South Africa

Peak of the Week

South Africa’s weekly trends: 15 to 22 October

Nigeria SARS solidarity protest pretoria on 21 wednesday 2020, protesters were picketing outside the nigerian embassy.Photo:Phill Magakoe

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 15 to 22 October 2020.

Nigeria weeps

The most widely used hashtag in South Africa this week was #EndSARS, as support for the protests over police brutality in Nigeria spread across the world. #EndSARS was used in 452,000 local posts, a poignant indication that South Africans have not fallen for the wave of divisive xenophobic rhetoric that has been spread on social media recently.  

Last weekend Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey tweeted:“#EndSARS,” followed by a new Twitter badge created for the Nigerian protests: a clenched fist with the colours of the Nigerian flag. The post received nearly 200,000 likes and was retweeted 156,000 times.


Nigerian user @therawdeeya celebrated the creation of the badge, writing: “Jack has allowed us to keep tweeting and has brought back our hashtag.” This post was liked more than 22,000 times and retweeted 26,000 times.  

Several posts by Nigerian celebrities enjoyed high engagement among South Africans. Musician AG Baby tweeted to his 1.4 million followers: “When spider webs unite, they can tie up a lion. LET US STAY UNITED AND FOCUS ON THE GOAL!” This post was liked 25,000 times and retweeted 26,000 times. 

Michael Jackson’s music is being used to support the protest on social media. This tweet by @EmekaGift included a video of a candlelight vigil set to Jackson’s Heal the World. This post by @thegidinet_ featured an edited version of They Don’t Care About Us and clips of recent protests in Nigeria and BLM protests in the US and Italy. The tweet received 1,400 likes and 1,300 retweets.

Earlier this week, stories of Nigerian security forces firing live ammunition into a crowd of protesters in Lagos and killing many sparked international outrage and trended on social media under the hashtags #lekkimassacre and #lekkitollgate. In a tweet with 6,000 likes, @stanleyaguzie posted a picture of a young man: “One of the lives lost tonight. His name was Tony.” @AngelicErny_ reached 18,000 likes and 14,000 retweets with this tweet of a photograph of a doctor: “This man did a wonderful job yesterday in saving lives at the toll gate massacre.” Although the doctor was not named, users requested that the picture be taken down, saying:“we want them alive” and “Take this down they are targeting individuals”.

Another post that trended in South Africa showed a video of protests in the UK: “Nigerians have blocked the gates of 10 Downing Street.” This tweet was liked 3,500 times. @Karovoni tweeted four photos of the protest: “Been in this country for a while now, never seen so many Nigerians gather in the same place like this.” This post was liked 10,000 times and retweeted 9,400 times.

Congo bleeds

The hashtag #Congoisbleeding began appearing on social media platforms in mid-October to create awareness about the killing of people for coltan, a mineral essential for manufacturing electronic equipment, cellphones, laptops and cameras. Refined coltan is used to produce lithium-ion batteries. Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has the largest coltan reserve in the world. 

“Without Coltan, there’s no digital age. 80% of Coltan comes from the Congo. And that’s what the Congolese are being killed for. Only Africans can save AfricaRaised fist” shared Nthapeleng.

@OkeAkinola shared a pictorial thread of the “silent holacaust”, alleging the UK, US and France were providing military aid to Rwanda and Uganda to invade regions rich in coltan reserves. This has led to enslavement, torture, rape and killing: 48 women and girls were being raped every hour and more than six million people have been killed over DRC’s minerals, claimed the thread. 

Minerals are smuggled to neighbouring Uganda and Rwanda, and then shipped to Asia for refinement and sale, tweeted Plamedi.

@Man’sNotBarryRoux shared: “Multinational corporations have been looting Congo for decades at the expense of innocent human beings. Congo’s neighbors who are US & British allies, namely Rwanda & Uganda have operated in the Congo in total impunity while causing over 6M deaths #CongoIsBleeding #congogenocide.”  

Shortly after #CongoIsBleeding began circulating, people took to the streets of Kisangani in protest against the unprosecuted atrocities. Protesters used social media to spread awareness and organise gatherings. 

@YoungPrince tweeted: “Many believe us Congolese people are cursed because our natural wealth…we are sitting on $24 trillion in raw materials and we are the poorest country on the entire planet. We speak of African abuse there’s is nothing comparable to what is happening in the Congo Broken heart #FreeCongo”.

@OruenjoGreg shared: “The Congolese do not need hope, they NEED revolution, REVOLUTION will save them from that hell. This is inhumane, my heart is bleeding for Congo..#PrayForCongo #EndSARS #CongoIsBleeding”. 

Pumped up

Julius Malema has been praised on social media for his leadership following the EFF’s march to Senekal. 

@UmalambaneZN said Malema’s presence in the political arena was a must, especially when it comes to “pissing off white people”. 

@DlaminiPhilo said Malema was an inspiration in the ranks of Che Guevara, Fidel Castro, Thomas Sankara, Patrice Lumumba, Agostinho Nato … and Gadaffi.

A tweet by Professor Thuli Madonsela during the Santam Woman of the Future Award gained much attention this week. She described the Senekal protest as“chest pumping groups of men marking territory”, claiming that women were celebrating each other through entrepreneurship. Her tweet received some sharp backlash, with @Aldrin Sampear replying that Madonsela had “erased” the women who attended the protest. 

Plan slammed

South Africans have taken to Twitter to express their concerns over the government’s Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan, which involved creating more than 800,000 new jobs, growing the economy by 3% and spending more than R1-trillion on infrastructure.

@SAfmnews tweeted some details about the plan, the Covid-19 social grant and a basic income grant to reposition the economy. The criticism came swiftly. 

@sbu6786 commented: “Reposition economy? By giving away free money instead of giving jobs to those people not tenders to their buddies. How on earth is that repositioning of economy. They must just say it’s for votes qha”. 

@neebs20 followed up: “With no sustainable improved income stream. Is government using loans? I see no recovery here.” @The_commentor1 also criticised the plan, asking: “How will he create 800 000 Jobs while the White Companies are retrenching people unfairly in large numbers?” 

But @goolammv received more than 100 retweets of this tweet praising President Ramaphosa for his work.

Later, after @News24 tweeted about the President’s plan to privatise lucrative train routes in cities, @nikitahmazibuko responded ; “Probably better that way…. Truth is private sector provides better and more efficient service than public”. 

About CABC

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.


Comments - share your knowledge and experience

Please note you must be a Maverick Insider to comment. Sign up here or sign in if you are already an Insider.

Everybody has an opinion but not everyone has the knowledge and the experience to contribute meaningfully to a discussion. That’s what we want from our members. Help us learn with your expertise and insights on articles that we publish. We encourage different, respectful viewpoints to further our understanding of the world. View our comments policy here.

No Comments, yet