Falling and rising
While Nigerians protest against police brutality, and people around the world rally around the hashtag #EndSARS in support, some South Africans are putting their xenophobic tendencies on display by spreading a countertag – #SARSMUSTRISE.
Nigeria has entered a third week of protests against the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, with security forces firing on protesters at Lekki tollgate and the Nigerian government denying the killings.
“BREAKING: Lagos State governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu (@jidesanwoolu), just announced that nobody was killed during an attack on peaceful #EndSARS protesters at Lekki toll gate on Tuesday night.”
“Eyewitnesses reported at least 7 dead” shared Pulse Nigeria. The Nigerian government has a stance that all Lekki deaths are fake news. It’s been 7 days now, almost every death linked to #LekkiMassacre that brought about International RAGE has been debunked. It’s either a FAKE PICTURE, FAKE VIDEO, People that DIED in Lekki RESURRECTED to say ‘AYAM ALAIF O’, FAKE MOTHER doing video as an Impostor. Did it happen?” tweeted Taiwo_Ajakaye, although videos of the killing of protesters have been shared on social media.
Nigerians are demanding accountability for the Lekki tollgate deaths: “Who ordered the shooting of peaceful protesters at lekki on the 20th of October 2020??? #EndSARS” asked @MI_Abaga.
After the Lekki tollgate shooting, protesters looted stores and warehouses, leading to the discovery of warehouses stocked with Covid-19 food aid. “Protesters in #Nigeria discovered today a warehouse of Covid19 food aid in Lagos that was meant for people but is locked by Gov. Worsening economic conditions, bad governance are main reasons behind #EndSars movement” tweeted news correspondent Joyce Karam, and Arise News following an interview with lawyer Femi Falana, who said: “How can a government hoard Indomie? It’s intolerable, it’s provocative. Our government will have to apologise to the Nigerian people.”
Despite global support for the people of Nigeria, some South Africans began sharing #SARSMUSTRISE. Many supporters of the #putsouthafricansfirst movement exploited the protests for their own political ends.
By late last week, the hashtag #SARSMUSTRISE was trending in South Africa, with tweets that included people sharing their dislike of Nigerians and their inability to sympathise with them: “If Nigerians were not notorious criminals across the world there would be no need for #SarsMustGo because #sars would not exist to start with. They are all paying for the sins of their fellow criminal Nigerians #SARSMustRise” tweeted@Thabo_PSAF.
Some tweets asked Nigerians to leave South Africa: “Nigerians must leave South Africa. We’ve had enough of Nigerian drug dealers, Nigerian human traffickers and Nigerian fraudsters #SarsMustRise” stated @Thabelo.
“We all stand to benefit from the efforts of SARS there will be less drug flow and crime into Africa and the rest of the world SARS must not be discouraged we stand with them #SARSMustRise” tweeted @TheLandThief.
Although the hashtag trended on social media, it was driven by a small group of individuals who are linked to the #PutSouthAfricansFirst movement.
Lonn condemned the #SARSmustrise: “SARSmustrise No Man who created such stupid hashtag. This is the dumbest thing ever. What the hell guys”.
Jay said people need to think about what drives others to leave their country and seek refuge: “Always bear in mind when tweeting #endsars & ‘Africa is Bleeding’, this is what some of our African brothers & sisters have to go through in their home countries. So when they come to your country seeking refuge from what you’re being a social activist for, don’t be xenophobic.”
Turning backs to the wave
As South Africa’s Covid-19 cases surpass 700,000, concerns about a second wave have prompted warnings against reckless behaviour, such as flouting mask-wearing and physical distancing.
As highlighted by news channel @eNCA this week, KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sihle Zikalala warned of another hard lockdown if people don’t change their reckless ways. A video of the premier’s address garnered considerable traction, with nearly 400 retweets and 316 likes.
But other warnings were not widely shared. For example, on that same day, @SundayTimesZA shared an article titled “Second wave inevitable if SA doesn’t change behaviour: Salim Abdool Karim” warned that interprovincial holidaying may not be a good idea as it may increase the risk of a second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.
This received only 20 retweets and 28 likes.
Some rejected the idea of another hard lockdown. This week @DBNGOGO tweeted: “Please ignore everyone and anyone manifesting another hard lockdown or a second wave. Give negative energy no time. We are rocking”. This was retweeted 444 times and liked over 1,200 times.
Others mocked the government for incompetence. @Olwee tweeted: “South African government threatening a second hard lockdown without having delivered many things during the first hard lockdown is the audacity I aspire to”. This tweet received 573 retweets and over 1,200 likes.
A few days later, news that President Cyril Ramaphosa was self-isolating received a significant amount of attention on Twitter. Yesterday @PresidencyZA shared a link to a statement: “President @CyrilRamaphosa has begun a period of self-quarantine following the positive #COVID19 diagnosis of a guest at a dinner attended by the President on Saturday, 24 October 2020…” This tweet generated nearly 800 retweets and over 1,000 likes.
@ScrattyKay commented: “You want us to go into stricter lockdown but you can’t control yourselves. I’m not being locked in my house again while the president and the rest of his cabinet have dinner parties and build statues with our tax money.”
There have been several spikes in the conversation about the Zondo Commission in recent weeks. Since the end of September, mentions of the Zondo Commission peaked three times, with the highest on 19 October 2020.
The main driver was a tweet from Julius Malema which received 40,900 likes and 5,500 retweets.
On 18 October @Eusebius tweeted on how the commission was going after Julius Malema and his deputy, Floyd Shivambu. This tweet was one of the biggest drivers for the day, receiving 1,200 likes and 500 retweets.
Then, on 20 October, @News24 reported that the Zondo Commission was set to investigate the finances of Police Minister Bheki Cele and Julius Malema. Following the news that Malema was being investigated, @EFFSouthAfrica tweeted that their leader had nothing to hide and was open to any questions from the Hawks.
@SimonPGrindrod tweeted that the commission has already cost R700 million. His tweet received 516 retweets and 1 500 likes. “@54Battalion claimed that along with Cyril Ramaphosa and his family, Pravin Gordhan, Tito Mboweni, Thuli Madonsela and Trevor Manuel must have their bank accounts investigated. Finally, the cross-examination of Pravin Gordhan by Tom Moyane was also in the news as tweeted by @LandNoli.
@AfricanSoil claimed that failing to finish the cross-examination of Pravin Gordhan shows the commission’s bias, as it has been dragging on since last year. DM
The Centre for Analytics and Behavioural Change (CABC) is a non-profit organisation based at UCT’s 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 rhetoric that is promulgated online to undermine social cohesion, democratic integrity, and the stability of nation-states.
"It's always easier not to think for oneself. Find a nice safe hierarchy and settle in. Don't make changes. Don't risk disapproval. Don't upset your syndics. It's always easiest to let yourself be governed." ~ Ursula Le Guin
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