South Africa


South Africa’s 24-hour trends report – 9 June 2020

South Africa’s 24-hour trends report – 9 June 2020
Tens of thousands protest outside Parliament against gender-based violence in September 2019. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Nic Bothma)

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 on 9 June 2020. Global trends affecting South Africa are also featured.

Raising race

The number one topic by volume on Tuesday was “people”. Within that topic, a project at a Cape Town school left many Twitter users in shock, driving conversation.

A teacher at Parklands College, an independent school, will have to undergo sensitivity training after asking Grade 7 learners to create a poster advertising a slave auction in 1935. @News24 tweeted a link to the story at 17:00, and the post has been retweeted more than 766 times by Wednesday morning. @Aisha_contrary commenting on the tweet: “Sensitivity training??? The teacher must be fired!”. @baymath tweeted: “In a country like South Africa, this should be a fireable offence. Not an opportunity for white people to sit in a room being taught that Black people deserve humanity. This makes me sick.” This tweet received over 800 retweets and 1,000 likes by 09:30 on Wednesday.  

While broadcasting from home, eTV news anchor Annika Larson’s terrier Batman has appeared on screen several times, which irked some Twitter users. @ZiggyMase made this statement: “Welcome to South Africa where a black woman can’t wear a doek in the newsroom, but a white woman can bring a dog.” The post has been retweeted more than 1,300 times and has received over 3,000 likes. @ZiggyMase was referring to eNCA reporter Nontobeko Sibisi, whose segment was not aired because of the cultural headdress she wore in the shot. 

Annika Larsen and Batman. (Screen grab)

A tweet that gained major traction throughout the day in South Africa and abroad drew attention to one minor difficulty people face in diverse communities. @amnaaxs tweeted: “White people have no problem pronouncing Daenerys Targaryen but start stuttering when tryna pronounce Ahmed.” Globally, the post was retweeted close to 90,000 times and received close to 400,000 likes.

Black like who?

The ownership of hair care brands used mainly by black people trended, raising questions about systemic economic racism. 

“Aunt Jackie’s not blacked owned?!?!?!..I hate it here” tweeted @thejaanico after several hair brands targeted at black consumers were exposed for not being black-owned. The tweet received 80 retweets, 255 likes and 15 comments. 

This trend started in the USA and gained some traction in South Africa, as many US brands are used in SA. @Glamology_ZA tweeted, “Wow! The girlies there by US twitter posted this and spilled the tea that Shea Moisture, The Mane Choice and Aunt Jackie’s is not black-owned.” The tweet received 37 retweets, 49 likes and 25 comments. 

Many users questioned the ownership of popular hair care brands, while some suggested that hair brands were black-owned before being sold to big brands like Unilever. The topic prompted calls to support South African black women-owned hair brands. The twitter thread “The owner vs The brand” listed several black-owned hair brands with pictures of the brand owners. The thread received over 27,000 retweets and 89,600 likes.  

One set of comments said black people were passive consumers who did not actively support or create black-owned businesses, blaming this on systemic racism that excluded black people from accessing opportunities and funding. Another widely shared sentiment was a proactive call to build and support more black-owned businesses, and to push for black-owned brands to be available in retail stores. 

Three wars for women


Conversations on GBV and femicide trended on social media following the murders of Tshego Pule in Pretoria and Naledi Phangindawo in Mossel Bay. As the hashtags #JusticeForTsego and #JusticeForNaledi trended, @GershomMayana tweetedhow long should we say RIP to our sisters, because of the cruel death in the hand of Man? In South Africa we are dealing with two pandemic Corona and violence against  women I pray to the Lord to have both vaccine against this epidemic #JusticeForTshegoPule #justiceforNaledi.” The tweet received 25 retweets and 70 likes. 

TV producer @portiagumedesa expressed her outrage in a tweet,“It is sad to know that for a woman to live or die it’s no longer in the hands of God but in the hands of a man that a woman loved. He decides if today is the day she lives or dies.” The tweet received 223 retweets and 679 likes.

In a show of solidarity, men in Mossel Bay organised an imbizo for Naledi Phangindawo’s death. @MrCow_man shared photographs of the imbizo, saying, “An Imbizo called by men in Mossel Bay is underway at KwaNonqaba following the brutal killing of Naledi Phangindawo over the weekend. The 25-year old was hacked to death allegedly by her boyfriend. The key message is “men should be leaders, not bosses at home” #sabcnews.” The tweet gained traction with 240 retweets and 378 likes.

Many women expressed their exasperation at the struggles women must face, calling for action and intervention. @bellz_motshwane tweeted, “We need a large scale protest against domestic violence against women. We can’t be Black. We can’t be women. We’re trying to survive a race pandemic within a gender based violence pandemic within a viral pandemic. We are TIRED. #JusticeForNaledi#JusticeForTshegoPule.” The tweet generated 313 retweets and 686 likes. 

@anelisa_ echoed this message: “Imagine constantly fighting three wars every day as a woman. A global pandemic, systematic racism, as well as not being killed or assaulted by South African men.” The tweet received 1,100 retweets and 2,200 likes. 

Nationalism vs xenophobia

Contention is growing around the topic of whether nationalism is sowing the seeds for xenophobia to flourish. Two topics related to this conversation, “people” and “work”,  featured in the top ten topics by volume yesterday.

A primary driver of the conversation was the statement by EFF leader Julius Malema denouncing the killing of other African nationals, and contrasting posts related to the #PutSouthAfricansFirst hashtag.

The tweet by @SowetanLIVE of Julius Malema saying, “When you kill Zimbabweans, Nigerians, and Mozambicans here in SA, you’re teaching the world that is OK to kill black people. We must treat black lives with respect and dignity in Africa first”, was retweeted 40 times and received 120 likes. @AdvoBarryRoux also tweeted Malema’s remark, and received almost 6,000 likes and 1,200 retweets. Many of @AdvoBarryRoux’s followers disagreed with Malema, emphasising the importance of prioritising South Africans and South African lives.

@MissB20_10, South Africans First, criticised those who work for white people, using the #PutSouthAfricanFirst hashtag. While the tweet did not seem to be directly linked to the conversation on nationalism, many replies supported nationalism and criticised those who hired foreign nationals. 

Negative sentiments were expressed toward the EFF under the same hashtag. The #PutSouthAfricanFirst hashtag was repurposed to promote a local business: @Vhusha_M used the hashtag to promote Vhu’s Fresh Bakes. The tweet received 6,600 likes and was retweeted 3,700 times. DM

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.


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