South Africa


South Africa’s Weekend Trends Report: 24 – 26 July 2020

South Africa’s Weekend Trends Report: 24 – 26 July 2020
EFF leader Julius Malema. (Illustrative image | source: Gallo Images / Alet Pretorius)

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 24 to 26 July 2020.

Conversations about the ANC and EFF featured prominently on social media at the weekend, driven by the EFF’s seventh anniversary and allegations of corruption by the ruling party.

Challenging MPs

@kgaugelo_SM tweeted a list of MPs who had voted to disband the Scorpions during the Zuma era, saying that they “chose party over country” and calling their votes “shameful”. This tweet was retweeted and commented on nearly 400 times, as other Twitter users discussed the impact this vote had on current government corruption.  

@sine_nzama tweeted about the R500-billion allotted for Covid-19 relief, claiming that the funds were “finished” in “just 3 months” and calling the expenditure a “crime against humanity”. This tweet received 1,500 retweets and comments and nearly 3,000 likes by early Monday morning.  

Many comments disputed the accuracy of the tweet, saying the government had not actually spent this amount of money. 

Party won’t party

@effsouthafrica tweeted a statement saying they would not celebrate their seventh anniversary “in good conscience” during the Covid-19 pandemic. This tweet was retweeted and commented on 300 times and liked 700 times. @effsouthafrica later tweeted a link to the live streaming of the EFF seventh anniversary. This post was retweeted, shared and liked 500 times.

The party tweeted an interview with Julius Malema conducted by Newzroom Afrika, claiming that “no one can remember what politics looked like in South Africa before the EFF”. This tweet received modest attention, with only 300 retweets and shares, and 800 likes. @busiswaah tweeted: “Here’s to Economic Freedom in our lifetime! Happy Birthday @effsouthafrica.” This received comparatively more attention with 400 retweets and shares, and 5,600 likes. @pmothulwe_S posted a similar tweet, writing: “even after so many attempts to suppress them. Happy birthday EFF.” This post was retweeted and shared 150 times and liked 350 times. It included a video of a dancing man in a red beret that was viewed 4,500 times by this morning. 

But some did not join the celebrations. @PhumlaniMMajozi tweeted that the EFF was a “dangerous party that promotes ideas that have failed dismally around the world,” referring to a News24 article he wrote on the topic three years ago. This post was retweeted and commented on 100 times and liked 300 times.  

Poverty and protest

Twitter users voiced their frustration with lockdown and the unemployment, economic shutdowns and poverty it has left in its wake. While many threatened protests, some took to the streets to fight for their jobs. 

Twitter users retweeted requests by those struggling financially during lockdown. One user posted a request on behalf of a family: “Hy guys, with all due respect please retweet this and if you would like to help DM … this is a close friend of mine they really need help … the little you can do will be appreciated please please please.” The post was accompanied by pictures of an empty refrigerator and an image of a heart-wrenching plea by the family’s former breadwinner who is now unable to work due to an accident. The post has been retweeted over 1,000 times by Monday. 

Another user posted: “Hey guys. I cannot help in my own capacity but please if anyone on here can assist, I beg of you. As a student I know how hard online studying is, I can imagine how worse it is without the resources. Please RT for awareness.” The tweet included a screenshot of the learner’s email where he explained his struggle to complete assignments on his cell phone. 

Others called on the government to solve the unemployment crisis, with one user posting: “I received about 1000 CVs in the last 72 hours. I pray for every unemployed person to get employed. I pray that my brand can expand one day and be able to employ at least 100 000 people one day. I pray our government can also do something for the unemployed.” 

In another post, a user announced a protest planned by graduates: “BREAKING NEWS: Unemployed Graduates of South Africa are embarking on a National Shutdown in August they are calling on government to employ and create opportunities for young people. South African Jobs for South African workers, #UnemployedGraduates #SAMA26MustFall #SAMA26.”

Several posts stemming from last week’s nationwide restaurant industry strike received significant attention on social media. @lunchout2 tweeted about the police response to the protest in Cape Town: “using stun grenades and water cannons on peacefully protesting unemployed restaurant staff in Cape Town wouldn’t be good for our tourism industry.” This tweet received only 170 retweets and comments and 650 likes.  

@VusiThembekwayo’s tweet gained more attention (1,300 retweets and comments and 3,000 likes): “every South African should stand with the restaurant trade.”  

History and identity

Conversations about historical and current perceptions of black people received attention on social media.

On Friday, @africanarchives shared three images of a young black girl, and a news article titled, “Brown Skinned Colored Girl Made White. Sarah Rector became a multi-millionaire oil baron and the richest black child at just 12 years old when oil was discovered on land that was allotted to her because it was ‘unsuitable for farming’ She was so rich that Oklahoma legislature legally declared her to be a white person.” This tweet gained traction with over 7,300 retweets and 13,600 likes.

Others shared their thoughts on more recent experiences. @Jenniemqoqi tweeted: “Cashiers who are black are very rude towards black people and act different when it’s white people, am so annoyed.” This generated over 3,700 retweets and 16,700 likes by early Monday.

HIV revisited

A top topic driving social media conversation this weekend was HIV and Aids. The words HIV and Aids were mentioned almost 5,000 times on Twitter over the weekend, up 21% from the previous two days.

HIV denialism under former president Thabo Mbeki resonated with many South African Twitter users. @Advovolicious posted: “Mbeki refused to roll out a full scale HIV treatment programme, which according to a Harvard study led to the premature death of some 330,000 people between 2000 and 2005 during his presidency. Mbeki is not innocent, he has blood in his hands he denied South African’s ARVs.” The post received over 500 likes, retweets and comments. #Mbeki trended on Sunday with many discussing his presidency. 

Another tweet called out former health minister Manto Tshabalala Msimang, stating: “History didn’t absolve Manto at all. She refused to give people ARVs and instead suggested garlic and beetroot for HIV. Millions on ARVs today are alive, many more would be alive today – no thanks to Manto.” This was in response to a tweet stating, “Rest in peace Manto Tshabalala Msimang… and forgive us for laughing at your suggestion that beetroot, ginger, garlic can boost our immune systems against viruses. history is absolving you.” Discussions about the HIV denialism of the Mbeki administration continued well into Sunday. 

Many shared personal stories and expressed solidarity with those living with HIV/Aids. A top tweet by @itsmuluba: “I was born w/HIV. Medication keeps me healthy & my HIV virus undetectable which makes me untransmittable. It’s like managing any condition. I remember the first time I was called ‘dirty & unclean’. I am a beautiful smart black woman living w/ #HIV. Treat me as such – Management.” The post garnered over 5,000 likes and over 1,400 retweets and comments by Monday morning.

Challenge goes viral

The #JerusalemaChallenge has trended across many social media platforms. Conversation about the artists of the song Jersulama gained significant traction on Twitter.

On Saturday, @Nomcebozikode shared a screenshot of the YouTube video: “Jerusalema just reached 50 million views… thank you to all of u all over the world for making this possible, your support means a lot to us Folded hands…. South Africa Flag of South Africa together we have made it to the world, this is for all of us. @MasterKGsa boooy GOD is GOOD.” This tweet received over 1,200 retweets and 10,400 likes.

Later in the day, @MasterKGsa tweeted: “I remember last Year 29 August 2019 10pm Making #Jerusalema With @Nomcebozikode We Never Thought it Will Go This Far. This Shows that GOD has Time For everything… Thank You Everyone Involved in The success Of This Song ZAZAZAZA.” This tweet received over 2,400 retweets and 21,500 likes. @Mfundoyakhe_S shared two photographs of the lead vocalist in a tweet: “Meet Nomcebo Zikode the leading vocalist of Jerusalema the World Hit song she is from Hammarsdale KZN, young and ambitious. South Africa where are you, let show some love & drop. #Jerusalema.” This was retweeted over 2,100 times and liked over 21,600 times.

@Nomcedozikode shared a screenshot of her Twitter page in a tweet that read, “Thank you so much all over the world for the love and support. Please assist me to reach 50k followers today, much appreciated #Jerusalema50million”. The tweet received over 1,400 retweets and over 7,700 likes. Later, @Nomcedozikode shared a photograph of herself: “After a long day of carrying South African music on my back.” This was retweeted 1,300 times and liked 18,000 times by Monday. 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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