life under apartheid, and today all South Africans are catching hell under the ANC, except few who benefit from their corrupt system. Poor people are the worst victims of the ANC government”. This response generated over 140 retweets and 580 likes. 

Doors wide shut 

The third top post by reach was tweeted at 19:47, announcing that the reopening of schools has been pushed out to Monday 8 June. 

@EFFSouthAfrica tweeted “The EFF Rejects The Premature and Homicidal Reopening of Schools in the Midst of Covid-19 Pandemic”. This tweet was liked over 1,000 times and  South African schools were not ready to reopen on 1 June. @MmusiMaimane, tweeting in response to Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga, rescheduling her press briefing said: “If you are not ready to hold a press conference at the time advertised. You are not ready to reopen schools for over two million students and half a million teachers. #Angie Motshekga”. The tweet had received 6,700 likes and 1,400 retweets by 10:00 today.

Western Cape MEC Debbe Schafer’s tweet that the province’s pupils would return to school today has been liked more than 1,000 times and retweeted 460 times. It featured as the 3rd highest post by reach for the weekend in the coronavirus conversation, indicating the importance of this topic for South Africans. Responders to the tweet expressed frustration with this sudden change by Minister Angie Motshekga, as many parents had geared up to send their children to school. Others were angry that the Western Cape, with the highest reported infection numbers, was not following the orders of the national government.

Pushing back

As the coronavirus pandemic deepens, the economic, social and legal impacts of the lockdown are becoming more prominent. There is also growing pushback and resistance to some of the lockdown regulations. “Lockdown Regulations” was the number 10 topic by mentions, with over 2,600 mentions. 

The MEC for Community Safety in Gauteng, tweeted out from her account, @FaithMazibukoSA: “The owner of The Grill Palace, in Soshanguve, was fined for contravening lockdown regulations, by having customers collect food instead of delivering. Four of his employees, who are foreign nationals, were detained for failing to produce documentation”. At 09:00 today the tweet had been liked 1,700 times and retweeted 801 times. But @FaithMazibukoSA was on the wrong side of public sentiment when she tweeted about the arrest of a liquor store owner, and the confiscation of alcohol. Mazibuko also mentioned that a stolen car, reported stolen 10 years ago, was recovered. Comments tended to be negative, with many criticising the arrest of the bottle store owner and the confiscation of alcohol just two days before sale of alcohol became legal again. Others noted that recovering a vehicle 10 years after it was stolen should not be considered a success.  

South Africans criticised the over-zealous enforcement of lockdown regulations and the arrest of civilians for violating lockdown, while those committing more serious crimes continued with impunity. @DawieMalan3 tweeted on 30 May: “A quarter of a million people have now been arrested for breaking lockdown regulations. But all three Guptas are still running loose.” This tweet had been retweeted 245 times and liked 614 times by 09:00 today. 

Not in style

As some South Africans returned to work today, groups that are not yet permitted to work are trending in online conversation, including hairdressers and stylists.

Last Thursday, 28 May an urgent application for hairdressers to return to work was dismissed in the Western Cape High Court. @News24 and @TheCitizen_News tweeted stories about hairdressers who were choosing to work illegally “to make ends meet”. At 09:00 this morning the two tweets had over 150 likes, 17 retweets and 40 comments. Of the 40 comments, the majority supported hairdressers returning to work, commenting that people needed to return to work. 

Public sentiment appears to be shifting away from supporting the lockdown for health reasons, towards supporting a return to work to meet financial needs. 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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